Bernd Leno has said that Unai Emery told Arsenal players they needed time and confidence at the start of the season following the departure of Arsene Wenger at the end of the last campaign. Emery replaced Arsene Wenger in north London after the club sacked the Frenchman following 22 years at the Gunners. The change was always going to bring upheaval and an unkind fixture list ensured it was a rocky start to the season for Emery, who faced Chelsea and Manchester City in his first two games.
Emery changed Arsenal’s tactics, tasking them with playing the ball out from the back and Leno admits there were some difficulties at the start.
‘At the beginning we saw that we had problems with many things like playing from the back, defending our goal, but I think that’s normal,’ said Leno. ‘The manager said we need time and we needed confidence. Last season was not the club’s best and everybody needed the confidence. I think we improved a lot and then we had a very good unbeaten run. We’re still improving and we have to improve. Our defence is much better than three months ago because everybody is working better. It’s very important for everybody in this team.’
Leno was bought as a long-term replacement for Petr Cech but the German did not oust the veteran from Arsenal’s starting XI until the former Chelsea stopper suffered a injury in September. The German admits it’s been difficult to adapt to a new league but says he’s improved as the season’s progressed.
‘It’s a little bit different to Germany. Arsenal is my second professional club in my career and it was clear that it needed a little bit of time. Now that I’m settled in the club, I feel at home here and I get the confidence from my team-mates,’ said Leno. ‘Everybody accepts my personality, my quality, and that’s very important. As a goalkeeper, to have that confidence is huge, so I feel very comfortable in this team. We play in a different way and for me, and also for the players, we needed the time to trust each other to get the feeling as a defence.’