With the signing of Bernd Leno, it appeared Unai Emery had chosen the player he wanted to man the goals during his first season at Arsenal.
Leno came at the club very highly-rated having enjoyed a wonderful beginning to his career with Bayer Leverkeusen that had even seen him make some appearances for the German national team.
At only 26 years old he also represented a player for the future – if he was a success, he could remain at the club for the foreseeable future.
His arrival at the club represented nothing but positives – except for the experienced goal keepers already plying their trade in North London.
Leno’s acquisition understandably threw the future of Petr Cech and David Ospina into doubt. Both experienced goal keepers with a lot to give, it was unlikely that they would want to play second – or indeed third – fiddle at the club.
No clear indication was given whether one, two or neither keeper would be leaving the club, but it had been reported that offers for either player would be listened too. That, coupled with the fact that both players would represent fine signings for many clubs despite neither having a prolific time in the season just gone, suggested that at least one of the veteran keepers would be heading for the exit door.
That is what made the past weeks news in relation to goalkeepers at Arsenal so surprising. Firstly, despite links to several top clubs, Petr Cech made the trip to Singapore with the Arsenal squad to compete in the International Champions Cup.
This season the transfer window is closing sooner than ever for Premier League teams – before the eve of the first match of the new season, on August 9th – so Cech travelling with the team when his future is in doubt may suggest that he would be open to remaining at the club.
This was understandable until it emerged that Arsenal are in advanced talks to bring Yann Sommer from Borussia Monchengladbach to North London.
Sommer, the Swiss International goalkeeper, is 29 years old and is highly rated following four successful seasons with the German club.
News of the transfer emerged when Spanish media outlet Marca reported that Sommer was a transfer target for Barcelona, who were looking to offload their back-up keeper Jasper Cillesson.
The Catalan giants are apparently playing catch-up, however, as it looks like Sommer will be adding to the Swiss contingent of Granit Xhaka and Stephan Lichtsteiner with the Gunners.
With the return of Emiliano Martinez from his loan spell in Getafe, and with the signing of Sommer looking likely, it would be the case that Arsenal have FIVE senior goal keepers vying for the one starting position. While it’s great to have depth, this just simply isn’t necessary and it looks like there will be a lot of change in the position before the end of the window.
As it stood, before there was ever a mention of a move for Sommer, it looked like one of Cech or Ospina would be leaving the club, if not both. Now, the likelihood of both keepers seeking pastures new has surely been expanded exponentially.
Presuming that Sommer is in fact brought in, it will make the first-choice goalkeeper situation a lot more interesting. When Emery signed a promising younger goalkeeper in Leno, it seemed obvious that he was to be the man in goals for the 2018/19 season.
If Sommer signs however, there is a good chance he will be the man in the driving seat. At 29 and just off of a successful World Cup campaign with Switzerland where plaudits were plentiful, it would easy to see him becoming the first-choice goalkeeper with Leno perhaps becoming a more long-term option.
It’s almost unprecedented at club level seeing such a shake-up in the goalkeeping department. Barcelona after the departure of Victor Valdes springs to mind – Claudio Bravo and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen were both signed in the same window in 2014. Bravo was Ter Stegen’s senior, and initially held the position for two years before he was usurped by the younger Ter Stegen, who has the position to this day. Perhaps this is the system that is being considered by Emery.
Leno may understandably not be overly happy with the idea of being pushed to sub keeper immediately, but competition is healthy and signing a top goal keeper like Sommer would certainly not be a bad thing for Arsenal, even if it is an unexpected move.
Offloading Cech in this instance would represent a sensible option, and there have already been many suitors reportedly inquiring for his services.
With Thiabaut Courtois heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid, speculation began emerging of Cech making a shock return to the club he made his name, Chelsea. On top of that, Napoli – now managed by former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti – inquired about his availability in June. Also in Serie A, Roma have been linked since they sold their goal keeper Allison to Liverpool. If Cech wanted to leave and Arsenal were prepared to let him go (which they should be) then there should be no road blocks in preventing a transfer.
Signing another goal keeper did not appear to be a priority at this point of the transfer window for Arsenal but it is clear that Emery is really trying to put his own stamp on the team, literally from the bottom-up.
Realistically, no team needs more than three senior goalkeepers, so there looks like there’s going to be an addition and a few departures in the position before the window closes on August 9th (or by the end of the month of its not within the Premier League).