Bernd Leno is going to sign for Fulham imminently and I would like to say “thank you” to him for his years of service at Arsenal.
Leno came to Arsenal to replace the ageing and outdated Petr Cech. Cech had been a great keeper in his prime, great though at doing the things that keepers needed to do before 2018 – high claims and stopping shots – but football was moving on and more and more, keepers needed to be a huge part of the build up play, something which Cech wasn’t great at.
Leno brought excellent team play in addition to good shot-stopping and average box play. He fit seamlessly into what Unai Emery was trying to do at Arsenal – which was to play out from the back.
His shot stopping was rarely spectacular, in fact it’s hard to remember too many matches where he played a critical role in getting the win. The one which comes to mind is the 2-0 win over Man U in 2019. In that game he made 4 saves and kept a clean sheet. He also had a huge save in the 3-1 win over Chelsea on Boxing day, 2020. And his post shot expected goals was consistently very good. In fact, he was typically one of the top keepers in the league in terms of that stat.
But by 2020 it had become increasingly clear that Leno wanted a bigger extension than Arsenal wanted to offer him. And despite the fact that he was very consistent in terms of saves, his goal kicks lacked a bit of power and distance and he was somewhat timid in the box on corners and set plays. Not knocking the guy, he’s a good keeper, just saying that he had a few flaws.
So, we went out and got a young, English keeper who could do all of those things.
Ramsdale’s arrival and nearly immediate start could have sent a normal player into a meltdown. Leno was a nailed on starter for three years at Arsenal and someone who wants to play for his national team. Being dropped for a new player had to hurt. But if it did, we never heard a word about it. He played when asked. He did his training. He never agitated for a move. He didn’t pout or sulk.
And now he’s moving on to Fulham. Arsenal are going to get a small fee (circa 8m) which wasn’t actually guaranteed because there was a real threat he’d just play out the rest of his contract and move for free on a Bosman. And so, overall, I just want to say thanks to Leno and wish him the best of luck at Fulham.
Arsenal’s season kicks off Friday against Crystal Palace.