How Bernd Leno was quickly usurped by Aaron Ramsdale at Arsenal as big decisions await

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·3-min read
How Bernd Leno was quickly usurped by Aaron Ramsdale at Arsenal as big decisions await
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A year ago, Bernd Leno was Arsenal’s No1 goalkeeper. Now, after being left out in the cold since he was dropped after the Gunners lost their first three Premier League games of the season and were thrashed 5-0 at Manchester City in August, the German is having to rely on the Carabao Cup for action.

Leno has been usurped by Aaron Ramsdale, consigned to the bench and in danger of losing his place in the Germany squad ahead of next year’s World Cup.

It has been a swift fall from grace for Leno, who is expected to make only his sixth appearance of the season tonight when Arsenal host Sunderland at Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal’s desire to sign a new goalkeeper last summer was well known as Mikel Arteta sought out competition for Leno, who joined from Bayer Leverkusen for £19.2million in 2018.

But few could have predicted the meteoric rise of Ramsdale and the speed with which he has established himself as the undisputed first-choice at Arsenal.

“I think he has settled in a group that is very welcoming, that has young energy and with humble senior players that accommodate you straight away,” Arteta said of Ramsdale after he had pulled off one of the all-time great Premier League saves in a 2-0 win at Leicester in October.

“Then Aaron’s character, he’s full of energy, he can transmit that energy and that passion and they have great chemistry between them.”

Ramsdale’s personality is a big reason why he has usurped Leno as No1. It was something Arsenal looked at when scouting the 23-year-old during his one season at Sheffield United, even analysing how he reacted after making a mistake.

Ramsdale is a big, bold and loud character and has traits this young Arsenal team lack. He has only been at the club a matter of months but he has already made a huge impact on the dressing room.

“The day I spoke with him for the first time on the phone, that is when I realised he had a special personality,” Arteta said earlier this month. “He was going to fit in really well with what we are trying to do, and the way we want our players to behave.”

Leno is a different character and not as extroverted as Ramsdale. He is often a relaxed figure around training and matches, with players finding him approachable and calm.

There is nothing wrong with those traits, they are just different. But it feels as though Ramsdale’s personality is more suited to the young team Arteta is looking to build.

Aaron Ramsdale quickly replaced Bernd Leno as Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Aaron Ramsdale quickly replaced Bernd Leno as Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Of course, there is also the tactical tweak that Ramsdale’s involvement brings to the team. The England international is much more comfortable playing out from the back and that too is in keeping with where Arteta wants this team to go.

It all leaves Leno in a difficult spot and tonight serves as a reminder that the situation will have to be resolved at some point.

There have not been many issues so far, bar Leno saying in an interview with German newspaper Bild in September that there was “no clear reason” he had been dropped. Arteta responded a few days later by saying he had been “very clear”.

Leno has not been a disruptive influence, instead helping Ramsdale settle in and focusing on taking his chances when they come. He has not conceded a goal in the Carabao Cup this season and he will want to keep it that way tonight against a Sunderland side that sit third in League One.

Long-term, Arteta wants a scenario where he has two goalkeepers fighting it out to be No1. That, though, is a difficult situation to manage and, during that interview with Bild, Leno hinted he could leave in January if he is still struggling for minutes.

Arsenal would loath to let the 29-year-old leave next month, but it is a reality they are likely to have to face up to next summer. Leno will surely only tolerate being the ‘cup goalkeeper’ for so long.

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