There is a 10-year age gap between Petr Cech and Bernd Leno, but it has not prevented the former from retaining his status as Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper.
The 36-year-old Cech has been asked to adapt his style to Unai Emery’s demands, who wants the Gunners to play out from the back.
Cech’s statistics show he has progressed with each game, as he has one of the best pass accuracy rates of any No.1 in the Premier League (71.1 per cent), as well as the most touches of any ‘keeper (239).
However, that gradual improvement will take a backseat on Thursday night when Arsenal face Ukrainian side FC Vorskla in their Europa League opener at Emirates Stadium.
Emery confirmed in his pre-match press conference that summer signing Leno will be handed his debut, reiterating that the club are optimistic about the German’s future as a potential Arsenal No.1.
“In our planning for the goalkeeper, we spoke with Javi Garcia, the goalkeeper coach, and we need to give Leno the chances to get some minutes,” said Emery.
“The main quality for a goalkeeper is confidence and he has that. He is going to start and he can go a long way here in Arsenal. He is young and he is here because he showed us his quality.”
Cech himself has received backing from Emery despite external criticism about high-profile errors related to his distribution.
The former Chelsea man’s contract expires next summer and he is well aware that his Arsenal future depends upon the quality of his performances this season.
“When you bring players in, you do that to improve the squad and to make it competitive, and Bernd is here, trains every day and tries to get his spot which keeps everyone in the goalkeeping group on their toes, including me,” Cech is quoted as saying by the London Evening Standard.
“I have to work hard, not only to make sure the manager picks me for the weekend, but that he sticks with me as well.”
It’s worth noting that Leno isn’t the only young goalkeeper who is considered to have a bright future at the club.
Third-choice shot stopper Emi Martinez spent time on loan at Spanish side Getafe last season and despite not playing as many games as he would have liked, has impressed in first-team training sessions in recent weeks and could be involved in the upcoming Carabao Cup clash against Brentford.
While Leno’s performance against Vorskla is unlikely to alter Emery’s thinking on his preferred goalkeeper, it will give Arsenal supporters an opportunity to watch a player the Gunners paid £20 million for in the summer.
A big transfer fee comes with weighty expectations yet Leno’s 300-plus games in the Bundesliga certainly count for something and explain why head of recruitment Sven Mislintat identified him as a prime transfer target.
Leno, who has been lauded for his bravery and shot-stopping skills in the past, previously revealed that he used to idolise Iker Casillas growing up.
Consistency was one facet of the Spaniard’s game that made him arguably the world’s best goalkeeper for many years and it will be key for Leno as he looks to make the most of his first chance to stake a claim for the role of Arsenal’s No.1.