Player of the month award is watershed moment for Arsenal’s Bernd Leno

Bernd Leno’s player of the month award for March was a watershed moment for the German in his fledgling Arsenal career.

The 27-year-old arrived from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer with a reputation as ball player and a solid shot-stopper, albeit with rash tendencies and a habit for high-profile mistakes.

And his reputation seemed to colour Unai Emery’s judgement of him in the months after his arrival in England, with the Spaniard initially favouring Petr Cech as his first choice while Leno was confined to the bench and told to be patient.

It was Cech’s struggles to adapt to the demands of modern goalkeeping, that is to say his vulnerability with the ball at his feet, that eventually opened the door for Leno, who has seldom looked back since.

Part of the new breed of stopper, the German has shown sound judgement in tight situations and a trustworthy outlet for defenders under pressure in the defensive third, with no compromise in his shot-stopping or reflexes.

In fact, his only obvious floor remains a certain impatience under the high ball. There have been times when he has proved too eager to come and gather when sticking between his posts would almost certainly have been the wiser choice.

In truth, it’s a minor complaint amid a sea of praise for the German which has built steadily into a memorable March.

Stand out for Leno were his performances against Southampton, Spurs and Manchester United, matches in which he produced saves that, potentially, earned the Gunners the points that have propelled them into third place.

His work against Spurs, in particular, and the double-save from Eriksen and Sissoko, were his moments of the season and the work of a top quality keeper.

If he can carry his form until the end of the season and into next year, he will nail down his place as number one as Cech heads into retirement and Arsenal start looking to the future, with Emiliano Martinez and Matt Macey looking to make strides.

For now, however, they will have to play second fiddle to Leno, who, depending on how the season pans out, could be a dark horse in the voting for the club’s player of the season.

He may not have taken the headlines in the same way that Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerik Aubameyang have, but his work has been every bit as important and his player of the month award – with a staggering 70 per cent of the votes – was richly deserved.

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