Bye bye Bernd

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Leno came to Arsenal to replace the ageing and outdated Petr Cech.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.



  1. From most reports I read, he wanted out so that he can play and thus make the Germany world cup squad. I didn’t know about the extension issue and if true, then Arsenal are making a mistake.

    Is it worth it to recoup the measly 8 million and have the suspect looking Turner as a back up, or to give a long term deal to a very good keeper who is willing and capable of fighting Ramsdale for a spot in the first team without causing issues if he doesn’t play.

    It doesn’t make sense to me to lose a player who has been captain of his club from a young age, good professional and capable player for that low sum if he wanted to stay with us.

    1. I understand where you’re coming from but I’m pretty sure Arsenal are booking a profit (after three years amortization) on a player which we got really good use out of for three seasons, who was in the last year of his deal, and who would have walked for free next summer.

      1. I was trying to work this out, this is as far as I got –

        22.5 million transfer fee, 5-year contract = 4.5 million amortized each year (?)

        So his present ‘book’ value would be 4.5 million. They got 8, which is a 3.5 million profit (?)

        The difficulty I have is how to view the past year in which he wasn’t a starter despite his amortizable value being starter-ish (pardon the technical term). If that’s a “wasted” year, then they’re closer to just breaking even or maybe making a small loss.

        Even so, not terrible business from a balance sheet perspective. Unlike Torreira, for whom we seem unlikely to even recoup book value, setting aside the two years he wasn’t even playing for us.

        From a value addition perspective, the search for our own Coutinho continues. I’m glad that ownership has at least accepted that in the upside-down football market (which is more similar to other markets than we’d care to admit), transfer spending precedes transfer profit. And there’s usually a title run or two intervening.

  2. Model pro, good squad guy, well liked. When he played in place of an injured Ramsdale late in the season and made a save (cant remember which game), the players mobbed him and showered him with love. Even Ramsdale joined in after the game.

    We always say we want two international class keepers… but Emi Martinez has taught us that one will always itch to leave. Keepers get rotated less, and if you exit the cups early as Arsenal did, it’s a LOT of time on the bench.

    And yes Devlin, his participation in the WC wouldnt be possible if he continues not to get regular minutes.

    The market’s weird. But we’re going to get a better return on Leno than is mooted for the players we want to sell. Speaking of which, City told Brighton — which demanded £50m for Cucurella — to get stuffed.

    1. It makes complete sense to sell him if he wants to be a starter so that he can be considered for the World Cup, and that is what I thought this whole move was about.

      But if we did turn down keeping him because if contract length instead of playing time, then we are making a mistake. Just like you said about Emi, if he wanted to stay at Arsenal and never moaned about playing time, then I would have kept him, so it’s the same with Leno.

      If what made him decide to leave is the contract length and not playing time, we should have given him a longer term deal and kept him. It would have kept our strength in depth in that department for many years to come, as well as giving our young keepers like Okonkwo the opportunity to develop like Emi did.

      This logic is the same as keeping Xhaka and giving him a longer term deal. A professional who is capable and good for squad morale, who never complains and is always fit can give the starters a push and also allow younger players to develop without the pressure to perform. With Elneny? Mistake to extend. Even if he is a good person and keeps spirits high in the dressing room, he isn’t capable of performing to the standard that will push Thomas to consistently perform at a high level.

      Players like Leno and Xhaka aren’t like Pepe, Elneny, Holding, etc. We should keep them at all costs if they are willing to stay. Their value goes beyond the financial.

      If we could have kept Leno by extending for a longer period and we didn’t. The opportunity cost of letting Leno go will not be felt in the books. It will be felt on the pitch.

  3. Right deal, right time. A good bit of business, IMO. I have time for Leno. He’s a good shot stopper, and a consummate professional.

    I have an affinity for GKs, having been once myself. I still miss Szczęsny. Tending goal for as storied a club like The Old Lady is a great place to be.
    I think Aaron Ramsdale will be much steadier this season with more experienced quality in front of him.

    I’m excited about new the season. I’m over April and throwing away 3rd place (forget 4th) and I am absolutely convinced we are a top 3 team. If we blow it this season too, it will be us doing it to ourselves once again.

    Oh, and R.I.P Terry Neal. Quite the player and character, or so I’ve been reading. Not that I need an excuse to raise a shot of Tullarmore, but I will for him.

    1. I met Mr. Neal once after he did a quick Q&A in DC where the local supporters group used to meet for matches. He told a few stories including one where he was pulled over for speeding outside London after winning the FA Cup in ’79. When asked for his license he said it was in the boot where he had apparently stashed the actual trophy and a great surprise for the officer when he popped the trunk. A handful of us stuck around after and my friend and I were treated to a very friendly and earnest handshake from the manager in a brief private moment. The way he smiled while meeting us seemed so genuine.

  4. Just finished watching the full Sevilla match over on the .com.

    My main interest, having seen the score, was: Do Sevilla care about this match? Did they start their kids? Were they just that bad or was Arsenal that good? On the first count, yes, I thought they did care about the match just based on body language from the players in response to the early penalty and some of the tackles that came in from them especially early on. On the second count, yes, they were light at center back having sold both their starters this summer, but the rest of the squad was comprised of senior players. On the third count, I think it was a combination of everything going in for Arsenal early and Arsenal also being a better team. They didn’t seem ready for us tactically and made huge errors in possession, but Arsenal also just overwhelmed them with superior technical and physical quality in all departments. This really was a shellacking. Excited to see how this translates to Friday!

