The term ‘unsung hero’ has become something of a misnomer over the years. In football at least, it is usually used to describe less a player who doesn’t get much recognition, and more a 50-cap defensive midfielder who to only the most casual observer is anything but very much sung.
Even now you’ll still sometimes hear observations along the lines of: “Tell you what, for me, that Fernandinho is absolutely crucial to City. He may not be as glamorous as yer De Bruynes, yer Silvas, but he’s such an unsung hero.”
His compatriot Gilberto Silva was often given the same epithet when he was anchoring the Arsenal midfield. The same Gilberto Silva who was one of the first names on the ‘Invincibles’ team-sheet and who played almost 100 times for Brazil.
But sticking with Arsenal, this season has seen that rarest of things: the emergence of a genuine unsung hero. And it comes in the form of goalkeeper Bernd Leno, who has not received many plaudits outside the Emirates but whose brilliance against Manchester United on Sunday was typical of his level this season and critical to Arsenal’s 2-0 win.
He is now indisputably the club’s first-choice keeper, but after signing in the summer from Bayer Leverkusen for around £20 million, Leno initially had to wait for his chance as Emery opted for Petr Cech’s Bambi on ice impression for the first month of the season. Being asked to play out from the back was making Cech look like a middle-aged man bashing away at his iPhone unable to work the sound, but it wasn’t until he picked up an injury in late September that Leno was given his chance.