New Arsenal manager Unai Emery has continued his rebuilding job at the Emirates with the £22m capture of Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
The German international’s move to the Premier League will surely spell the end for one of Petr Cech or David Ospina, with the 29-year-old Colombian perhaps favourite to move away from north London.
Leno has signed a five-year contract with the Gunners and becomes Emery’s second summer signing after Switzerland right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner joined the club from Juventus.
Upon signing for Arsenal, Emery said of Leno:
“Bernd is a goalkeeper of high quality and experience. He has been a top performer and regular number one goalkeeper for the past seven years.”
Leno himself talked to the club’s own media department soon after:
“I spoke to Unai Emery and he said that he believes I’m a good goalkeeper and that he wanted me to join. For me, it was clear that the club and the coach wanted to sign me.”
There are no categorical clues in either of those unremarkable quotes to suggest that Leno will displace Cech or Ospina as Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper or indeed anything implying the contrary. Cech’s acquisition of the number one jersey could have been significant news, were it not announced a month before Leno’s capture and indeed before Emery’s official appointment.
At just 26 years of age, Leno is clearly in his new coach’s long-term plans, with Cech a full decade older. The German shot-stopper must surely have been given assurances about his immediate pitch-time, too, having spent the last seven seasons as a permanent fixture between the posts for Leverkusen.
Fantasy managers will, therefore, be eager to see how Arsenal shape up in pre-season, with Leno a potentially cheaper route into the Gunners’ backline than the big-budget defence in front of him.
Born in March 1992, Leno began his youth career with local side SV Germania Bietigheim before moving on to VfB Stuttgart.
Arsenal’s new custodian made 57 appearances for Stuttgart’s reserve side in the German third division, with his impressive performances attracting the attention of injury-hit Bayer Leverkusen.
Leno initially moved to Leverkusen on loan in August 2011 but his transfer was soon made permanent after he swiftly established himself as Bayer’s first-choice goalkeeper.
Leno played every single Bundesliga match of the 2011/12 season after his arrival and, at the age of 19, made his UEFA Champions League debut in a group match against Chelsea. Leno’s first three Leverkusen starts all resulted in clean sheets and he recorded 11 league shut-outs in all across the campaign.
Over the next six seasons, Leno missed only four league matches for Leverkusen. The German international’s best season for clean sheets (16) was 2014/15, though he conceded fewer goals (34) in 2012/13.
Leno also has six international caps to his name and was part of Joachim Low’s provisional 2018 World Cup squad, though missed the cut for the final 23-man party.
After tricky opening matches against Manchester City and Chelsea next season, Arsenal’s run of fixtures until Gameweek 11 looks ripe for Fantasy investment.
The Gunners had the second-best home record in the Premier League in 2017/18 and welcome West Ham United, Everton, Watford and Leicester City to the Emirates between Gameweeks 3 and 10. Trips to Cardiff City, Newcastle United, Fulham and Crystal Palace look far from daunting, though Arsenal have of course lost seven of their eight away league fixtures in 2018 so far.
Arsenal’s record of 51 goals conceded last season was their worst in the Premier League era and Emery would seem to be addressing those defensive frailties with the capture of both Leno and Lichtsteiner.
The Gunners still hit double figures for clean sheets last season, with nine of their 13 shut-outs coming at home.
Leno, meanwhile, registered at least ten clean sheets in five of his seven seasons with Leverkusen, despite the Bundesliga only running for 34 matches in each of those campaigns.
Bernd Leno – A Season-by-Season Analysis
P = Appearances
CS = Clean sheets
GC = Goals conceded
Bayer finished between third and fifth in all but one of Leno’s seven years at the club, a strikingly similar record to Arsenal’s in recent years.
The comparisons between Leno and Cech last season are particularly apposite, then.
Cech had the upper hand in terms of saves per minute: the veteran stopper registered a save every 32.7 minutes, compared to Leno’s rate of one every 41.3 minutes.
Leno, however, only conceded 40 goals at a rate of one every 74.3 minutes, compared to Cech’s average of a goal shipped every 63.3 minutes.
Where Leno has a distinct advantage over Cech is his record from penalty kicks. The German shot-stopper has saved nine of the 39 spot-kicks he has faced in the Bundesliga: no active player in the German top-flight has stopped more in that time.
Since Leno made his Leverkusen debut, Cech has saved only three penalty kicks in the Premier League. The Czech international’s save from Troy Deeney’s spot-kick in March was his first in Arsenal colours.
No Premier League side gave away more penalties last season than Arsenal (six), who also conceded ten spot-kicks the previous campaign.
Leno should have no problem adapting to life at the Emirates: Leverkusen alternated between a 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-2-1 last season, the same formations used by Arsenal for most of 2017/18. Emery favoured an attacking 4-3-3 at Paris Saint-Germain last season, however, the same set-up rolled out by Wenger in the final few matches of his tenure in north London.
None of the six goalkeepers/defenders who played more than 1,000 minutes for Arsenal last season started out at less than £5.5m. The goal-scoring exploits of Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal mean that they could well join the likes of Hector Bellerin and Laurent Koscielny in the £6.0m bracket in 2018/19.
The goalkeeping position could, therefore, be the most cost-effective route into the Arsenal backline for that plum run of fixtures between Gameweeks 3 and 10. Cech began last season priced at £5.5m, with understudy Ospina at £5.0m. All eyes will be on Arsenal’s pre-season and the release of the FPL price list: should Leno be favourably costed and establish himself as the Gunners’ first-choice goalkeeper, he will attract plenty of Fantasy suitors.