'Signing Partey shows the world what Arsenal are about' - Gunners new boy Runarsson hails fellow summer arrival

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Thomas Partey Runar Alex Runarsson GFX
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The Iceland international has vowed to "work his a*se off" to earn his opportunities in north London after an encouraging summer for the Gunners

Despite a number of touch-and-go moments during the course of the summer, it is felt that Arsenal enjoyed a rather positive transfer window.

The arrivals of Thomas Partey, Gabriel Magalhaes and Willian have provided a boost to Mikel Arteta's squad as they aim to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since the 2016-17 campaign.

One of their lesser-known new faces, though, is goalkeeper Runar Alex Runarsson, who completed a move to north London from Dijon for just over £1 million ($1.3m) following Emiliano Martinez' departure for Aston Villa.

An Iceland international, Runarsson has been signed to provide competition for first-choice Bernd Leno, though he holds ambitions of one day becoming the No.1 at the Emirates Stadium.

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For now though he will predominantly be watching on from the bench, meaning he will be one of few people in the world who will get to see Partey in action from inside the stadium on a week-to-week basis.

Partey's deadline-day arrival from Atletico Madrid in a deal worth £45m ($58m) has caused great excitement among Arsenal supporters, with the Ghana star seen as the ideal fit for Arteta's midfield.

And Runarsson is similarly thrilled with the acquisition of his new team-mate, believing it is a signal of intent from the Gunners following a positive start to the new campaign.

"I was so excited because it shows everybody the ambition that the club has: that we want to go back to compete for the Premier League and Champions League," he tells Goal in an exclusive interview.

"We want to take part in all the major competitions, and not just take part but win. To sign Thomas, it just shows the world what we are all about."

Runarsson comes from a family rich in footballing heritage, with his father - Runar Kristinsson - a former Iceland captain and the most capped player in the country's history with 104 international appearances to his name.

Like his father, Runarsson began his footballing life as a midfielder, but after suffering a burst appendix as a youngster he was forced to switch to saving goals rather than creating and scoring them.

"When I was 10, my appendix burst and I had an emergency operation," he explains. "I was out from football for six months and when I came back I felt a lot like I missed an important step of my development physically - both with strength and speed - compared to the other players.

"I tried to change position then to be a goalkeeper instead of a midfielder like my father. Everyone was impressed with my goalkeeping in training, and so was my father, so I just stuck with it.

"He is my biggest role model and always will be. Football was all I saw and knew, so it was my dream. 

"He was in Sweden, Norway and Belgium and I only moved to Iceland at the age of 12. I got my fundamentals of football in Belgium, and then I came to Iceland at the right time to learn that Icelandic mentality.

Runar Runarsson Dijon 2020

"It was definitely an advantage for me to grow up watching my father experiencing the highs and lows of the game. Being a footballer is mostly a great privilege, but there are the challenges too which you have to deal with."

The latest challenge facing the 25-year-old is impressing Arteta and the Arsenal coaching staff, with Martinez leaving behind quite the legacy despite rarely being a regular in north London.

Martinez' performances in the absence of the injured Leno during the closing weeks of last season saw some call for the Argentine to be made the permanent No.1 heading into the 2020-21 campaign.

But after it was confirmed that Leno would be restored to the team, Martinez left for Villa in a £20m ($25m) deal as he aims to establish himself further in the Premier League.

That brought to an end an 11-year stay at Arsenal for the goalkeeper, and Runarsson is aware of the work he will need to put in to ensure he can follow a similar path to his predecessor.

"I read an interview with him a couple of days ago and he said he came in as the ninth-choice goalkeeper, but he worked his a*se off to become the first-choice at Arsenal after Leno's injury," he says. "Then, he makes a brilliant move to Aston Villa for £20m. That should inspire everyone, not just me.

Runarsson Martinez quote GFX

"That's my plan: to work my a*se off, enjoy every minute of it and get as many games as possible."

Runarsson, who is fluent in five different languages including English, French and Dutch, is currently part of the Iceland squad that last week took a big step towards Euro 2020 qualification after being Romania in their play-off semi-final.

They will now face Hungary in the final in November, though Runarsson is unlikely to feature as he remains behind the experienced Hannes Thor Halldorsson in the pecking order.

He believes, though, that he has what it takes to eventually take the No.1 jersey, with Arsenal having set out a clear plan for him to take the next step in his career.

"I spoke to everybody: Edu, Mikel and Inaki [Cana, Arsenal's goalkeeping coach]. They didn't have to convince me too much but I wanted to hear what their plan was for me because I am at a prime age as a footballer," he says. "That was important to me that they were thinking the same way I was. 

"It was amazing, the first call I got, I couldn't believe it was really happening. Now, I am starting to get used to the idea that I am playing for such an amazing club.

"Everything happened fast. I did the medical and got on the train to Arsenal to finish the small details, sign and settle in. When you go into a big club then you need to settle as quickly as possible as they can't afford any errors."

"I know it is going to be hard," he concludes, "but I will work for it for every minute and do what's necessary to get as many games as possible. I think the only person I can rely on for this is myself, so I know that and I will try to do it."

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