New Arsenal signing Bernd Leno says he is looking forward to battling Premier League legend Petr Cech for a spot in Arsenal's starting team this season.
The 26-year-old German keeper joined the Gunners a few weeks ago from Bayer Leverkusen and faces the daunting prospect of competing with Petr Cech for a place in the starting 11.
After returning to England from Singapore and between apartment-hunting in London, Leno spoke to the Daily Star about his upcoming battle to earn the favour of Unai Emery, saying: “Petr had a big career with many, many trophies and he’s still a big goalkeeper and a big personality.
“But I have to look at myself and play my game, work every day, very hard, to be the first choice of the coach.
“I will learn a lot working with him every day. He has big experience and played many games. I have a lot of experience too, but he has much more, so I can learn from him.
“He is a goalkeeper I admired when I was growing up. I can remember my first game in the Champions League, when I was 19, was against Petr. After the game he said it was a good game for me. It was seven years ago and now we are together at Arsenal, it’s crazy.”
In Singapore, he opened for Arsenal in both fixtures against Atletico Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, making his best impression against the French champions.
Leno admitted that the pre-season with the Gunners has only increased his appetite to play, adding: “It’s exciting for me, I like the team, I like the club and I like the way we play. The way we passed it on Saturday [against Paris] is the way the coach wants us to play.
“With a goalkeeper you have one more player and it’s the way I want to play.”
Emery's approach to the game mandates a high defensive line, with the keeper also having to play the role of sweeper. This style has become very fashionable among German keepers, as proven by the likes of Manuel Neuer and Marc-Andre ter Stegen, so Leno feels quite comfortable, saying: “When the defence is a little bit wider or higher, I need to close the space.
“Of course, there are a lot of risks but the coach wants that, we close the space. I did it in Germany too, so it’s nothing new for me.”
It seems like a coin flip will be needed to decide between the promising younger keeper Leno and the experienced veteran Cech, who is the only keeper in Premier League history to keep over 200 clean sheets.
So does Leno know who will be Arsenal's starting goalie against Manchester City on August 12th? When asked, he said: “No. I don’t know. I do my best, I work every day very hard and at the end the coach has to decide.”
Leno still has a couple more chances to prove his worth in pre-season friendlies against Chelsea and Lazio, and come matchday the outcome of the battle of the keepers will be decided.