Bernd Leno thinks the current Arsenal squad are too nice, and they need more of a competitive spirit between themselves if they’re going to succeed.
Arsenal’s defeat to Villarreal on Thursday night was perhaps as predictable as it was disappointing. Though the fans were hoping for much better than slumping to what was a fairly generous 2-1 defeat, no one would have ruled it out before the game.
In fact, even before the game, Bernd Leno was speaking to the German media in quotes that seem particularly appropriate in hindsight.
“We have to be a nastier team,” Leno said. “We all get on well, but we are often too nice on the pitch. Perhaps we are missing a proper ankle-biter, someone who can take out opponents in games.
“That is what separates the top teams. We are too nice. We have to get out of our comfort zone. It’s not about the 11 of us being friends, but that we are successful.”
Arsenal certainly lacked an edge in the first hour or so against Villarreal. They either struggled to impose themselves or made an impact with silly fouls that resulted in them going down to 10 men.
It was a different story watching Villarreal, who kicked the likes of Bukayo Saka off the park to prevent him from showing his best form. Admittedly they conceded a late penalty for that reason, but for the vast majority of the match, it worked and got them the win.
Exactly how they solve that problem in the week before the second leg, I’m not sure.