Tag Archives: Bernd Leno

Arsenal facing goalkeeper crisis

Arsenal are facing a goalkeeping crisis.

Bernd Leno has been a top signing and has established himself as Arsenal number one ahead of Petr Cech.

At the end of this season Petr Cech’s contract expires. Arsenal have a decision to make whether to offer the veteran stopper a new contract or let him see out his career in France or back in the Czech Republic.

On loan at Napoli is David Ospina. The Colombian’s contract with Arsenal is not due to expire until 2020.

If Arsenal decide to dispense with the services of Cech, it would make sense that Arsenal keep Ospina as number 2 next season.

The huge problem is beyond that. Arsenal do not have a natural number 2 coming through.

Current Arsenal number 3 is Damian Martinez.

The Argentine goal keeper is now 26 and made his Arsenal debut 6 years ago. He will never be good enough to step up to number 2 at Arsenal. To be a number 2 at a top club, you have to be good enough to play 38 Premier League games.

Imagine the scenario; Leno get’s injured in the first game of the season. Out of for entire campaign. A number 2 needs to be able to step up into the role of number 1. Martinez is not that.

Arsenal’s number 2 is currently Cech. Manchester United have Argentine number 1 Sergio Romero. Chelsea with Argentina number 2 Willy Caballero.

Manchester City’s number 2 is Claudio Bravo, who spent 2 years as Barcelona number 1 and was Goalkeeper of the Tournament at the 2017 Confederations Cup.

Simon Mignolet is Liverpool’s number 2. He has played over 200 times for the club, and Tottenham have Michel Vorm who has played over 100 times in the Premier League.

Even Everton have a solid second choice keeper in former Dutch number 1 Maarten Stekelenburg.

In summary, to be a number 2 at a top club you need to be an experienced goal keeper, an international. Martinez is neither of these.

Behind Martinez is Matt Macey. The tall Englishman is now in his mid-20s.

Macey is performing well at Plymouth, but it is doubtful if he would have what it takes to be Arsenal Number 2. I would expect him to replace Martinez as number 3 next season.

So moving into 2019/20, I would expect our 3 goal keepers to be Leno, Cech / Ospina, Martinez / Macey.

The crisis Arsenal are facing is below first team level.

According to the club website, we have one goal keeper in our academy. 23-year-old Macedonian Deyan Iliev. He is another, like Macey and Martinez, who does not have what it takes to make it to the top.

After Iliev, the next goal keeper in line is talented 17-year-old Arthur Okonkwo.

Okonkwo has a bright future, with many who watch the youth teams claiming he is the best young keeping prospect we have had since Wojciech Szczesny. But he is 17. He is still a baby in goal keeping terms.

There is a 6 year age gap between Iliev and Okonkwo and Arsenal need to fill that gap.

Over the last 12 months, Arsenal have released a lot of goal keepers who had previously filled this gap.

Joao Virginia joined Everton this summer. The 19-year-old was rated by many at the club. Arsenal also released Ryan Huddart (21), Hugo Keto (20) and Alex Crean (19). These 4 goal keepers leaving have left a huge gap between Iliev and Okonkwo – and an even bigger talent gap between Cech as Number 2 and Okonkwo at the bottom end.

Last summer Arsenal signed Estonian Karl Jakob Hein. He is just 16 and was signed to fill the gap behind Okonkwo.

Over the summer, what Arsenal need to do is fill the gap between Iliev and Okonkwo.

It is likely that Iliev will leave, alongside either Martinez or Macey. That will mean 8 years between Macey and Okonkwo.

Sven Mislintat’s scouting team, and the youth scouts, will be scouring the UK and Europe for the top 21 year old goal keepers.

Someone (or even 2) that could come in and take the place of Iliev in the U23 team. Someone who within 12 months could be putting pressure on Macey or Martinez to become Arsenal number 3. You would be looking at them being 20-22.

It will be a challenge to find someone.

You will not be able to sign someone currently doing bits in a senior team. It is unlikely they would be happy stepping down from first team football to academy football – unless that are outside the top leagues in Europe.

You could pull a first team goal keeper from Poland or Norway, for example, but you are not going to be able to target someone like Alban Lafont from Fiorentina.

Although Arsenal might completely rip up the structure of the club and target someone like Lafont or Bartłomiej Dragowski (another Fiorentina youngster) and have them fill the duel role of Arsenal U23 keeper, and Arsenal 3rd choice keeper.

