German shot-stopper Bernd Leno’s recent training ground upset has shed light on morale around London Colney for a number of Arsenal’s exiled stars after their poor start to the season
Bernd Leno may have prematurely conceded a lot of ground to summer signing Aaron Ramsdale in the race for Arsenal’s number one shirt after the German international is alleged to have voiced his frustrations during a training session on Wednesday.
While the jury is still out on Mikel Arteta as Gunners manager, one thing the Spaniard has proved in his 22-month tenure is not to get on the wrong side of him if you plan on sticking around in north London.
Over the course of four transfer windows, while Arteta has been at the Arsenal helm, the 39-year-old has overseen the departure of 19 players, including big-name departures like divisive playmaker Mesut Ozil.
Leno could soon join that seemingly ever-growing list of exiled talent after he dared to question the Arsenal coaching staff over a decision during a 11v11 training game, the incident coming shortly after reports emerged Ramsdale would take his place between the sticks at Burnley for the second successive game.
The summer signing of Ramsdale divided opinion among the Arsenal faithful, but there can be no complaints since his arrival, not only keeping two clean sheets in his two appearances but his attitude and conduct during media duties is that of a man who acknowledges what a privilege it is to play for a club with such heritage.
Ramsdale has quickly got the Arsenal fans on side, while Leno’s dismal start to the campaign has hardly endeared himself to the Emirates faithful.
Arsenal’s opening three games saw them ship nine goals against newly promoted Brentford,Chelsea and Manchester City respectively – Leno in goal for all three.
While Leno made no real glaring errors for any – though a better keeper may have kept out Brentford’s opener, the fact he was donning the gloves for Arsenal’s worst start to a league season for 118 years is hardly a glowing endorsement of the 29-year-old’s abilities.
As a result, rumours of his outburst amid the backdrop of losing his place to Ramsdale for last Saturday’s win over Norwich have not gone down well with Gunners fans, who widely recognised the need for a new ‘keeper in the summer, even if Ramsdale was not the name on everybody’s lips.
During his pre-match presser ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Burnley this weekend, Arteta conceded he can not promise Leno guaranteed playing time.
“I said to the goalkeepers in the last two or three years, that we don’t want to do that [rotate].
“What we want to do is empower performance and ask them to train, behave and play the best possible way. How can I guarantee somebody something?” the Spaniard explained.
“It wouldn’t make sense with what we are demanding them to do. So it is on a daily basis — what you did three months ago in football, it doesn’t count. So, it is what you’re going to do today and tomorrow, and that’s it.”
Though Leno is no longer the flavour of the month in the red half of north London, playing Ramsdale more regularly comes with obvious pressures for the man in the Emirates hot-seat.
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The notion that Arteta needs any more transfer window’s to complete his Arsenal ‘project’ is a concept that the Gunners hierarchy simply can not afford to indulge – the club seemingly falling further behind their ‘big six’ rivals with each passing match-week.
Six of the starting eleven for the recent win over Norwich were signings made by the current boss, while second-half substitution Thomas Partey was another of Arteta’s additions from last year.
The summer transfer window just passed saw Arsenal fork out their biggest ever outlay – £145m on Nuno Tavares, Sambi Lokonga, Ben White, Martin Odegaard, Ramsdale and Takehiro Tomiyasu respectively.
This is very much Arteta’s team and though Leno can be kicked to the curb with relative ease given he was signed by predecessor Unai Emery – Arteta’s judgement day as Arsenal boss is rapidly approaching, regardless of who is between the sticks.