Why Bernd Leno is Benched for Petr Cech

Bernd Leno

After a rough few years at the club, Arsenal replaced Arsène Wenger with Unai Emery as his successor in a move which spelt big changes in the Arsenal dressing room. Emery brought in a number of players in different positions, most notably the goalkeeping spot. Bernd Leno was bought for around £20 million to replace the out of favour David Ospina.

The selection dilemma facing Emery is certainly not an easy one as both Petr Cech and Bernd Leno have their strengths and weaknesses.

Bernd Leno vs Petr Cech

With over 300 Bundesliga appearances under his belt and at 26-years-old, Bernd Leno’s experience at the top level made him a stand-out choice for Unai Emery.

However, there was a feeling going around during preseason that Cech would remain Arsenal’s number one. That was proven with Petr Cech getting the nod in Unai Emery’s first game versus the champions.

Cech made a critical error in the game which almost led to an own goal. The same followed against Cardiff last weekend as the fans grow impatient to see Bernd Leno in goal. Cech, despite making a high number of high profile saves this season, has gone on to be ridiculed by fans and even Leno’s former club, Leverkusen, which prompted an angry response from the 36-year-old himself.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Bernd Leno

Bernd Leno’s great reflexes have got to be his best asset. He has very quick eyes to react to incoming shots which have led to magnificent close-range saves.

He’s brave on the ball as he would dive into a crowd of players head first where others wouldn’t put their legs in. The best example of that was when he ended up having to wear a mask due to a facial injury after saving the ball with his face.

Bernd Leno may be better on the ball than Cech but his long ball distribution isn’t the best. Another discouraging fact is the number of saves per-goal. The German makes just 1.48 saves for every goal conceded.

Petr Cech

At 36-years-old, Cech’s main strength has got to be his experience and commanding voice at the back. He’s been there and done it all as they say. He reads attackers well which leads to good one-on-one stops. His most notable recent stop being versus Aguero at The Emirates.

He may be a bit slow but he’s tall and strong, preventing defenders from bullying him in corners. Cech’s title-winning mentality is also a strength most of the Arsenal players lack.

However, he’s past his best and his age is getting the better of him. Emery wants to play out from the back and his slow reaction time and awful passing may see him dropped for Bernd Leno.

What the Manager and Legends are Saying

“I am very happy with his performance,” Unai Emery insisted. “He has experience, he has quality, he has ability.”

“Also, with Bernd Leno [it’s the same]. They are two goalkeepers who are important for us. They have different qualities but for us, in the way we want to play, they can [both] play.”

On Bernd Leno

Arsenal legend Jens Lehmann also voiced his opinion on the matter.

“We don’t know who the coaches like. If he tries a new player out, if not the other guy is playing. Bernd is a good ‘keeper, no doubt about that. The question is: can he show more than he did in the past? He must take more risks and continue his development. If he does that – good!”

On Petr Cech

“He is still a fantastic goalkeeper and apparently he had to change his style, but sometimes the game tells you what to do and not the other way round.

“Petr has played hundreds of games and I think sometimes he would have kicked it long before, now he is under pressure this year. The game dictates what to do and not a certain style you have to play.”

Predictions and Verdict

Bernd Leno will undoubtedly get opportunities to start ahead of Cech as the season goes on. The fact that he has not been involved so far will put more pressure on him to impress when he does eventually get his chance.

It will be an interesting fight for the number one spot but expect Cech to still be Arsenal’s first choice come May. Unai Emery will probably use Bernd Leno for the domestic and European cup games to help him improve until he can fully earn his spot as Arsenal’s first choice.

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