When Bernd Leno arrived to Arsenal in the summer of 2018, most fans and pundits around the world thought it was an adequate deal for the north London club. At £22.5 million, the German goalkeeper cost a significant chunk of change, but didn’t exactly break the bank either. The signing appeared to be a satisfactory one. After all, Leno wasn’t exactly a ‘rising star’ or even a household name at the time. The summer of 2018 was also a time in which six different Premier League teams splashed the cash (at least £13.5 million each) on new goalkeepers, so there were plenty of available players in this position to choose from.
Arsenal snapped up Leno fairly quickly in the summer transfer market that season. Following the Leno deal, Liverpool spent about £67 million on Alisson and Chelsea bought Kepa Arrizabalaga for a goalkeeping record of £71.6 million. The season prior to the spending spree on keepers, Manchester City bought Ederson for £35 million and Everton bought Jordan Pickford for £30 million. Looking back at all of these deals, perhaps Alisson is the only goalkeeper better than Leno at the moment and the German’s transfer fee appears to be an absolute bargain.
Leno didn’t exactly hit the ground running at Arsenal though. He was a bit shaky at the beginning of his freshman season in north London and even lead the Premier League in errors leading to goals that campaign with five (level with Asmir Begovic). Nevertheless, Leno slowly improved and saved (pun intended) Arsenal multiple times throughout the difficult 2018/19 season. The former Bayer Leverkusen player was even one of the nominees for Arsenal’s Player of the Season award.
Statistically speaking, Leno’s numbers this season are impressive. The goalkeeper ranks second in the Premier League in saves (98) and fourth in saves inside the penalty box (50). The German’s distribution, particularly playing out of the back, is equally as impressive as his shot-stopping ability. Leno currently holds a 99.1% passing accuracy on short passes, with a total of 451 short pass attempts (only Brighton’s Mat Ryan has more in the league).
Following Arsenal’s entertaining 3-2 victory over Everton on Sunday, star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang praised his goalkeeper. “We’re always happy to have [Leno],” claimed the current Premier League Golden Boot co-leader. “He saved us a couple of times at the right moment and we are really happy to have him and are proud of him. We know we can count on him, that’s always good for us, and he gives us more energy to push and to give everything.”
The 27-year-old goalkeeper made multiple outstanding saves on the day to preserve the much-needed win for the Gunners. This is becoming a habit for Leno. There aren’t many, if any, better highlight reel save compilations on YouTube than the Arsenal keeper’s.
The Gunners may have struggled with a porous defense in recent years, but Leno is certainly not the issue. And although he started his Arsenal career a bit slow, the German is currently one of the most important players in the team at the moment and unquestionably in contention for Arsenal’s Player of the Season and the Premier League Team of the Season.