Who will come out on top in the battle for Arsenal’s goalkeeping role – Ramsdale, Leno or Johnstone?
With every shaky touch, rushed clearance, and the occasional roar from Bernd Leno last season, the decision to sell Emi Martinez looked worse.
Arsenal put all their eggs in the German’s basket, despite Martinez coming forward with some stellar performances at the end of the 2019-20 season, which saw the Gunners win a record 14th FA Cup.
He wanted a guarantee for first-team football but couldn’t get it, so he moved to Aston Villa for £20 million. With Arsenal preparing a £30million transfer for Aaron Ramsdale, it’s hard not to think this whole mess could have been easily avoided.
Leno will want to fight for his place and the north London club would also be interested in Sam Johnstone.
So, was Leno’s form really that bad, would Ramsdale or Johnstone be a major upgrade and were they wrong to let Martinez continue?
Bernd Leno is stunned as his gaffe donated Everton’s win in the Emirates last season
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta must decide who will play as his starting goalkeeper next season
Would it be premature for Arsenal to send Leno to a number 2 role or move him?
For two and a half years, he looked confident as No. 1 and his place in the team were never questioned.
But the last six months of last season were really disastrous and his lack of confidence infected the defenders around him.
They failed to keep a clean sheet between January 30 and April 15, a disastrous run in which Leno directly defaulted on a number of goals.
Against West Ham in March, Leno easily let Jarrod Bowen’s shot go under his body, while the German failed to keep Liverpool’s Diogo Jota’s header forward when the attempt was fired straight at him.
Leno has been insured for much of his Arsenal career but struggled at times last season
Tomas Holes’ attack for Slavia Prague was aimed at his body, but Leno could only parry the effort into the roof of the net in the Europa League and conceded a disastrous own goal against Everton that cost Arsenal the game in April.
It was a shocking mistake and one that drew the ire of Ian Wright, who told Optus Sport: ‘Look at that and it seems very amateurish and I think that comes down to concentration.
“He has spells where he’s very, very good. But I’ve seen him run out, get kicked out, give away penalties.
“He has those moments and for me that’s a real moment there. It’s poor, poor, bad goalkeeping.’
Luiz comforts his keeper after he let Fountas score with another foul last season
So does Leno want to leave himself? This summer’s comments would indicate otherwise.
When asked about a return to Germany, he said: “Not yet, because I really like it in the Premier League and at Arsenal. Personally, I also love London.
‘My wife feels good, everything fits.
“Arsenal is a big club, which is extremely underrated in Germany, there are a lot of Arsenal fans around the world. I still have a two-year contract and hope to play in the Champions League with Arsenal again.”
So how does he compare to Martinez, the man many fans wanted to keep?
Leno insists he wants to stay at Arsenal and help them to the Champions League
It felt like a bold call to Arsenal to cut ties with the man who had filled in so impressively at the end of the 2019-20 season.
The Argentine has since shown that his form for the Gunners was not just a flash in the pan.
He is a classy operator and a real backside presence for Dean Smith’s side, winning a lot of acclaim last season.
One area that statistically really stood out to Martinez, not just Leno but also Ramsdale and Johnstone, was the ‘expected goals conceded’ category.
Emi Martinez was imperious for Aston Villa last season and the statistics confirm that
He finished the season with a total of plus 4.72 while Leno was minus 0.46, Ramsdale minus 3.72 and Johnstone minus 3.07.
You would expect the Arsenal goalkeeper to have an advantage over Villa, West Brom and Sheffield United, as he theoretically has a higher level of team-mates and defenders around him.
But Martinez’s rescue rate was also higher than the rest. He managed to get 75 percent, with Leno at 69 percent, Ramsdale at 70 percent and Johnstone at 69 percent.
When he left Arsenal, he told The Independent: “Everyone wanted me to stay, but then I decided to go. I wasn’t angry or emotional, I was proud that I did it.
The stopper helped Argentina to their Copa America victory over Brazil in the summer
Lionel Messi was grateful for his teammate’s great performance in the tournament this summer
“When I arrived at Arsenal, there were nine goalkeepers in front of me. Every year I had to prove myself, but I left as No. 1. That was my story there.”
That kind of mental resilience is invaluable to a team and Villa is now the beneficiaries. The statistics and Leno’s second half of last season support the argument that Arsenal made a serious mistake by letting Martinez slip away.
Martinez has also further improved his credentials this summer by helping Argentina to the Copa America, keeping a clean sheet in the final and proving he’s the penalty hero against Colombia.
Ramsdale could very well be Arsenal’s goalkeeper to start next season and it looks like the club is determined to get their man.
The 23-year-old was relegated from Sheffield United last season after joining the Bournemouth club.
But while the Blades struggled, Ramsdale emerged from a dark period with his reputation in tact.
The Gunners have already turned down two offers for him, but £30million is expected to be the next offer and should be enough to close a deal.
Aaron Ramsdale likely to cost Arsenal £30million to sign him from Sheffield United
Ramsdale has played every game this past season, conceding nearly double the number of goals that Leno allowed, even though he was clearly playing in a bad side.
That said, his save rate in the box (64 percent) is marginally better than Leno at 61 percent.
One key area Leno overshadowed him was passing accuracy, and the Germany international found the target 77 percent of the time, while Ramsdale managed just 43 percent.
Picking an opponent with more than half the passes isn’t a great return, but the stats are also skewed as Arteta wants his side to pass out from behind, meaning Leno will have easier balls to make most of the time.
After being exposed to the English environment under Gareth Southgate, the Blades stopper will have done no harm this summer.
Should Ramsdale nevertheless move to the Emirates, it will be fascinating to see how he deals with Arteta’s philosophy.
Ramsdale is much thought of and if he is brought it could spell the end for Leno
Johnstone could be the left field choice if Ramsdale doesn’t make a move.
Sky Sports has reported that the West Brom goalkeeper has emerged as a possible alternative to the North London outfit.
Former Man United Academy product Johnstone made 131 appearances for the Baggies and kept 30 clean sheets during his three-year stay in the West Midlands.
West Ham are said to have rejected a £6million offer for Johnstone by the Championship club this month.
Sam Johnstone was in the English selection this summer, but was third choice goalkeeper
The Baggies would like to have £10million but there could be some wiggle room on the price as he only has one year left from his current deal with the Hawthorns.
He could be an attractive option for Arsenal if other transfer targets emerge and they need money that would otherwise have gone to Ramsdale.
West Brom fell back in the championship and it’s hard to honestly rate Johnstone as a losing side compared to Leno.
But statistically, there is no category in which the 28-year-old surpasses the incumbent Arsenal player.
He made 166 saves last season when Leno was forced into action just 86 times, but West Brom’s leaky defense played a clear role.
Johnstone conceded a total of 71 goals, had a slightly better expected score than Ramsdale, but does not appear to be a clear improvement for his England team-mate or Leno.
Johnstone impressed for West Brom in what turned out to be a relegation campaign