Sea­man on Leno: He gets on with it, there’s no fl ash

Arse­nal’s young goal­keeper has caught David Sea­man’s eye and, the club leg­endd tells Amy Lawrence, he be­lieves the Ger­man can keep a cool head against Spur­surs

The Observer - Sport - - Front Page -

It is the na­ture of goal­keep­ers to watch games through their own spe­cial­ist lens. As David Sea­man has ob­served Arse­nal’s sea­son un­fold, he has been par­tic­u­larly cu­ri­ous to see how Bernd Leno has qui­etly wres­tled the gloves off Petr Cech. Sea­man, whose own stan­dards were forged out of win­ning nine ma­jor tro­phies dur­ing his time at Arse­nal, has been struck by the way Leno has gone about his busi­ness over the last few weeks.

But there was one par­tic­u­lar test that made the most vivid im­pres­sion. Leno was blamed for a goal Arse­nal con­ceded against Liver­pool as he pushed the ball straight to James Mil­ner. It was not the me­chan­ics of the goal in it­self that Sea­man was in­ter­ested in. It was how Leno dealt with his fi rst mo­ment of scru­tiny in the Premier League spot­light that mat­tered more.

“You look at that and think:

‘ Right, you have had a blip, let’s see how you re­act.’ That is ex­actly what I look for in a goal­keeper: how they re­spond af­ter mak­ing mis­takes,” Sea­man says. “We all make mis­takes and he has come back per­fectly, full of confi dence, show­ing a good strong char­ac­ter. I am re­ally im­pressed.”

Leno ar­rived in the sum­mer from Bayer Lev­erkusen for € 22m (£ 19.2m), a club- record fee for a goal­keeper but, un­like his ex­pen­sive con­tem­po­raries jet­ting in at Liver­pool and Chelsea, he had to bide his time be­fore the op­por­tu­nity to as­sert him­self in the team pre­sented it­self. Cech be­gan the sea­son as

Unai Emery’s fi rst David Sea­man

choice. Leno was able to con­cen­trate on set­tling in with­out in­tense pres­sure. Ac­cord­ing to Sea­man, the fi rst job for any new goal­keeper is to prove him­self to his own group.

“The lads would have seen a lot of him in train­ing and they ac­cept you through that – it can work the other way and they can see how bad some­one is! But that is the fi rst thing you have to do, to get the re­spect of the lads. If they see it in train­ing the next thing is the ques­tion : ‘ Can they do it in a match?’ That’s more eas­ily said than done. We used to have a lot of play­ers who were great in train­ing but just couldn’t trans­fer it to match day. They would get too ner­vous.”

The clam­our for Leno to dis­plac e Cech in­ten­sifi ed be­cause of the sticky mo­ments the vet­eran en­dured with the ball at his feet at the start of the sea­son. Sea­man ( left) dis­liked that de­bate. “What used to re­ally an­noy me was peo­ple say­ing:

‘ He can’t kick it out.’ The ball was be­ing played back to his right foot by the cen­tre- halves, which re­ally in­fu­ri­ated me be­cause he is a left- footed player . They needed to take that into con­sid­er­a­tion. His goal­keep­ing was still bril­liant and de­fen­sively we were still very weak. He was hav­ing four, fi ve, six vi­tal saves to make per game.”

Af­ter ter Cech suf­fered a ham­string in­jury y Leno stepped in, hav­ing watched hed six Premier League matches from the bench. When Sea­man be­gan n at Arse­nal he walked into one of the e most sta­ble de­fences in the his­tory ry of English foot­ball. Leno has had no such lux­ury, with a far more change­able geable pic­ture in front of him. Arse­nal nal switch from a back four to a three, ee, they have not had a trusted left- back for the past month and they have been mak­ing do with­out two ex­pe­ri­enced cen­tre- backs in the long- ong- term ab­sen­tee Lau­rent Ko­scielny ielny and, for a few weeks, Sokratis atis Pa­pas­tathopou­los.

Rob Hold­ing is young and Shko­dran dran Mustafi is prone to sud­den en er­rors.

Sea­man aman em­pathises: “It is re­ally ally chal­leng­ing be­cause you don’t know what they are go­ing g to do . That’s one of the big­gest est things I no­ticed when I left Arse­nal nal for Manch­ester City. I’d got a Rus­sian ssian as my left- back, a Chi­nese guy as my right- back, and two French ch cen­tre- halves who hardly spoke. e. It was a mas­sive shock . It’s hard to pre­dict what play­ers are go­ing g to do when it is chang­ing a lot, so o you don’t get ac­cus­tomed to habits ts as quickly as you should do. It helps lps when you know a cer­tain player er might not mark tight at set pieces, es, so you need to re­mind them, or might ight switch off when the ball is around ound the half way line so an op­pos­ing os­ing striker could sud­denly run clear. All these things go on and it t helps to get used to your de­fend­ers’ nders’ habits.”

Sea­man aman has seen enough qual­ity in Leno no to pre­dict the 26- year- old can be­come a re­li­able pres­ence in Arse­nal’s nal’s goal for a good few years. “So far ar he has been bril­liant. I don’t know w what footed he is be­cause he is that good with both. The only way you can tell is if he takes a goal- - kick. I am im­pressed by his shot- - stop­ping abil­ity and the other

‘ The other thing I like is he gets on with the save – he doesn’t try to make it look fl ash’

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