The German was at his best at Anfield, pulling off several fine saves during the 90 minutes against Liverpool in this Carabao Cup tie, before denying them twice in the penalty shootout to send Arsenal into the quarter-finals.
In August, it was Emi Martinez who had been Arsenal’s cup hero, as he stepped in for an injured Leno to play a pivotal role in the Gunners’ march to a record 14th FA Cup.
It led to questions being asked about whether Leno or Martinez would be Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper this season.
In the end, Martinez was sold to Aston Villa for £20million and Leno revealed last night he was never worried about losing his place. “I have never feared it,” he said last night. “Because the club always gave me the feeling I was the No1, I am the No1 and I will be the No1.
“So that was always very good from the club. My job is to prove it every week and I think I have done it today again.”
Last night demonstrated just why Arteta backed Leno to be his No1. Undoubtedly, Martinez put forward a strong case to replace him, partly with his brilliant performances on the pitch but also for his presence off it.
At the Arsenal training ground there were few players more liked than Martinez, who took it upon himself to mentor youngsters coming through the ranks, such as Gabriel Martinelli.
Martinez is a model professional and brilliant trainer, but his role in Arsenal’s run to FA Cup glory last season made it easy to forget just how impressive Leno was before his knee injury.
The German ended up second in Arsenal’s vote for Player of the Season, beaten by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and in a campaign of upheaval and managerial changes, Leno was a rare bright spark. Arsenal fans should not forget the final days of Unai Emery’s reign, when Southampton and Wolves came to Emirates Stadium and registered more than 20 shots on goal. Leno’s heroics often bailed the team out, just as they did last night.
“I am really happy for Bernd and for his performance, the character that he’s shown tonight,” said Arteta.
“We had two fantastic goalkeepers and they were both performing really well. Bernd, before he had the injury, and then Emi when he came in.
“But we had to make a decision and I think it was a moment when Emi needed the next step and financially it was a really interesting proposal for us.”
Arsenal’s victory last night was achieved without £27m centre-back William Saliba, who was left out of the squad amid interest from Rennes .
The French club want to sign the 19-year-old on loan and the Gunners are considering the proposal.
Saliba was due to be integrated into the first team this season but may now be loaned to get more experience.