Can Bernd Leno grab his chance to become Arsenal’s number one?
Summer signing has a huge opportunity
Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno has had to bide his time since joining the club last summer.
The Gunners made him the sixth-most expensive goalkeeper of all time when they paid Bayer Leverkusen £19.2m to sign him.
He was expected to replace the ageing Petr Cech as the club’s number one. However, Leno still hasn’t started a Premier League game yet.
He has a chance to make his mark now though, as Cech has been ruled out with a hamstring injury for the next few weeks. He’s expected to start away to Qarabag in the Europa League tonight, with Arsenal 4/9 favourites.
The Coral News Team have looked at whether he can make the most of his opportunity…
Easing in or early concerns?
Why hasn’t Leno started yet? Was Unai Emery sticking with the established first-choice to begin, or did the new arrival fail to impress in training?
One argument for Leno’s slow start to life in England is that Emery has been easing him into a new team and a new league.
But the Arsenal boss didn’t have any hesitation in playing Matteo Guendouzi against Manchester City and Chelsea in the first two games of the season. Guendouzi is only 19-years-old and had only made eight top-flight appearances in France before being thrown in against the champions.
Emery is clearly prepared to play whoever he feels is ready, regardless of their age.
Leno is a Germany international with almost 250 Bundesliga appearances and plenty of Champions League experience. Adapting to the Premier League shouldn’t be that a huge step for him.
Better tactical fit
Whatever the reason for Leno’s lack of league appearances so far, he’s clearly better suited than Cech to the style Emery wants to implement at the Emirates. The former Paris Saint-Germain boss wants his goalkeeper to take part in the build-up and be able to pass the ball under pressure.
Cech has made some progress since the start of the season, but he’s still uncomfortable with the ball at his feet. You can feel the tension around the ground when he tries to play out.
Leno is clearly more confident at receiving and picking passes. It’s something he’s used to from his time at Leverkusen. He’s averaged 78.8% pass success during his limited playing time this term. Cech’s only completed 68.3% of his passes.
If Arsenal are going to continue playing this way, Leno’s ability with his feet could give him the advantage.
Chance to impress
If he can convince over the coming weeks, Leno can cement himself as Arsenal’s number one. He’s there for the long-term, whereas Cech’s contract expires this summer and there are no guarantees he’ll get another.
He’s had little to do in his Carabao Cup or Europa League displays this term, but the German got a first taste of the top-flight against Watford last weekend.
The 26-year-old came on to replace Cech in the first-half and made a crucial save to deny Troy Deeney not long after. He did come for one cross and make a mess of it, but that’s part of the adaptation process.
Is he good enough to be the goalkeeper Arsenal need? The signs are promising, but no one will know until he’s given the chance. It’s up to Leno to take it now.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing