Perhaps one of the more unexpected positives of Arsenal’s loan group this season has been Runar Alex Runarsson with OH Leuven.
With Aaron Ramsdale joining over the summer and Arthur Okonkwo promoted to act as Arsenal’s third-choice goalkeeper, Runar Alex Runarsson’s loan to OH Leuven was the only way he had any chance at game-time.
Whilst a fair amount of excitement accompanied loans for the likes of Folarin Balogun, Miguel Azeez, or Daniel Ballard, with Runarsson it was more about getting him off the books and giving him a chance for a fresh start.
That initial move was followed by an underwhelming first two-and-a-half months, in which Runarsson made just one cup appearance.
Yet just as any lingering interest in the success of his loan started to fade, Runarsson made his breakthrough.
The Iceland international has now played 13 times in Leuven’s last 14 league games, most recently keeping a clean sheet against Champions-League-qualifying hopefuls Anderlecht.
Only two goalkeepers in the Belgian Pro League can boast a better save percentage than Runarsson’s 76.1% this season, and Leuven have risen well clear of the relegation zone despite their six-game winless run to kick off the campaign before he was involved.
Runarsson has also shown good character, particularly after he was briefly hospitalised with a head injury, only to return with a Man of the Match performance in the next game.
If we’re being honest, a future at Arsenal is pretty much out of the question for Runarsson.
The Gunners have Ramsdale as a nailed-on starter, they have Matt Turner arriving in the summer, and they have Okonkwo and Karl Hein in the academy.
But the situation is a lot more positive than it was. Disappointing spells with Dijon and Arsenal had left most assuming the Gunners would be stuck paying Runarsson not to play until 2024.
Right now, I’d wager that OH Leuven are considering a permanent summer bid. Other teams in the Belgian league will be taking notice, and perhaps some from further afield too.
The goalkeeper turned 27 this month, so this feels like a big moment for him.
If he can keep up his form until summer, he could get make the next step in his career with a good move. Let his standards slip, and the last few months of progress will be undone. It’s up to him now.