Good morning and welcome to the day of the Europa League final. It’s been a while since I’ve been here and put pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard, even) because I just haven’t had a chance to. I’m not gone forever, though, and I certainly will be back! Anyway, because it’s the day of the final, I decided to come and write something. Let’s have a quick look at the game.
There’s been enough talk from everyone about all the problems with having the game in Baku, and I agree that it’s a disgrace. Henrikh Mkhitaryan can’t go and it’s an awful place for fans to get to. But all that’s been talked about by everyone, so I’m not going to go down that road and I’ll just look at the game.
Is there any point in anyone trying to predict how it will go? Not really, because this is one that really could go either way. Both these sides won a game each against each other this season – Chelsea won 3-2 at Stamford Bridge, with Arsenal winning 2-0 at the Emirates. Can we take anything from those games? Maybe we can, but I can’t remember every detail from them! The first one at Stamford Bridge was only Unai Emery’s second game in charge, so maybe that’s irrelevant.
I do remember the game at the Emirates, and I remember Arsenal doing a job on Jorginho and the space around him. Aaron Ramsey played as Arsenal’s most advanced midfielder that day and followed him everywhere, not giving him a second on the ball. And when he did pick it up, Arsenal’s other players squeezed the space around him, while Ramsey closed. It meant he had very limited options on the ball and Chelsea struggled. You would think Emery may try to implement a similar system today, but personnel may mean he can’t.
With Ramsey out injured and Mkhitaryan still at home, Mesut Ozil seems the prime candidate for that advanced midfield role. But he’s not quite an intense player who will chase Jorginho all night and constantly put his foot in to challenge, so maybe it’s not possible to implement that system with him in the team. If Emery wanted to do what he did previously, he could leave Ozil on the bench and start Alex Iwobi, who would run all day and can be quite physical. Would Emery leave Ozil on the bench in a European final, especially considering everything that’s happened between the two this season? You know, maybe he would!
It’s very hard to decide what team or system Emery will use, as he’s so unpredictable and often throws a surprise in there. Will it be a back three of a four? He has used the three more often than not, but does like to go to the four for some of the big games and add the extra man into midfield. It’ll be very interesting to see what he does.
The other big talking point has been whether Petr Cech will start in goal or not, and I think he will. He’s played the Europa League games, he’s clearly the cup ‘keeper, and I can’t see Emery being that ruthless in Cech’s last ever game. Some will say Bernd Leno should play, which I can also agree it as he is the superior goalkeeper, but Cech has been extremely good at times this season. I’d be hugely surprised if he didn’t play. I don’t think Cech leaving to go to Chelsea matters either, he’s too professional for that.
Chelsea seem to have a few issues of their own, but I’m not convinced by them. Maurizio Sarri says N’Golo Kante is 50/50 to play this one because of an injury. There were also reports yesterday that Pedro may now be injured and may miss out, while Sarri was seen yesterday looking very angry at something, throwing and kicking his cap around the place. The video I saw made it out that it was because Gonzalo Higuain and David Luiz had some sort of argument, but supposedly it was actually to do with Chelsea being unable to practise set pieces because their training session remained open to the media. Who knows, though? I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if these were mind games.
The Blues really could do with Kante and Pedro, as they’re a little bit light at the moment. They’re already without Antonio Rudiger, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi, so they won’t want more to be out.
No matter the team the managers go for, this should be a really good game. Finals can often be cagey, of course, with nobody wanting to slip up and give the opposition any chances, but these two teams should go for it. Arsenal really can’t defend, and the best part of their team is their two amazing strikers, so they should go for it. Chelsea will go for it regardless, with Eden Hazard, who is potentially playing his last match for Chelsea, the obvious threat.
Let’s just hope it’s a good one, I don’t see any reason why this won’t be a great game of football!
I’ll have to leave it there – sorry, this one is a bit rough around the edges and a bit rushed because I didn’t have much time this morning before I have to head off to work. I wanted to write something, though, and I’m happy I did. There may be another blog on Saturday for the Champions League final but we’ll wait and see.
Goodbye now, enjoy the game!