  5. sorry boys but i have to protest the status quo concerning the leno departure. amortization doesn’t apply with leno. bottom line, he’s worth more than the measly £3 million arsenal sold him for. even if you include the wages for this coming season, arsenal are (once again) taking a huge loss on an asset in the transfer market; he’s worth far more than £7.5 million, too.

    more importantly, like devlin alluded too, the money won’t be the main issue with leno being gone. if something happens to ramsdale, we’re gonna miss leno’s sword. the drop off in quality between ramsdale and matt turner is not insignificant. in fact, it’s incredibly significant, especially when compared to the split between ramsdale and leno. also, with leno gone, who’s going to push ramsdale in training?

    arsenal have made a number of fantastic moves this transfer window. the leno move is not one of them. it could cost arsenal silverware. arsenal won their last trophy due to the solid play of it’s backup goal keeper. this move could also cost arsenal points during the campaign. it was once said that a good keeper was worth 15 points in the premier league. how many points is matt turner worth? we’ll see.

    1. For sure, but I think we all agree that we can’t keep a player who wants to go. Well, I mean I guess we can literally force him to stay but man it’s not a great look. Especially since it would mean he misses out on WC.

      1. Also, I’m not thrilled with the price. 3m plus 5m in various add ons is not great.

      2. i’d tell him that i understand wanting to go to the world cup. however, someone has to meet something close to his valuation; he can’t leave for a ham sandwich. leno is too good and too important for the squad. but that’s me. artedu have already lowered that bar with the way so many have been allowed to leave the club for a bag of skittles.

  6. 8m for Leno is a great deal… for this version of Arsenal. Our keeper moves have been weird ever since Arteta didn’t make Emi number 1 but also didn’t extend Leno’s contract.

    But I’m happy enough to pretend (or accept) that it’s really about giving a player a chance to play first team football. Arsenal caring about its players makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

  7. While not a great deal for the club (afaik, club gets 3m guaranteed, plus 2m per season Fulham stays up up to 2 seasons, and 1m in appearances), I’m glad Leno has managed to leave on his own terms. He deserves it for his professionalism and attitude.

    I’d like to say good luck to Leno, he’s been (so far) the best keeper we’ve seen in the Emirates era, and I hope he does very well for Fulham (especially against chickens, but except against us) and goes to the World Cup and stars in a few games.

    Thank You Leno!

  8. Thanks for the post Tim. Great stuff as always. Leno and Lacazette both seemed like model professionals and probably good players to have around the dressing room and good depth pieces to have. However, the last time I checked Laca was our second highest wage earner and Leno was around 6-7th in our squad wages. Obviously there are a lot of players who are going to need raises in the future so the wage bill will have to start escalating again in order to keep the players who are producing. The most important and most productive players want to be near the top of the club wage scale and I doubt either Laca or Leno would have been willing to sign contract extensions which included a significant wage reduction.

    I hope both Laca and Leno have much success at their next teams. Laca has never really been much a part of the French team and I don’t know the Germany goal keeping situation is but its seems difficult to believe Leno will make it back to their squad unless they are really hurting at that position. The bottom line is it would have been nice to keep both Leno and Laca as squad depth but running a football team is a business and you can’t keep a bunch of players whose production does not match their wages. Teams are willing to pay higher wages for a player if he comes with minimal transfer fee and not many teams are going to pay a big transfer fee and pay a relatively high wage for players whose production has not been great so we end up without much of a transfer fee. I think that explains why we have not had much success getting transfer fees for a lot of the players we have moved.

  9. I cringed at the clip of Arteta proposing, playing, and explaining blasting You’ll Never Walk Alone in training before going to Anfield. I’m sorry but this is small time stuff pretending to be progressive and experimental.

    Anyway, not to be a downer before the season, but just had to get that out. Ugh.

    1. Barry Glendenning went off on the Guardian Football pod today. From what I’ve heard in other places Ramsdale said that it will never happen again and that the players weren’t too into it. I thought it was pretty cringey and also unnecessary since 99% of the Arsenal players had already played at Anfield. This is just the stuff that Arteta does which I find to be a bit “too smart” but in the end I don’t care as long as the players buy in.

      I’m dreading this stupid documentary, though, if these are supposed to be the highlights.

    2. Was going to keep quiet about that, lest I get scolded by my bud, LAGUNNER 🙂

      Some Arteta supporters have called it innovative; I’m with those who call it cringey. Cringey like the whiteboard pep talk. The bewildered expressions on the face of Sambi and others then told its own story.

      And can I point out, as an audiophile, that 2 living room speakers on the training ground could not an atmosphere simulate? And that it was the manager’s own sideline lack of control on match day that fired up the crowd?

      Im not surprised at any of this. It’s right in line with “non negotiables” and all that jazz. This is a young rookie coach’s coming into management for the first time. Walked straight from the MBA class and his Google HQ case study, into the C-suite. Personally, I’d prefer that he teach his defenders to defend. This doc is going to be revealing, in intended and unintended ways.

      Here’s to 3 points at Palace on Friday.

  10. But for balance, let’s try to understand, sympathetically, what he was trying to do. He said that Anfield was the only place he ever played at where he lost his sense of everything — it became a blur — something he put down to the place’s unique atmosphere. Wanting the players to be aware that your finely defined tactics can go out the window under those conditions, is sensible coaching.

    My issue with that things with the speakers was that his response seemed on-the-fly and reactive. Two living room speakers? Come on. Maybe there were other psychological fixes/sessions with experts that we didn’t get to see? Maybe. We are never going to get the whole story from the promotional excerpts of a doc, but so far instead of reputation-burnishing, the extracts have looked like a subversive piss take.

    That is the kind of thing that makes players hold a coach up to gentle ridicule. What we wont see is the players’ private discussion of all of that. Obviously, the reaction from Ramsdale was the one for public consumption.

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