Bernd Leno was Arsenal’s second signing this summer. After the departure of Wojciech Szczesny, it was evident that Arsenal wanted someone as a long-term replacement for the veteran Petr Cech when he hangs his boots. With Sven Mislintat as head of recruitment for Arsenal and his understanding of Bundesliga players from his days at Dortmund, Leno must have been on his radar since moving to Bayer Leverkusen.
Arsenal paid a good £23 million to Leverkusen for acquiring the services of Leno. Despite his young age, the German comes with bags of experience from his time in the Bundesliga. The shot stopper made 300 starts in the German league with VFB Stuttgart (57) and Bayer Leverkusen (233). Mostly known for his distribution skills and being brave by coming out and snuffing out the danger, Leno has made a name for himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
Unai Emery, his new coach at Arsenal, likes to play out from the back by making his goalkeeper the 11th outfield player. Leno had started a few games in the pre-season preparations and showed good performances in them.
— Bernd Leno (@Bernd_Leno) July 27, 2018
However, when it comes to the Premier League, its not just the distribution skills but also the physicality, the crosses and decision making of goalkeepers that are put to test – which the German falls short when compared to his counterpart, Cech.
Petr Cech, a four-time Premier League champion, has 15 years of top flight experience in both the Premier League and International football. At the age of 36, he is not finding it easy to play out from the back but is learning the skill and growing into the role. The first two fixtures were also the toughest starts for Arsenal in last few years. Cech has made some high-profile errors while adapting to the new style Emery wants Arsenal to play, but made up for it in the games with some good one-on-one saves.
Unai Emery knows that both his goalkeepers are equally important, considering the number of games coming Arsenal’s way after the international break in four competitions. The Spanish manager will try to balance the number of starts for Leno and Cech and will constantly keep check on the improvement of both the shot stoppers. This was evident in his latest interview where he said:
“I am very happy with his (Cech’s) performance. He has experience, he has quality, he has ability. Also, with Bernd Leno [it’s the same]. They are two goalkeepers who are important for us. They have different qualities but for us, in the way we want to play, they can (both) play.”
However, there are rumors doing rounds that Leno had made mistakes in the closed door games in pre-season, particularly against Brentford, which led to a goal and has been one of the the reasons that Emery is still unsatisfied to start the 26-year-old German in Premier League games. But with the Europa League and League Cup fast approaching, the former Leverkusen goalkeeper has a chance to put all the ticks in the right boxes.
The German goalkeeper came with the weight of being Arsenal’s most expensive goalkeeper ever on him and has been on bench and not got his Gunners debut yet. This has not dented his confidence, which was understood when he said:
“I am convinced my move was the right decision. I won’t get crazy over this [being on the bench]. It maybe takes a few weeks or months, but my time here will come. I’d love to play straight away.”
The Arsenal gaffer, the fans and Bernd Leno himself know that the skill set to play from the back is naturally embedded in the German and its just a matter of time when he shows it on the pitch. The shot-stopper seems to be learning by watching from the bench and believes in what is planned for him at Arsenal. He looks confident of what’s happening around him and also agreed about his faith in Arsenal’s head coach saying,
“I won’t lose my patience, the coach has shown me a clear plan and I believe in it. My style of play fits Unai Emery’s idea of play. He likes a high-positioned goalkeeper, who can also initiate play.”
A fair conclusion can only be drawn on where Emery’s trust lies in playing from the back only when Bernd Leno plays a few games. The German will have to take all the chances that come his way and create a real competition for places, which would be eventually beneficial for team and club in the long run.