Arsenal have completed the signing of Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson from Dijon FCO for a reported fee of £1.8m. The Icelandic goalkeeper joins in the wake of the departure of Emiliano Martínez, who left for Aston Villa in £20m deal.
Unusually for Arsenal, Rúnarsson’s signing does not come in the form of a recommendation from the scouting department, but from Iñaki Caña Pavón, Arsenal’s goalkeeping coach, who worked extensively with Rúnarsson when the two were at Danish football side, FC Nordsjælland.
It was initially thought that Arsenal had fast-tracked the signing for Rúnarsson to be on the bench in time for Arsenal’s narrow win over West Ham, however, the signing took a little longer than expected. Rúnarsson completed a two-part medical (one in Dijon, the other in Paris) at the tail-end of last week. Rúnarsson met his Arsenal teammates on Friday and spent the weekend training away from the rest of the squad.
It was initially thought that Brentford goalkeeper David Raya (another recommendation from Pavón) had been touted as Martínez’s replacement, but Brentford were unwilling to part ways with the talented Spaniard and the financial aspect was not thought to be of interest to Arsenal.
Rúnarsson started his career in his native Iceland at Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur, playing in the team’s youth side and making three appearances for the senior side before moving to FC Nordsjælland in Denmark. Though he was part of the youth team, he soon found himself in the senior set-up and 62 apperances for the team, before moving to Dijon for a reported fee of £1.4m.
Since then, Rúnarsson has fast-become Dijon’s number one, facing competition from Alfred Gomis and Lévi Ntumba.
Rúnarsson was signed by Dijon’s Chief Scout, Sebastien Larcier, who was impressed with the Icelandic goalkeeper’s footwork, saying: “When we discovered his profile, the interest was immediately strong…He is technically talented, he is not afraid to play high and has very good footwork. In addition, he has the temperament and charisma”. This too is likely to be of interest to manager Mikel Arteta, who is slowly starting to get Arsenal to understand how to play out from the break, with both Emiliano Martínez and Bernd Leno playing key parts in a number of Arsenal goals owing to the club’s persistence with the tactic.
Rúnarsson has made five appearances for the Iceland national team, making his debut for his nation against the Czech Republic and was included in Iceland’s 23-man squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Rúnarsson’s father is Rúnar Kristinsson, who holds the distinction of being the only player to have been capped over one hundred times for his nation.
Rúnarsson will wear the number thirteen shirt, last worn by David Ospina.
The relatively small financial outlay would likely have been the main reason that Arsenal persued a deal for Rúnarsson, with funds being freed up for moves elsewhere, with Mikel Arteta known to be keen to improve the midfield and his interest in Atlético Madrid’s Thomas Partey and Lyon’s Houssem Aouar known.
With regards to outgoings, Lucas Torreira is expected to leave, meanwhile, Mattéo Guendouzi, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolašinac are listed for transfer as well.