Bernd Leno deserves chance as Petr Cech proves ill-suited to Unai Emery’s system


Much has been talked about the impact second-half substitute Lucas Torreira had in Arsenal’s 3-2 win at Cardiff City and deservedly so. The second biggest talking point that could have very well been the talking point in any of their games so far was Petr Cech’s performance in between the sticks.

Nothing could he have done about the two goals Arsenal conceded, but his technical ability proved Arsenal’s Achilles heel once again. It was particularly evident when he allowed Harry Arter to intercept his pass to Granit Xhaka. Any other attacker would have hit the roof of the net, but the Irish midfielder failed to punish him, blazing over from just 18 yards out.

That wasn’t the first time he had a risky moment with the ball at his feet this season, sadly. His almost scoring a humiliating own goal on 22 minutes against Manchester City was only e of the many minor gaffes he’s committed this season. Much to his luck, though, none of his blunders have led to goals — unlike last season when six of his errors led to goals, making him the most error-prone ‘keeper in the Europe’s five leagues.

By the looks of things, though, he’s set to commit similar errors going forward. “I want him to continue to do this and to keep improving; it is important,” stated Arsenal manager Unai Emery, after the win in Wales. “If you play every time, long balls, you lose possession and you lose momentum. When you take this risk and analyse it, if you can get through the opposition’s press, you can find the space to for attacking opportunities.” It’s a sound strategy, on paper. However, at 36, in the twilight of his career, his attempts at adding new tools to his arsenal is unlikely to be fruitful.

He’s still a fantastic shot-stopper, with his making 19 saves so far this season. Only Joe Hart and Lukasz Fabianski of the bottom clubs and Southampton’s Alex McCarthy have made more saves than him. In reality, the Gunners could have suffered much more embarrassing defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea had it not been for his heroics in goal.

However, playing him essentially puts Arsenal at disadvantage, with his being ill-suited to the philosophy the manager has pledged to stick to: playing out from the back.

Arsenal elected to part ways with over £22.50 million for Bayer Leverkusen’s Bernd Leno in the summer when they had other burning issues to address. The amount of money involved, timing of the transfer and his reputation clearly suggests Arsenal consider him a top-class talent.

What’s the best thing about having two top-class goalkeepers on the roster is playing the one that’s best suited to the club’s system. The ball-playing German international ‘keeper, despite being not as good as the former Chelsea custodian at shot-stopping, fits Arsenal’s system to a tee.

In fact, it’s entirely possible that the manager is only using him as the ‘keeper until he shores up his struggling backline. However, desperate times call for desperate measures and starting the 26-year-old is a gamble Arsenal needs to make to ensure they don’t concede avoidable silly goals.

“I’m not crazy. It may take a few weeks or months, but my time here will come,” said the German in a recent interview with Sports Bild. His time needs to come sooner than later before the club finds themselves in a position where they need to make a forced decision.

The timing for his debut couldn’t be any more perfect either, with the club facing a rather easy opposition in 18th-placed Newcastle United after the international break.

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