Talking Tactics

How Leno is proving his worth at Fulham

By Adrian Clarke 24 Feb 2023

Adrian Clarke says goalkeeper is enjoying the best season of his Premier League career

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Bernd Leno (FUL)

You would be hard pushed to find a better value-for-money signing than Leno across the last 12 months, as he prepares to face Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday.

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Brought in for just £3million from Arsenal last summer, the German has been outstanding for Fulham throughout 2022/23.

Leno has been the second busiest Premier League goalkeeper and risen to the challenge.

Making 92 saves, the 30-year-old’s form has played a significant part in Fulham’s unexpected push for a top-six finish.

Leno kept busy

Under Marco Silva, you would not describe Fulham as a cautious or defensive side.

Partly down to personnel limitations at the back, and also courtesy of a desire to outscore the opposition, they are a team that concede plenty of chances.

In open play, they have an Expected Goals Against (xGA) tally of 30.07, currently the highest in the division.

One of the primary reasons they have only let in 21 goals from open play, though, is thanks to the quality of Leno.

Goals prevented/conceded 2022/23
Player Goals prevented xGOT Conceded* Conceded
Alisson 8.8 32.8 24
Leno 7.8 32.8 25
Arrizabalaga 7.2 16.2 9
Neto 4.7 13.7 9
Raya 3.3 30.3 27

*Expected Goals on Target (xGOT) Conceded

Statistically, Leno has prevented an additional 7.8 goals this season, according to Opta.

This ranks him second behind Alisson, who has also enjoyed an inspired campaign for Liverpool.

When you consider that 16 Premier League 'keepers have a Goals Prevented total that is in minus figures, it shows just how superb he has been.

Saves in box 2022/23
Player Saves in box Player Saves in box (%)
Leno 68 Arrizabalaga 75.00
Pickford 58 Leno 72.34
Guaita 57 Pope 71.43
Raya 54 Neto 70.45
Meslier 52 Raya 70.13

Leno has always been a terrific shot-stopper, but this season his reflexes have been at their sharpest.

No other top-flight 'keeper has made as many saves from inside the penalty area and his success rate from close range has been exceptional.

Leno saves v Leicester

Chelsea goakeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga is the only player to top his 72.34 per cent save ratio.

Leno’s speed is one of his strongest suits.

He is very fast at sprinting out to attackers to close down angles, or smother the ball, while he reacts quickly to point-blank shots.

In those situations, he is one of the best around.

Leno is particularly strong at making saves low by his feet, especially when springing right.

Proving he has a full repertoire, meanwhile, many of his more difficult saves tend to be off the ground when diving to his left.

Revelling in his role as first-choice at Craven Cottage, there is no doubt Leno is enjoying a fresh lease of life.

Bouncing back

It will have hurt Leno to lose his place at Arsenal to Aaron Ramsdale, but his reaction to that setback has been excellent.

Proving he is one of the best goalkeepers in the division, Leno has delivered the best save percentages of his career in English football this season.

Leno save % by season
Season Save (%) Saves in box (%)
2018/19 71.23 62.04
2019/20 74.17 65.00
2020/21 69.42 61.18
2021/22 52.63 50.00
2022/23 76.47 72.34

His success under Silva is also providing Leno with the confidence to be more assertive inside his box.

Making 21 catches, he is now one of the most dominant number ones.

Until this point, it has been a wonderful campaign for Fulham, who sit in sixth place, just four points outside the top four.

Aleksandar Mitrovic’s goals have been a factor in their surprise success, but at the other end of the pitch, Leno is just as important.

Also in this series

Part 1: Firmino gives right balance to Liverpool's attack
Part 3: How Joao Felix's movement can lift Chelsea

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