The 2021-22 Arsenal season was not particularly kind to Bernd Leno. The club brought in a younger keeper during the summer in Aaron Ramsdale, more or less hung Leno out to dry in the opening three matches of the season, and dropped him down the depth chart. That’s not to say that Mikel Arteta or Arsenal wronged Leno per se, but they certainly didn’t do the 30-year old keeper any favors.
Season Summary: Bernd Leno played sparingly this season, making just 8 appearances for Arsenal. He started the opening three Premier League games, conceded 9 goals behind cobbled together lineups, and was replaced by Aaron Ramsdale coming out of the first international break. He picked up three wins, including a clean sheet, in the Carabao Cup. He started Arsenal’s 1-0 loss to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup.
He filled in for an injured Aaron Ramsdale in March against Aston Villa, backstopping the Gunners to a 1-0 win. The victory and the clean sheet clearly meant a great deal to Leno and his teammates, many of whom ran directly to Leno to celebrate the final whistle.
Season Grade: B-
I was briefly tempted to give him lower marks because of the poor start, but the side was in such disarray that I don’t think you can pin anything on him. His feeble attempt to fight through the screen thrown on him on Brentford’s second goal in the opener wasn’t his finest moment, but he was being fouled. It should have been called, especially given the protection usually afforded keepers in their own area.
He did what was expected of him this season as a backup keeper. He won some cup matches and kept a clean sheet when called upon for the Premier League. I originally gave him a “C” for the season but bumped it up because of how professionally he handled his demotion. He didn’t complain to the media. He didn’t cause issues in the locker room. It feels a bit weird to praise a player for living up to baseline expectations for a pro footballer, but given how some players handle being moved down the depth chart, Leno deserves credit for getting it right.
‘22-’23 Outlook: Bernd Leno is unlikely to be with Arsenal this upcoming season. He’s in the final year of his contract, has lost his starting role, and wants to play to give himself a shot at making Germany’s World Cup roster. His agent recently said that Fulham are actively pursuing his services. Leno has also been linked with PSV Eindhoven as well as with German clubs. A move away is best for both parties. For Leno so that he can deservedly be a #1 keeper somewhere. for Arsenal so that the club can generate funds from a quality player who should still have value instead of seeing him walk for free at the end of his contract.
It’s fair and fitting that Leno kept a clean sheet in what was likely his final competitive match for the Gunners. He was the reason the recent down years at the club didn’t end up a whole lot worse, keeping Arsenal in matches and preserving / winning points with his formidable shot-stopping. He’s a very good keeper and was a solid player for the club. I hope he is successful wherever he ends up. Just not against Arsenal if he stays in the Premier League - I hope we light him up if we have to face him.
Editors Note: I know it’s a bit late to get to season recaps, but doing them this way allows us to weave in a bit of transfer speculation / summer news (if there is any) and look ahead to next season. Enjoy!