Bernd Leno arrived at Arsenal last year for £22.5 million from Bayer Leverkusen. The general consensus was that he was a great shot stopper, capable of making world class saves. However the German was known for having a mistake in him.
This was quite apparent in his first season at the Emirates. He quickly became the side’s Premier League number one ahead of Petr Cech, proving his worth with some excellent saves. But a massive 5 errors leading to goals meant his poor performances were magnified. Deservedly so might I add, it costed the side points. The Spurs game last season epitomises Leno’s first season. A poor error in the first half to give them the lead, before making a world class save in the second half. Naturally, this meant Leno’s good games went under the radar. However in 2019/20, the 27 year old is finally getting the credit he deserves.
How do you measure a keeper’s quality?
It’s often hard to compare goalkeepers and determine which one is better. Partly because each metric can be spun and evaluated in so many different ways. If we’re going off clean sheets, Leno is 11th with 6 whilst the undisputed best goal keeper in Europe, let alone the league, Alisson is 1st with 10. But this is a flawed statistic, because you’re attributing the entire defensive performance of the team to the goalkeeper. Naturally Alisson will have the highest clean sheets, partly because he’s world class. But also because he has the best defense in the league in front of him. So judging a keeper solely on clean sheets and goals conceded is often inaccurate.
The same goes for saves. If you used this statistic, the German is 2nd to Martin Dubravka with the Brazilian being bottom of the list. Of course once again, this is a flawed measure. Naturally the teams with the worst defences will allow more shots to go towards their keeper and force saves, hence why Leno and Alisson aren’t both at the top of this list. One has Virgil Van Dijk in front of him. The other has Shkodran Mustafi. Enough said.
Then of course there’s the factors that can’t be quantified. For instance, Alisson’s presence and how he reassures the players around him psychologically that he will save most shots improves the rest of the Liverpool team. That’s a huge factor and is difficult to measure or quantify with stats.
Either way, I’m just saying it’s hard to judge goalkeepers based on stats because it’s so dependent on other factors. Mostly the defence in front of them which can either inflate or deflate the ‘output’ of the keeper. But having watch Leno this season, it’s evident how important he is to the side.
Game winning goalkeeper
We’ve seen the likes of Kepa and De Gea, who were so highly rated before, struggle this season. Both Spaniards are more prone to mistakes and errors than their reputations suggest. The latter in particular who was comfortably the best keeper in the league for the best part of 4-5 seasons. Perhaps this has made Leno’s consistency and reliability for Arsenal even more valuable.
We saw today the German international played a crucial role in the North London side’s win against Everton. Though the score was 3-2, Leno made some crucial saves, particularly against Richarlison. The Brazilian was yards away from goal and hit a powerful shot from point blank range. Yet the Arsenal keeper stood strong, made himself big and made an incredible save with his right hand. The definition of a game winning save, coupling great reactions with remarkable strength in the hand.
That’s what the 27 year old has been doing for most of this season without fail. Part of the reason why Arsenal weren’t in a relegation battle during Unai Emery’s time in 2019/20, apart from Aubameyang’s goals, was Leno’s saves. 2nd in the save charts, game after game, he managed to make Sokratis, Mustafi and Luiz slightly less worse from his heroics. Hence why many Arsenal fans online are suggesting he’s front runner for Player of the Year. Apart from their Gabonese striker, it’s hard to deny.
Bernd Leno – Style of Play
At 6ft 3, Bernd Leno for the most part collects crosses and corners well. Though occasionally he will have a clanger and fumble or make a poor decision, nine times out of ten, the German brings reassurance to their often calamitous defence. The former Stuttgart shot stopper’s distribution is hot and cold though. With a 71.3% pass accuracy in the Premier League in 2019/20 compared to Alisson’s 83.3%, that’s an area he has to improve in. Otherwise, continued misplaced passes risk exposing the shaky defence again and again.
Of course we’ve covered the shot stopping ability of Bernd Leno. He often makes himself big when one on one and will not make it easy for the attacker. The German is also confident and quick to react, not afraid to run out of his box if someone is clean through on goal. Though this didn’t pay off on occasions last season, today against the Toffees he was to quick to react to a ball over the top and clear the danger before it reached his box.
So is he the 2nd best keeper in the league? Again, it’s hard to say. How do you judge a keeper’s performances? Clean sheets, saves, least errors? All of these metrics, as aforementioned, can be evaluated. I’ll let you decide in the comments below…
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