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Risky Runar Runarsson

Arsenal have taken a risk signing unknown Icelandic keeper Runar Alex Runarsson.

Our friends over at Gunners Town have spoken to the Vice President of the official Arsenal Iceland, Hilmar Guðjónsson about his fellow countryman, and the exclusive makes fairy grim reading.

Hilmar reveals that “Iceland are not blessed with good goal keepers”, which is a concern when Runarsson has just 5 caps, and has not played since 2015.

Runarsson joined Dijon in 2018, but last season lost his place as number 1, starting just 9 Ligue 1 games.

Hilmar goes on to say that Runarsson has a poor shot stop ratio and does not dominate his area.

Arsenal goalkeeper coach Inaki Cana has previously coaches Runarsson at FC Nordsjælland, so you have to feel he has been recommend to the club.

So Runarsson does not arrive with a glowing reputation. Arsenal are clearly taking huge risk signing him.

Arsenal received a reported £17m upfront from Aston Villa for Emi Martinez, and a decision has clearly been made to buy the “cheapest option possible” leaving the majority of that fee to be spent elsewhere on the team.

The club could have gone out and signed David Raya from Brentford for £10m.

Spaniard Raya is an experience Championship goalkeeper and, importantly, home grown. Instead Arsenal went for Runarsson for just £1.5m.

That leaves Arsenal with £15.5m spare from the Martinez deal, rather than £7m.

Arsenal are taking a risk on Bernd Leno staying fit.

Leno is undisputed number 1. He will be between the sticks for every game. Runarsson is being signed to take a seat on the bench.

Arsenal would have looked at Leno and realised he is a fit young man.

Leno has missed just 19 League games in 9 seasons, playing out of 296 out of 315 league games for Arsenal and Leverkusen.

According to Transfermarkt, he has had 2 spells in his career when he missed games.

Back in 2012/13, he missed a handful of games with an elbow injury. More recently he missed games for Arsenal following a dangerous challenge by Neal Mupay against Brighton.

By signing Runarsson, Arsenal are banking on Leno maintaining his excellent injury record.

But what if he gets injured again?

My feeling is Arsenal would request the Premier League to authorise an emergency loan to cover Leno rather than promote Runarsson to number 1.

Premier League rules state that “teams are allowed to sign goalkeepers on emergency loan cover, but this is generally if no senior goalkeepers are available”.

Arsenal would then have to make the case that, despite being 25, Runarsson is not a “senior goal keeper”.

In their favour, they could argue that he has yet to start a Premier League game, and only made 9 starts in France last year.

If the league agree to the loan deal, Arsenal could then scour England for the “best available number 2” to come in on a temporary basis.

If Emi Martinez is playing week in, week out for Aston Villa, there is a high chance that could be Tom Heaton.

Arsenal might have to write off the “additional fees” to secure the England international, whom Villa signed for £8m just last summer.

Fraser Forster from Southampton and Marek Rodak of Fulham would also be options if the time came to it – the later will probably be usurped as number one by Alphonse Areola this season.

The emergency loan would then come into the first team with Runarsson remaining on the bench.

By going cheap to Runarsson, Arsenal are freeing money up to be spent elsewhere, but it is a risk.

Note: Since writing this blog, news has broken that Arsenal might also sign David Raya, with the deal being completed this summer, by Raya allowed to stay on loan at Brentford for the season.

This would only make sense if Arsenal only made a down payment this summer, with the rest of the transfer fee being paid next summer. And Arsenal had a clause in the loan deal allowing Raya to be recalled at any time if Bernd Leno picked up an injury (with the remaining transfer fee payable immediately).

An interesting development.