Bernd Leno has opened up on the “hard time” he endured on route to becoming Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper.
Gunners boss Unai Emery signed Leno from Bayer Leverkusen in a £20m deal last summer as one of his first signings upon replacing Arsene Wenger last summer.
The 27-year-old goalkeeper was tipped to snatch Petr Cech’s spot in the Arsenal line-up right from the start.
But Emery ultimately chose to stick with four-time Premier League Golden Glove winner Cech over the unproven Leno for his opening games in charge at the Emirates Stadium.
Instead, Leno was made to make do with appearances in both the Europa League and Carabao Cup.
However, the Germany international got his big break when Cech suffered a hamstring injury during Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Watford on September 29. After keeping a clean sheet, Leno started in every one of the club’s league matches.
“It was a hard time,” said Leno on his early season struggles, via Goal.
“I think goalkeeper is a special position because as a striker you can come on for the last 20 minutes but a goalkeeper you don’t change too much, so it was a very tough time.
“But the manager and the goalkeeper coach both told me to stay calm and focus on training.
“I played some games in the Europa League and Carabao Cup and it was good to have these games to improve and get a feeling for the defence.
“It was also good for my team-mates because when you come to another club and another country, everything is new. I started a little bit later in pre-season as well and everything is just a little bit bigger.
“So it was maybe good to learn and to see in training and also get confidence with your team-mates. In the end it was maybe not too bad to first be second choice in the Premier League.”
Leno finished his debut campaign in the Premier League with seven clean sheets in 32 appearances.
The former Leverkusen star’s strong displays earned him a nomination in the six-man shortlist for Arsenal’s Player of the Season award. In the end, though, it was Alexandre Lacazette who took home the prize.
“When I came here I didn’t expect something like that,” said Leno.
“Of course it made me happy to be one of those six players. It’s a good feeling to make the fans happy when you perform. When the fans are happy we are also happy. It makes me proud.”