Arsenal will address the skills gap in young goal keepers this summer. It will not be a major signing, but it will be someone who can come in at U23 level and push for the first team squad within 12 months.


Arsenal v Brentford – Likely Starting XI

The first round (or 3rd round as it is) of the League Cup always makes interesting pre-game discussion over what sort of squad we will put it.

We know that it will not be a starting XI, as Unai Emery will shuffle his squad. But what sort of team will he put out?

In the past, Arsene Wenger used the early rounds of the competition to blood some youngsters. The likes of Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere cut their teeth in the competition. But this was in the days when first team squad did not carry as much depth – and the youngsters were pretty much the second string.

We are 6 games into the season and Unai Emery has kept his starting XI fairly steady with a core group of players – 10 have started at least 5 Premier League games.

As a result, the likes of Mohamed Elneny & Bernd Leno have yet to play a single Premier League minute, Danny Welbeck, Rob Holding & Stephan Lichtsteiner have yet to start a game, and Lucas Torreira and Alex Iwobi have started just 1 and 2 games respectively.

Whilst there will be calls for younger players to start; the likes of Eddie Nketiah, Emile Smith Rowe and Emiliano Martinez, it is perhaps more important that we give the senior 2nd string players a start to ensure they remain match sharp.

It is those senior players who will step up for the core group of players Emery has used thus far, therefore we will surely see the League Cup (and the Europa League) as competitions used to keep the 2nd string fresh and sharp, rather than blood youth players. Of course, some youth team players will get minutes.

In goal I expect Bernd Leno  to start. With just 1 appearance to his name so far this season, he needs game time, he needs the opportunities to push Petr Cech.

Stephan Lichtsteiner will be at right back. A perfect example of keeping a senior player sharp rather than blooding a youngster.

Centre back is interesting.

Arsenal are currently without Laurent Koscielny and Kostadinos Mavropanos. You would certainly have expected the later to start alongside Rob Holding. Sokratis also picked up an injury at the weekend against Everton – it is only a dead leg so he should be back for Everton.

This leaves Arsenal with just two senior fit centre backs. Shkdoran Mustafi and the aforementioned Holding.

Does Emery take the risk and play one of them alongside Julio Pleguezuelo, knowing if one picks up a knock and Sokratis does not recover, it will results in the young Spaniard also starting against Watford?

I think Emery will take the risk, he will partner Rob Holding with Pleguezuelo, leaving Mustafi at home ready for the visit of Watford.

Back in full training, Saed Kolasinac will get his first taste of game time this season.

Moving into midfield, Mohamed Elneny will start. The other two central midfield places up for grabs.

Lucas Torreira has started just 1 Premier League game this season, whilst Matteo Guendouzi has started 5. However against Watford it was the Uruguayan who got in ahead of the Frenchman. I expect the same to happen against Watford on Saturday so it makes sense for Matteo Guendouzi to start alongside Elneny against Brentford.

Further forward in the midfield, I would not be surprised if Alex Iwobi plays more centrally than he has previously.

A lot will be calling for Joe Willock to get game time, but as explained it is more important that we keep Iwobi match sharp. He will be given the roving role that Aaron Ramsey plays so well.

By playing Iwobi centrally, it will give us the space to have Emile Smith Rowe one side and Danny Welbeck  the other.

Originally I had Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Smith Rowe playing behind Welbeck, but the Armenian is out injured. This leaves Emery with a choice.

Play Willock in the midfield, pushing Iwobi up higher and having Welbeck up top; or play Iwobi deeper, Welbeck out wide and Eddie Nketiah as the spearhead.

I think Emery will opt to play Eddie Nketiah as it feels like he is ahead of Willock in terms of development. Arsenal would also already be giving game time to Smith Rowe, who plays in a similar position to Willock, is younger and better (it would not surprise me if this is Willock’s last year at the club as Smith Rowe moves ahead of him).

So all in all, I expect a fairly senior team with Pleguezuelo, Smith Rowe and Nketiah given a run out.

As Manchester United showed last night – with a very strong side – these Championship teams are no pushovers, and Brentford are a decent outfit.

It will be interesting to see if Josh Dasilva gets any game time for the Bees.

He played 3 times for Arsenal last season in the League Cup, but opted to continue his career at a lower level this season in the hope of more game time.

A few at Arsenal were disappointed to see him go, but he has so far struggled to break through at Brentford. Guendouzi is 6 months younger than Dasilva and ha started 5 Premier League games this season. That does not mean that Dasilva will not become a good players, but he is clearly not ready to be playing in the Premier League. It also highlights just how good a prospect Guendouzi is.

