Bernd Leno joined the Arsenal from Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen back in July and given the sizeable transfer fee paid in order to acquire his services you’d have been forgiven for assuming he’d have been installed as the number one with the veteran Petr Cech being limited to providing cover and featuring in the cup competitions.
And so, eyebrows were raised when Petr Cech began the season in between the posts with the 26 year old German warming the bench. Given his poor performances last season the general feeling was that Cech was long past his best and no longer agile enough to play at the top end of the world’s most competitive league.
Having watched the pre season tour closely during the summer the improved conditioning of certain individuals, Cech being amongst them was visibly noticeable. The new training regime has clearly been of great benefit and Cech’s improved form and agility are a testament to that.
On the 2nd October, during the home win versus Watford, Cech injured his hamstring taking a goal kick and was forced off, subsequently opening the door for the German to stake his claim as the number one. Despite Cech’s return to fitness Leno has held down his place having turned in some impressive performances during the past few weeks. However, I think it’s safe to say he had a mixed evening versus Liverpool on Saturday, pulling off a couple of wonderful saves in between a couple of uncharacteristic errors.
From watching the pair, it’s clear both have very different skill sets and once again Unai Emery has an extremely difficult decision to make over who will be his number one going forward. In terms of their overall quality as goalkeepers, in my view there’s not a great deal in it, both having shown they can earn the team points and so it comes down to the manager’s preference and who he feels better compliments our desired style of play.
Leno is far more polished with the ball at his feet, his distribution is better than that of some central defenders, he takes up a braver starting position and is happy to play as a ‘sweeper keeper’ when necessary – you could say he’s your typical modern day goalkeeper. Stylistically, the German is very similar to Alisson of Liverpool and Ederson of Manchester City – Leno is a far more economical alternative considering the aforementioned two cost their respective clubs a total of £92m between them.
Petr Cech on the other hand is a lot more dominant in aerial situations, has a greater presence in the penalty area and is certainly more vocal in terms of organising his defence. The 36 year old is a more orthodox Goalkeeper, the traditional kind that we older folk can relate to. Perhaps it’s time we acknowledge that Petr Cech could be one of the last of his kind and that going forward, Goalkeepers will also be judged on their ability to play football rather than just their ability to keep the ball out of the net.
Unai Emery and Arsenal find themselves in the fortunate position of having two top quality goalkeepers to select from, both with different strengths, weaknesses and characteristics. Is one clearly better than the other? Not for me, they’re both stoppers of the highest quality and it’s a great problem for any manager to have. Having made it through to the League Cup quarter finals, set to qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League and the FA Cup third round to come in January there will be plenty of games for both to feature their fair share.
Seeing as I can’t decide, here at @chronicles_afc we want to know who YOUR preferred goalkeeper is of the two. Tweet us or comment your thoughts below. The best answers will feature on next weeks podcast!