With the Gunners agreeing a £19m deal for former Bayer Leverkusen and current German international Bernd Leno two weeks ago, we take a deeper look into the shot-stopper’s career so far and what he will offer the English side.
A Young German Talent
An U17 European Championships winner back in 2009, Leno joined Leverkusen from rivals Stuttgart two years later, (who also brought through Sami Khedira and RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner), after initially joining the club on loan but joined permanently shortly after.
Having only joined the club a week before, Leno was thrown straight in at the deep end with his Bundesliga debut against Werder Bremen, showing the faith Leverkusen had in their young prodigy even then.
Frustrating Future Rivals
He would also break many records in his debut season after becoming only the third goalkeeper in Bundesliga history to keep clean sheets in his first three top-flight games, and the youngest ever to play in the UEFA Champions League (19 years and 193 days) in a 2-0 defeat to English Premier League side Chelsea.
In fact, the German was so unknown that when he made his Champions League bow back in September 2011, many of Chelsea’s dressing room took to calling the wrong name, calling him ‘Börnd Lino’. But it was Leno who would have the last laugh, as by full-time in the reverse fixture the German came out on top with a 2-1 victory and top spot in Group E.
Leno became something of a club stalwart with Bayer Leverkusen since making his debut 7 years ago, with the 26 year-old missing only four league games in his six full season with Leverkusen, meaning he made more Bundesliga appearances than any other goalkeeper at the time.
The Bietigheim-Bissingen born man has also impressed during his spell in Germany, going on to make 304 appearances for the Bundesliga club. Leno has been peforming exceptionally in the German top division, especially since the 2014/15 season when he became more settled in the first-team.
One impressive statistic that sticks out for Leno is only Manuel Neuer (56) has kept more clean sheets than Leno’s 45 in the Bundesliga, showing why Arsenal paid almost £20m for a key player in an area that was well in-need of reinforcement.
Despite being part of a long-line of talented German goalkeepers including Oliver Kahn, Andreas Kopke and arguably Manuel Neuer at the moment, it’s a Spanish goalkeeping legend that Leno admits was his role model growing up: Iker Casillas.
The Stuttgart youth product models his game on the former Real Madrid and now Porto goalkeeper and also believes there are similarities in their playing styles.
“I used to watch a lot of Casillas growing up,” Leno told Bundesliga.com. “He’s perhaps peaked now, but he won it all and has been unbelievably consistent. He’s calm and no-nonsense, I’m the same. I don’t have to make a show of myself to stand out.”
Along with his sharp reflexes, the commanding presence Leno possess is another key aspect to his game that has been praised by various pundits and fans over the years, with the 26 year-old looking to replicate this bravery and desire to keep a clean sheet with his new side in the Premier League.
Leno has been known to commit to the cause and even played on with a broken nose in a Champions League last 16 game against Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid earlier on this season, with the German side unfortunately losing out 4-2 on aggregate.
World Cup Ambitions
Although Leno is a very talented goalkeeper, he has a little while to go to reach his idol’s standard yet, with his consistency seeming to be his main issue. This may explain why national team manager Joachim Low opted not to take the new Gunners goalkeeper to this summer’s World Cup.
But perhaps this omission could be exactly what Leno needed as he currently sits on 6 international caps for Germany and perhaps a change of scenery could be just what Leno needs to help him refocus, cut out the errors and take his game to the next level.
Arsenal fans will certainly hope so and will have every right to believe Leno could be their number one for many years to come.
What can we expect from Leno?
New manager Unai Emery certainly believes this as well, with the former PSG and Sevilla manager following Leno to the Emirates earlier on this summer.
He told Sky Sports: “We are very pleased that Bernd Leno will be joining us. Bernd is a goalkeeper of high quality and experience.
“He has been a top performer and regular number one goalkeeper with Leverkusen in the Bundesliga for the past seven years. We are all excited that Bernd has chosen Arsenal Football Club and look forward to start working with him in pre-season.”
So with Leno coming in and last season’s number 1 Petr Cech not showing his typical best as he reaches the steady old age of 36, (as well as admitted interest from Serie A side Napoli after the departure of Pepe Reina to AC Milan), maybe it’s for the best if a new, fresh face came in to see what he can between the sticks for Arsenal Football Club.
Leno’s first game for the Gunners looks to be in their pre-season friendly game in the International Champions Cup against a team Leno knows very well: Atletico Madrid on the 26th July in Kallang, Singapore.