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“We’ve got a really successful keeper, let’s get rid of him”

By Tony Attwood

Part 1: We need a new keeper

One of the dominant Arsenal stories of the moment in blogs and newspapers is that Bernd Leno has to go, and so anxious is the club to get him out that they are willing to buy a replacement who is currently banned for a year from playing, on drugs charges.

So let’s consider just how awful Bernd Leno is to make Arsenal that desperate to get rid of him.

First off we know that Arsenal had the third best defence in the Premier League last season – and that is across the whole of the last season, not just the last two thirds.  Below you will discover the league table top three organised in terms of the goals conceded.  Arsenal are third, and yes they conceded seven more than Manchester C, but they conceded fewer goals than the 17 other clubs in the Premier League, which surely counts for something.  Doesn’t it?

Lge pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 38 27 5 6 83 32 51 86
4 Chelsea 38 19 10 9 58 36 22 67
8 Arsenal 38 18 7 13 55 39 16 61

Of course not every keeper played every game so let’s look at Leno’s personal record…

Player Club Age Games Minutes Goals conceded Goals per 90 mins
1 Ederson Manchester City 26 36 3,240 28 0.78
2 Edouard Mendy Chelsea 28 31 2,745 25 0.82
3 Alisson Liverpool 27 33 2,970 32 0.97
4 Robert Sánchez Brighton 22 27 2,430 27 1.00
5 Bernd Leno Arsenal 28 35 3,131 37 1.06
6 Nick Pope Burnley 28 32 2,880 37 1.16

So Leno is better than any keeper  at Manchester United, Leicester or Tottenham Hots.  Not the absolute measure of a keeper, but still, he’s not even the worst in the so-called top six.

Now if we had an utterly perfect team that had run away with the title we might say that we could do with buying Ederson to get a bit of competition in the position, but we don’t – and besides those raging over the need to replace Leno are doing so because they say he is rubbish – not that he is not the best.  

Leno was the fifth best keeper in the League last season, behind the third best defence in the league.  Does that make him someone who must be removed from the club at once, and replaced by a keeper who is currently suspended on a drugs charge?

This is in fact another Donald Trump Syndrome tale: a story which has absolutely no basis in fact, but which is repeated so often that people start believing it.  A bit like Trump’s story that every time the government taxes profitable companies and rich people less, so the government’s tax revenue goes up!   There is not one single piece of evidence to support this, but at the last US election he said this over and over again.

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Part 2: We’ve failed to get the man we wanted

Meanwhile the image is created over and over that Arsenal’s transfer team are too slow, the owner too mean with the cash, the club is not adventurous enough.  This is the reason all the time why we don’t get players – as with the moment that the club suffered what Football London calls Arsenal “suffering Emiliano Buendia blow”.

The only evidence is what the blogs and journalists say.   Yet what they don’t tell you is that last summer they only got 3% of their transfer predictions right, and that in 95% of cases you will find that they are either claims made by someone who is a commentator with no direct link to Arsenal or the world of transfers or (most commonly) they are reporting what another site has said.  Go to that site and you find… well, you know.

So when we have the headlineKevin Campbell has urged Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke to write a cheque for £200million this summer,” that’s just the ex-player chatting to a blog.  What we need to ask is how he explains the phenomenal improvement since Christmas, the extraordinary tactical change which stopped PGMO given Arsenal yellow cards all day long, and the third best defence in the league, or all those Football Observatory awards?   

Part 3: The club needs to be transformed

“A massive summer on the transfer front lies ahead for Arsenal and manager Mikel Arteta as the Spaniard looks to try and transform the club’s fortunes over the coming months.”

That was in Football.London (again) with (again) with no source for the statement.

And why change again, given the changes made last season which were so successful? We are not told. 

But still when the transfers don’t happen, the media can claim it is a massive Arsenal failure – when the reality is that Arsenal were not making any attempt to get the deal.  I mean, why should we trust any “outlet” that fails to mention the improvement in the final two-thirds of the season, the third best defence in the league, and all the awards?

It is once more pure Donald Trump.  Make up a story and say it often enough and silly people start to believe.

More anon…

6 comments to “We’ve got a really successful keeper, let’s get rid of him”

  • Onana will be a prudent buy for Arsenal, they should go ahead and seal the deal.He is a quality keeper who will offer competition for Leno.

    Arsenal have often been accused of not getting value for the money they have spent on players and the Onana deal will change this narrative;Onana is 25 years, 4years Leno’s junior and he is as good as Leno and may cost £7 instead of £30!

  • While I agree because of circumstances around lack of finances etc getting rid of Leno is not really an option this summer unless a really good young keeper can be found at less cost which is highly unlikely.
    However Leno is not a great keeper and to suggest he is better than the minders at the spuds or the Foxes is pure fantasy.
    At the moment we have an extremely defensive coach we are not going all guns blazing leaving our keeper to stop everything.
    Unfortunately he doesn’t command his area, he is bad in the air and slow off his line.
    He is a good shot stopper but that doesn’t make a quality keeper.

  • Arse or brain: And yet there can be no denying that we had the third best defence in the league last season. However we only had the 9th best attack. Therefore the logical thing to do is to focus first on getting the attack to work better, not fiddle with the defence.
    We scored 28 fewer than the top scoring team, but conceded only seven more than the best defence. So surely, all the focus should be on closing that gap with the top scorers.

  • Pete

    The most interesting stat would be percentage of on target shots saved. Do you have this?

  • Dec

    I know how much you love your statistics Tony, but they tell only part of the story in this case. What percentage of the defensive output in any game/season/team is down to the keeper. Hard to tell with just numbers. How much does any keeper contribute to the attacking endeavors over any game/season?
    A class keeper will have his team‘s defensive efforts organised so that the threat from the opposition is snuffed out before he needs to make a save. Good keepers make defenders look good, then they often don’t get the credit. That kind of contribution is hard to pin down by just numbers. Even watching on TV will never give any real idea of how the goalkeeper is influencing the accumulated defensive effort. Not sure how influential Leno is in the Arsenal team, could be very, if so keep him, could be that he depends more on his defenders to protect him, if so start looking. The number of goals conceded could be the same in either scenario. You’d need to be on the inside observing closely to have any really valuable assessment. My gut feeling is that Leno is decent enough and hard for a club like Arsenal to replace with a vastly better option, but no Manu Neuer.

  • Tony,
    I think you know in modern football defence is the whole team. If forwards are not informing the press, if midfielders don’t follow opposition players back then goals are scored.
    The very fact we are not scoring as many goals shows how more defensive the team is set up.
    When you look at individuals and their performances stats can be very camaflaging.
    Any great keeper throughout time has an awe about them creating a confidence for their own defence and making the goal look small to the opposition.
    When you are under pressure seeing your keeper come and collect a corner is so relieving and so frustrating for the other side. Unfortunately Leno doesn’t do this he is poor on crosses generally and when he does come favours punching which again puts the defence under pressure for the second ball.
    He is also slow off his line with many of the CBs having to shout at him to collect the ball.
    I do agree that because of the money situation we are not in a position to replace him this summer.

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