With Liverpool breaking the world record transfer fee for a goalkeeper in a £65m move for Alisson Becker, Chelsea’s No1 Thibaut Courtois seeking a transfer to Real Madrid and the small matter of England legend Joe Hart (ahem) looking for a club that’ll take him – any club will do, honestly – this is fast becoming the summer of the goalkeeper.
Among all these mega-money deals, Arsenal have also got in on the action. The Gunners have splashed out £19.3m on German keeper Bernd Leno, a fee which is double that of Arsenal’s previous biggest outlay on a goalkeeper – £10m for Petr Cech. Furthermore, Leno is also now the sixth most expensive keeper in football history, just above David de Gea no less.
Now, we’re fully aware that modern transfer fees are beyond insane, but when you spend the best part of £20m on a keeper, you’d want them to be of top quality, right? Sadly for Gooners everywhere, that’s not the case here.
Leno comes with an unwelcome reputation in his native country for struggling with a lack of concentration during games, which subsequently lead to costly errors on the pitch. We present to the jury our first piece of evidence:
Before you start, we know that even the world’s best can have an off day: think Cristiano Ronaldo misplacing passes, or Phil Jones overhitting his corner kicks, for example. The problem is Leno is walking into the long-term disaster zone that is between the sticks at Arsenal. And the Gunners’ keeper curse has already started.
Last week, Arsenal played out a secret behind-closed-doors friendly against Brentford; a chance for Unai Emery’s team to get some minutes and confidence under their belt against easy opposition. The final score? Arsenal 1-2 Brentford.
Worryingly for fans, the Bees’ winner came directly from Leno fumbling a cross and leaving a gaping net behind him. The former Bayer Leverkusen man can’t really blame inexperience, either. Despite being just 26 – a young age for a keeper – he has almost 400 first-team appearances to his name.
Doesn’t bode well that for famed lack of concentration, does it?
Fortunately for Leno, should he inevitably turn out to be yet another Arsenal goalkeeping dud of recent years, he’ll be in very good company.
Let’s take a look at that not-so-illustrious roll call…
Supposedly the vastly experienced answer to Arsenal’s goalkeeping woes when he signed in 2015, it’s been far from the reality. At the time, Chelsea fans joked he was sent in as an undercover agent and while he took a little longer than experienced to become active in the field, he eventually has.
Cech made six errors leading directly to goals during the 2017/18 Premier League season, more than any other player – a clear indicator that he’s a shadow of his former self. Rumours that he may be on his way back to the Bridge will just add weight to that secret agent theory.
Despite being one of Colombia’s national heroes (really, he is!), Ospina has never convincingly nailed down the Gunners’ No1 spot when given the chance. Although he is worthwhile entertainment on the pitch, if only for the sweepstake on what minute he’ll go down injured and require treatment – something that happens in every game he plays in.
Likely to be sold to [insert generic Turkish team here] this summer, Ospina will go down as another not-good-enough purchase.
In fairness, the real disaster here is the Pole never being given a second chance at the Emirates after Arsene Wenger caught him smoking in the showers. Still, he certainly had his moments in red and white…
Arsene Wenger sent him out on loan to Roma in 2015 where he matured and shone, so what did the manager do? Sell him to Juventus for the modern football transfer fee equivalent of two Freddo bars and a pack of cigarettes (fittingly) so he could replace Gianluigi Buffon as their No1, of course.
Unai Emery must be fuming.
Not-so-affectionately nicknamed Flappy-hands-ki by fans, he’s yet another stopper who never convinced at Arsenal.
It’s a damning indictment of Arsenal’s coaching team that Fabianski improved beyond recognition after moving to Swansea in 2014 to become one of the league’s most consistent keepers. Ultimately though was never good enough at the top, top level.
Mannone always looked more suited to a role as one of Fat Tony’s henchmen in The Simpsons than as a Premier League No1 if you ask us.
Arsenal fans thought they were on to a winner after a stellar goalkeeping display away at Fulham in 2009, but he rapidly went downhill at a 90 degree angle. With comedy errors aplenty, the Italian was yet another dud in gloves.
He came, he saw, he captained the team on the final day of the 2006/07 season – his one and only league appearance in two years at the club. Fun fact: Poom laughably received a Champions League runners-up medal in 2006 despite never playing in Europe for the club.
And that’s all we have to say about that.
Ah, yes. Manuel Almunia. Where do we start? If ever a player marked the shift in quality from the Invincibles, it was the Spaniard.
The Gunners’ first signing after that incredible season, Almunia set the tone for the ensuing years of bang averageness – somehow displacing Jens Lehmann as No1 along the way. Despite mistake after mistake after comedy mistake – form which earned him comparisons with useless waiter Manuel from Fawlty Towers in the press – he somehow he seemed undroppable.
We’d carry on writing, but the flashbacks we’re getting with him in goal are starting to raise the blood pressure to a dangerous level. So let’s lighten the moment by watching him launch a clearance into his own defender:
Shaaban was supposed to be the new Seaman, but all they had in common was their surname initial. Suffice to say it didn’t quite work for the Swede; it speaks volumes that the only thing of note Rami did during his time at Arsenal was to break his leg in training on Christmas Eve. Poor sod.
He wasn’t much better for the national team either:
Yet another prospective new Seaman, Wright’s stint with Arsenal was littered with error-strewn performances. A particular standout highlight must be the time he came out punched a floating free-kick behind him and into an open goal, but you can pick your own favourite:
So, no pressure Bernd. Good luck – you’re going to need it…