Mikel Arteta has fired back at Bernd Leno’s claim he was left out at Arsenal for all the wrong reasons, while a report has indicated why Fulham paid so little up front.
Leno has performed capably as the No 1 goalkeeper during Arteta’s first 18 months in charge. However, the Gunners splashed out around £24m to sign England stopper Aaron Ramsdale during the summer of 2021.
That move was viewed with scepticism as the time. Indeed, Ramsdale had been between the sticks during successive relegations at Bournemouth and Sheffield United respectively.
However, just three games into the 21/22 campaign – all of which ended in defeat – Ramsdale was given the nod over Leno. Since then, he has never looked back and is now a shoe-in for England’s World Cup squad later this year.
Ramsdale’s promotion was always likely to spell the end for Leno. After warming the bench for the remainder of the campaign, he joined Fulham this summer in a move potentially rising to £8m.
The 30-year-old has started brightly with the Cottagers and recently hit out at his former employers.
Speaking to German outlet BILD, Leno suggested “politics” were behind Arsenal’s decision to favour Ramsdale.
Expanding on that point further, he suggested he is the better goalkeeper when claiming it was never about “performance or quality”.
“When I realised that it wasn’t about performance or quality, I knew that I had to go,” Leno said.
“In preparation, I saw that it is not about performance, but only about politics. It was clear to me: I had to get out of here.”
War of words intensifies
Predictably, those comments have gone down like a lead balloon with Arteta.
Speaking after landing in Zurich ahead of their Europa League opener on Thursday evening, a feisty Arteta questioned the validity of Leno’s claims.
The Spaniard retorted: “I’m really surprised and I don’t know if he’s talking about the politics when he was starting every match or the politics when he wasn’t playing – really surprised about it.”
Leno’s £8m move looked a low sum on paper, even for a player who only had a year left on his deal at the time.
Explaining why Arsenal’s negotiators couldn’t construct a better deal, they claimed Leno’s high salary was a barrier that forced them into accepting reduced terms.
In other words, they had trouble finding clubs willing to match his personal terms and had to compromise on the fee to lure Fulham in.
Arteta right to axe Leno?
Ramsdale still has a shaky moment or two in him, though his influence extends far beyond just the field.
The Telegraph added he is a growing leader within the dressing room and is symbolic of the young and hungry squad Arteta is assembling.
What’s more, he is six years younger and also doesn’t take up an overseas spot on the quota.
It’s true to say Leno still remains a high level performer. His early displays at Craven Cottage are evidence of that.
However, combining all of the factors into one, it appears Arteta – as he so often has of late – made the right decision.