The old saying goes ‘you have to be mad to be a goalkeeper.’
Anyone who has played with, against, met or seen Jens Lehmann on the pitch would have to agree with this phrase, but it isn’t just the slightly unhinged who like to play with gloves on.
The masochists do too.
You see, such is the thankless nature of the goalkeeping role, that anyone who decides that this position is for them must enjoy being punished.
Let’s take Bernd Leno for instance.
The German has a fine pedigree. An excellent reputation forged in the Bundesliga with season after season of consistency. International recognition despite being in parallel with Manuel Neuer, one of the finest of his generation.
A summer move saw him arrive at Arsenal, just when we needed him. We had an aging Petr Cech, letting his high standards slip in Wenger’s last season. The veteran needed some top competition, and Leno was just the answer, for the present and the future.
The German bided his time for his opportunity, and an injury to Cech saw Leno given the gloves, and he didn’t look back.
A few missed ventures from his goal line and the doubts appear.
Leno against Liverpool came for some crosses and made little or no contact. These were errors, but Leno is making moves to command his box.
He is also facing more shots than average.
In the Unai Emery infancy, we are giving away opportunities that lead to a Leno intervention.
So yes, we are low on clean sheets, but Leno is snuffing out the majority of threats. Yet these are not being focussed on. Instead, we are looking at his errors.
Of course, this isn’t a new fad. Any goalkeeper faces this. If Neuer, De Gea make a flap of a cross, then it is an instant downturn of form, they are searching for their best work.
Not that their error is simply a tangible form of the law of averages.
Leno is a class goalkeeper and his athleticism and reactions are excellent. He could be a foundation for our team, and it is very early days.
The majority of us recognise that he bears the hallmark of a good keeper and patience is a virtue. We are in relatively safe hands with Leno in goal, and he will only improve. His age means he isn’t at his peak yet.
We’ve got many more seasons of top keeping to look forward to.