Interesting take on Leno
In the 2013/2014 season, he even developed the nickname “Elfmeter Killer” literally “penalty killer”, saving six penalties across the campaign.
In hindsight, that summer was when things changed for Leno as Leverkusen appointed Roger Schmidt as their new head coach. That changed how they played, the focus of which was a more gung-ho style of pressing and little emphasis on building up from the back.
The tactic proved effective in spells but the longer that Schmidt stayed, the more apparent a decline became. It’s difficult to recall when Schmidt’s Leverkusen ever really had a Plan B and his reign came crashing down with a 6-2 defeat at Dortmund in March last year. “A step in the right direction,” was how Schmidt bizarrely termed it in the press conference, with Leverkusen involved in an unfamiliar fight against relegation for the rest of the season.
How the time under Schmidt affected Leno could be seen by his comments in November. Under new coach Heiko Herrlich, they were looking a lot more effective without getting the rewards which they would later in the campaign, as they narrowly missed out on Champions League football.
“I am very happy with the way that we try to play football,” said Leno, pulling back for the punchline.
“For three years, we had no build up play. The coach now puts more of an emphasis on build up play and possession – I think that’s very, very important.”
Under Schmidt, Leno had to fend for himself more, both on the pitch and in training. There were times when he rarely had proper goalkeeping training with the goalkeeping coach, according to sources close to the club.
In games, large amounts of space were left behind the Leverkusen backline and Leno struggled to adapt to sweeping duties, with similar mistakes recurring in each Bundesliga season with Schmidt.