Bernd Leno’s Arsenal career did not necessarily get off to a great start. After all, he began his time in north London behind Premier League legend Petr Cech as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper. While allowing time to adapt to a new league may not have been shocking to some, the German was finally given the reins following a mid-match injury to Cech in September. Since taking over the number one spot between the sticks, Leno has not missed a single Premier League match.
However, it has not always been easy for the German. It took nine league matches for the keeper to keep a clean sheet for a full 90 minutes. And while clean sheets involve much more than just a goalkeeper’s performance, Leno was making his fair share mistakes on the pitch during this stretch. His three errors leading to goal on the season are the second-most in the Premier League (level with Alisson and Martin Dubravka).
The goalkeeper recently explained how hard it was to adapt to the Premier League. “It’s difficult to go to another country and another league,” Leno told the Arsenal official website this week. “The Premier League is completely different to the Champions League and Bundesliga. Everything is stronger, but we analyzed everything so I could get used to it. After a few weeks I was familiar with the football.”
“The biggest challenge is that every game is so difficult for 95 minutes,” continued Leno. “In the Bundesliga, if you’re 2-0 or 3-0 up then the game is over. But in the PL, when you’re 2-0 or 3-0 up the game is still alive for the opposition. The speed of the game is higher than everywhere and that’s the reason why it’s the best league in the world.”
“Coupled with that, the life of a goalkeeper is not easy. One day you are good, one day you are very bad. But you have to be very strong in your head and mind. This pushes every goalkeeper and keeps them focused at all times.”
Nevertheless, Leno has since settled into the role and is becoming an important figure in the Arsenal team. The German has made some outstanding saves, to quite literally save certain matches for the Gunners. This includes an incredible double save against biter rivals Tottenham Hotspur and an outstretched fingertip save on a Romelu Lukaku shot while playing Manchester United. In fact, his 3.1 saves per 90 minutes rank second-most among goalkeepers on ‘Big Six’ Premier League clubs.
Leno, along with an improving Arsenal defense, has kept four clean sheets in the last nine Premier League matches. This includes matches against Chelsea and Manchester United. The 27-year-old keeper’s brilliant display as of late earned him the Arsenal Player of the Month award for the month of March.
As the current campaign has progressed, it certainly seems as if Arsenal made an intelligent decision to bring in Leno. Costing the Gunners around £20 million last summer, the German was a fraction of the price that Chelsea paid Athletic Bilbao for Kepa Arrizabalaga (£72 million) and even cheaper than Everton received Jordan Pickford for in the summer of 2017 (£25 million). At just 27, Leno is now entering his prime as a goalkeeper and should be a mainstay in the Arsenal lineup for years to come.
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