Last night during the Manchester United v Derby game, the commentators were talking up Mason Mount.

The 19-year old on loan Chelsea player is considered to be their best prospect since Josh McEachran (what happened to him?) and the commentators were labelling him as the best young English central midfielder, even calling for him to be called up to the next England squad.

He had a good game, and is clearly a prospect, but again he is older than Guendouzi.

The fact that people no longer look at Guendouzi as a 19-year old in his first season in top flight football (whilst Mount is playing 2nd division) is testament to his ability.

We now look at Guendouzi as an established senior player. If any of Granit Xhaka, Torreira or Aaron Ramsey are out injured, it will be Guendouzi who steps up. And as he has shown this season, he is ready.

Guendouzi and Ainsley Maitland-Niles will make it tough for any young Arsenal central midfielder to make a break through. The likes of Charlie Gilmour and Ben Sheaf will struggle to get any game time in senior competitions this year. Add in Willock and Kelechi Nwakali and for any of these to break into the Arsenal first team, they are going to have to be borderline Cesc Fabregas / Jack Wilshere talent.

All that bodes well for the future, especially with Torreira being just 22.

I actually look forward to the Europa League to see Guendouzi and Maitland-Niles (once fit) forge a partnership.

Enjoy the game tonight, and remember there is no Piccadilly Line tonight.

Up The Arsenal.


Everyone needs to let go of Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger has left us. Gone. It is a new era at Arsenal. The future is bright. It is exciting. We have had record season ticket renewals. But some people just can not get over that he has left.

Whoever this is pretending to be a bot whilst they continue to slag off Wenger 6 weeks after he left needs to really evaluate their life.

The Tweet is absolute rubbish for two reasons

“It’s the World Cup no one is available”

It is a complete myth that Arsenal did not sign any players during (prior or just after) World Cups as Arsene Wenger was working for TV companies.

At the 2014 World cup, Arsenal signed Alexis Sanchez whilst Wenger was lying on a beach.

In fact, in 2014, Arsenal spent nearly £80m on players as in came:

Alexis Sanchez
Mathieu Debuchy
David Ospina
Calum Chambers
Danny Welbeck

4 years prior it was:

Marouane Chamakh
Laurent Koscielny
Sébastien Squillaci

Maybe not the most inspiring list of names in hindsight, but Chamakh was considered an exciting talent, and Squillaci went to the World Cup with France.

In 2006, Arsenal were moving into their new stadium and high loan repayments had begun. This caused the club to tighten its belt during that summer.

Regardless, we still signed Tomas Rosicky before the World cup had even started. He was one of the top players at that tournament. Alex Song was also signed.

2002 saw Arsenal secure the services of Gilberto Silva, an ever present in Brazil’s World Cup winning team. They also added Pascal Cygan to the squad.

So in the 4 World Cups from 2002 – 2014 Arsenal bought 11 players prior to, during or just after the World Cup – I have excluded dead line day signings like Julio Baptista and William Gallas. That works out at 3 players during my loose time period.

“announcing players mid tournament”

So the Tweeter has claimed how much better things are since Arsene Wenger has gone as we are actually announcing players mid tournament.

Have I missed something?

So far Arsenal have announced two signings.

Stephan Lichtsteiner
Bernd Leno

We do have deals for Sokratis and Lucas Torreira in place, but these have not yet been announced.

Of the two players we signed, one was a free transfer – Stephan Lichsteiner. The Second – Bernd Leno – has not gone to the World Cup.

Sokratis is expected to join in a matter of days, like Leno he has not gone to the World Cup. As for the Torreira, reports are he is not actually available and therefore will not be announced until after the World Cup.

Arsenal are doing some brilliant business this summer, if it all comes off. But lets not pretend that Arsenal did not sign the likes of Rosicky, Sanchez & Koscielny in World cup years.

The problem with some people is that they defined their support of Arsenal by the manager. Being “Wenger In” or “Wenger Out” literally became more important than supporting Arsenal.

Since Wenger has gone, people on both sides of the extreme have found themselves homeless, without an opinion. They are struggling.

Many built a huge social media following based on their blind faith following or continual criticism of Wenger. Since he left they have been shown up for having little knowledge of football, adding nothing to the debate.

Instead of moving forward, they are stuck in the past. Constantly bringing Wenger up in every conversation.

Move on lads, move on.