Arsenal legend Jack Wilshere and Jens Lehman were the casualties in a bombshell day of deals at Arsenal topped with the signing of Bernd Leno, one of the world’s top goalkeepers.
Under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal fans had got used to ignoring the back pages for most of the summer until the transfer was about to close.
But new Gunners boss Unai Emery is already making his mark with some great and some unexpected moves at the club.
24 hours under his management is a long time and an unexpected day of activity at Emirates included the signing of one of Germany’s top goalkeepers Bernd Leno from Bayer Leverkusen for 22m euros (£19.3m).
Leno has six caps for Germany but was not included in their World Cup squad. But at the age of 26, the Bundesliga goalie is only improving.
“Happy and proud to play for this great club Arsenal in the future! I’ll do my best and I’m looking forward to the start of the new season as a Gunner,” Leno tweeted.
“Bernd is a goalkeeper of high quality and experience,” Arsenal manager Unai Emery said.
“He has been a top performer and regular number one goalkeeper for the past seven years.”
But Arsenal’s transfer news today kicked off with shock backroom announcements.
Arsenal legend Jens Lehmann announced he was leaving in a sarcastic tweet this morning, referring to the 2004 invincibles team, in which he had played in goal as they were undefeated for a record 49 matches:
“Dear #Arsenal Fans , I am sorry to leave the club after only one year again. It was a good experience working with the players as one of the assistant-coaches. But the attitude from our 2004-group is not needed there anymore.”
Others out under Emery’s shake-up of coaching staff are Neil Banfield, Tony Colbert, Gerry Peyton, Boro Primorac and Colin Lewin.
Physiotherapists Andy Rolls and Ben Ashworth, osteopath Dr Philippe Boixel and travel manager Paul Johnson are also leaving the North London club.
It was confirmed that Steve Bould will continue as assistant manager, alongside Emery’s long-time assistant and talent-spotting supremo Juan Carlos Carcedo.
Pablo Villanueva will join as first-team coach too.
In this evening’s shock news, another Gunners’ favourite Jack Wilshere announced that he will leave on a free transfer this summer, despite intimating that he had wanted to continue his career at the club.
Wenger had offered the legend another deal at the club before his return to his energetic form after an injury-filled spell.
But today Wilshere – who made Premier League history with his first team debut aged just 16 in 2008 – suggested that he was leaving as the new Gunner boss had met him to explain that he could not be guaranteed a constant starting place on the team.
“I felt that I was ultimately left with little choice but to make the decision that I have due to purely footballing reasons,” Wilshere posted in an emotional message to his fans on Instagram.
“Such was my desire to stay that I had in fact recently agreed to sign a financially reduced contract in order to commit my future to the club.
“My intention throughout these discussions has always been to remain an Arsenal player. I have been on the books at Arsenal for 17 years and have always felt part of the fabric of the club.
“Following my meeting with the new manager I was made aware that although the reduced contract offer remained, it was made clear to me that my playing time would be significantly reduced should I decide to stay.
“I am sure everyone can understand that at this point in my life and career I need to be playing first-team football and following my meeting with Mr Emery I came away feeling that it would be very difficult for me to do so at Arsenal.
“Given this, I feel I have no option but to pursue other opportunities in order to progress my career on the pitch.”
Wilshere made his mark in the 2014 and 2015 FA Cup-winning sides and the 3-0 Community Shield thrashing of Manchester City in 2014.
Blighted by injuries, Wenger loaned the midfielder to Bournemouth for in the 2016-2017 season.
But after a blistering return to form this season, many England fans were disappointed that Gareth Southgate was not using the playmaker in the England team in Russia.
In other news, Napoli who have let their legendary goalkeeper Pepe Reina leave to AC Milan are said to be preparing a loan deal for Petr Cech, who along with David Ospina has been the Gunners’ first-team keeper.
Emery signed super-fast defender Stephan Lichtsteiner on a free transfer from Italian champions Juventus this month. The defender’s speed and passing skills on show when his team Switzerland held the mighty Brazilian team to a 1-1 draw in the World Cup this week should fit in with the fast-paced football that Unai Emery expects in the teams he has coached.
Gunners will also be delighted with today’s signing Leno, who aged 19 was the youngest goalkeeper in the Champions League when he played against Chelsea in 2011. Though they will miss the creativity and energy of Jack Wilshere.
A moving statement on the club’s website last night thanked the midfielder for his contribution to the club:
“Since joining our Academy more than 17 years ago aged just nine, Jack has been a tremendous player for the club and a much-loved member of the Arsenal family.
“Jack made his Arsenal debut in September 2008 aged 16 and 256 days in a Premier League win over Blackburn Rovers, making him our youngest-ever league player. Just two months later he also broke our record for the youngest player in Europe, aged 16 and 329 days, when he played against Dynamo Kiev. Later that season he then played a major part in our FA Youth Cup victory, scoring in the final against Liverpool.
“Jack was named PFA Young Player of the Year in 2010/11 and also earned a place in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year that season.
“During his time with Arsenal, Jack scored some memorable goals, winning BBC Match of the Day’s Goal of the Season in both 2013/14 and 2014/15. Twice a winner of the Victory Shield with England youth sides, Jack has made 34 appearances for his country.
“Since making his Arsenal debut, Jack made a total of 197 appearances for the club, winning the FA Cup twice – in 2014 and 2015.
Thank you Jack for your contribution and the fantastic memories. Good luck in the future.”
For your love, for your commitment and fighting spirit, for THAT Norwich goal, for the FA Cups, for the 2013/14 goal of the season, for the 2014/15 goal of the season, for the 197 appearances, for the 17 years and for just being you…
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) June 19, 2018
By Woody Gelblum