Arsenal’s Bernd Leno Keeps Getting Better
Arsenal purchased Bernd Leno from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer for a rumoured £19.3 million. That is the largest fee ever paid for a goalkeeper by the north London side. After a shaky start to life at the Emirates, the German shot-stopper has proven he was worth the fee.
Bernd Leno Just Keeps Improving
Leno began the season as backup to Petr Cech. While the veteran had a few howlers early in the season, Unai Emery kept his faith in the Czech number one. That meant the first glimpse of Bernd Leno that fans got was in the Europa League.
As promised, the new signing was better with a ball at his feet than Cech. The real question about Leno was whether his shot stopping would be up to par for a top-six Premier League side.
That first appearance, a 4-2 home win over Vorskla Poltava, really didn’t prove anything about the ‘keeper. Leno only made the one save, yet still shipped two goals. The next few months were a bit up and down as well for the German.
After an injury sidelined Cech, Bernd Leno got his first taste of Premier League action: a 45-minute substitute appearance against Watford in which he didn’t concede. The former Leverkusen man then kept two clean sheets from his next four appearances.
However, it wasn’t all roses for Leno. During those early months as number one, he made a few high-profile mistakes. For example, at home against Liverpool in November, Leno spilt a save which allowed James Milner to bag an easy goal. The match went on to end 1-1.
The ‘keeper then gifted away another goal, this time in a 3-2 loss to Southampton in December. He came out to punch a cross but missed, allowing Charlie Austin to net the winner. That was his third error leading to a goal in the Premier League.
Since that day in December, Bernd Leno has been much better. In fact, he has yet to make another error leading to a goal in the league to date, a span of just over four months.
Furthermore, he has been playing his best football recently. Leno made a spectacular double save against archrivals Tottenham Hotspur in the most recent North London Derby. The pair of stops came just before the half and stopped a resurgent home side. The final 1-1 scoreline would surely have been different had Leno not made those saves.
Then, just a week later, he nearly stood on his head in order to keep a clean sheet at home against Manchester United. His four saves, especially the two against Romelu Lukaku early in the second half, were a key factor in the result.
Bernd Leno has even impressed in defeat. When the Gunners lost out to Manchester City at the Etihad, the German made nine saves. While he will get credit for a 3-1 defeat, nine saves is nothing to sniff at.
Leno certainly has weaknesses, as evidenced by his three errors leading to goals this season. He is also a bit punch-happy, preferring to clear the ball away instead of trying to catch it.
For example, he has only eight high claims to go with his 14 punches this season. For context, Kepa Arrizabalaga has 12 high claims to his seven punches and Alisson Becker has 14 of each.
However, the respective transfer fees for these three players should also be factored. Leno may be the most expensive goalkeeper in Arsenal history, but his fee pales in comparison to the other two.
Alisson cost Liverpool £65 million, while Kepa is the most expensive ‘keeper ever after moving to Chelsea for £71 million. Statistically speaking, Leno is not far behind these two and he was gotten for less than a third of either.
It is also worth mentioning that Leno recently turned 27, so he still has plenty of football left in him, and is under contract until 2023.
While Bernd Leno is not some unknown prospect ready to take the world by storm, he is a solid ‘keeper. Furthermore, he was purchased for a reasonable fee, signed to a favourable contract and has plenty of time left in his career.
He isn’t the best goalkeeper in the league, but Bernd Leno was certainly worth the transfer fee.