Last week, both The Athletic and The Guardian reported that Bernd Leno was “understood” to be among five senior players that could leave Arsenal in the summer. Leno had suggested earlier this season that he would be open to a move away from the Emirates, saying, “I am open to everything. Maybe for a new adventure or to stay at Arsenal.” Yesterday, however, Bernd Leno confirmed that he is committed to the club.
Said Leno in an interview with German TV station Sport1, as reprinted in The Standard:
“I don’t want to flee here, I feel good and want to be successful again with Arsenal...I still have a two-year contract and hope to play in the Champions League again with Arsenal.
It is also clear that at some point in my career I want to do something different. So far I’ve played for two clubs. Maybe I’ll get the urge to play in another league again. Maybe in the south. But there is time, I’m still getting to the top goalkeeping age. But my focus is on Arsenal.
Personally, I also think it’s great in London. My wife feels good, everything fits. But at some point in the Bundesliga again: why not?”
I’d point out that unlike some players who will come out and say “I want to finish my career at [club],” Leno seems like one day, he’ll move on from North London. That’s fine. It’s an honest answer. The days of the one-club (or two-club) players are gone. Putting in a good shift of seasons and leaving on good terms is enough for me.
And Leno is well on his way to doing that. It took him a few matches to settle in at Arsenal after the club acquired him in July 2018 from Bayer Leverkusen, but since finding his footing, he’s been one of the better players at the club. For stretches, he’s been Arsenal’s most important / most valuable player, keeping the club in matches and making up for woeful defending in front of him.
Arsenal fans had a bit of a, well, it’s better just to show the meme than try to describe it, type-moment with Leno after he got hurt during Project Restart.
The brief dalliance with Emi Martinez, who, to be fair, was quite good in the FA Cup run, had people forgetting how important Leno had been for the club. For the most part, Leno has done well enough to remind us this season that he’s no slouch in net. His form dipped a bit along with most of the players’ play in March / April, but he has rallied back with strong performances during Arsenal’s recent mini-streak.
Arsenal still need a proper backup keeper for Leno because Alex Runarsson, as they say, ain’t it. Odds are Mat Ryan, whose contract with Brighton is up after this season, will sign a permanent deal with the Gunners, which would be fine by me. Ryan was serviceable in his three Premier League appearances for Arsenal.
Arsenal have plenty of needs this summer. Starting keeper is not one of them, and they’d do well not to make it one. Come opening day in August, I expect Bernd Leno to be in goal.