By Sir Hardly Anyone
That headline is bonkers – at least I suspect it is, because I just made it up. But recently we have had Leno being replaced at Arsenal by
a) A keeper who is banned until November on drugs offences (a deal that was going to be sealed in June according to The Sun)
b) A keeper who let in more goals than any other in the premier league (according to the Sun)
c) The Newcastle keeper who could be got in exchange for Willock. (according to HITC – not sure why the Sun didn’t get that one).
Now of course it may be that Leno has had enough of Arsenal – or quite possibly the way he has been treated by the English media who have utterly refused to acknowledge that Leno
- Was part of the third best defence in the league last season.
- Was part of the second best defence in the league for the last two thirds of the season (that is the period after the total remodelling of the way the defence played).
- Was the second keeper in Germany’s squad this summer in the Euros – and Germany is quite a big country with quite a lot of interest in football, and therefore quite a lot of goalkeepers.
The justification for Leno going primarily seems to be the argument that we sold the wrong keeper by letting Emi Martinez in September 2020. He subsequently played all 38 games in the 2020/21 season for Villa. Bernd Leno played 35 out of 38 games for Arsenal last season. So we can compare…
So we can compare and see that if anything Arsenal kept the better keeper and there is also little to suggest why we might want to take the Sheffield United man – although of course keeping goals out is not all down to the keeper.
As you will know if you are a regular here, Arsenal took their time adjusting to a radical new approach to defending last season, one that saw Arsenal’s tackling drop by 22%, their fouls drop by 18% and their yellow cards drop by 45%.
These figures were utterly different for Aston Villa and Sheffield United who saw their tackling level rise.
So it is also not surprising that if we look at the league table for the last 24 games of the season – which is just over the last two thirds of the campaign, Arsenal, having got the new defensive system working, did rather well.
But how did Aston Villa do with Martinez?
In fact as you can see, across the last two thirds of the season Arsenal matched Manchester City in terms of defence, letting in just one more goal. Our problem was that we drew five games and City drew none during that period.
But comparing us and Villa during that last 24 games of the season, we can see that our defence was significantly superior to Villa and indeed our whole performance was 18 points better.
Now the defence is more than the keeper, but the keeper is a fundamental part of the defence, and the argument in the media – and it spreads across almost all the media from the tiniest blog you’ve never heard of to the major daily papers – is that a) Arsenal sold the wrong keeper and b) Leno is a liability.
Yet Leno played in all but three of the League games last season. Across the last two thirds of the season we had the second best defence and and across the whole season we had the third best defence.
The above table has the league in the order of the goals conceded.
So the questions remain. Why replace Leno with a keeper who is currently banned on drugs offences, or the keeper from Sheffield United or anyone else? Has Germany got it wrong? Have Arsenal got it wrong?
Or did someone make up the story of Arsenal wanting to kick Leno out and replace him by the Ajax keeper who is banned, as a joke, which other journalists took up on the grounds that the desire to knock Arsenal all day every day is so strong that people will believe any anti-Arsenal story, no matter how bizarre or stupid?
I rather think it was. And a lot of people fell for it.
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