Chapter 13: Arsenal back on top

It was a bit of an extraordinary game yesterday, one which saw two game-saving clearances off the line, two major errors by backup keeper Aaron Ramsdale, and a debut goal for Kai Havertz on the way to a 1-0 victory against a resolute Brentford Bees side.

The first error by Ramsdale was partly a product of how Arsenal play now and partly a product of the Arsenal keeper’s shot confidence. Ramsdale has recently opened up about how much the demotion has affected him, saying that he goes in to work feeling depressed and “suffering and hurting” and that David Raya has to pick him up. I know that this will draw some ire from the Arteta fans but I can’t help but point out that this entire situation is one of his making and that once again, his poor man-management skills are to blame for actually hurting his team.

I understand that titles are won and lost on small margins. I understand that David Raya offers a small, marginal gain over Aaron Ramsdale. I understand that Aaron has been demoted to 2nd choice and that it’s his job to try to win the starting position back. But what Arteta got wrong was how he presented that to the media and apparently how it was presented to Ramsdale. Ramsdale speaks as if he was blindsided by the decision. And the ramifications have been devastating for the young keeper: started the season as first choice, was given a lot of press and coverage by the club, and suddenly he’s been replaced and he’s no longer even 2nd choice for England and could miss out on a potentially medal-winning international side.

This sort of disruption doesn’t just affect the keeper, it can hurt the whole team. Everyone can be on edge, not knowing whether their job is secure.

Now, my opposition here will (rightly) point out that in the highly competitive world of Premier League football no player’s job is secure. In fact, Ramsdale himself was brought in over Bernd Leno – who is still a top keeper and who was, I think, wrongly maligned by fans and the club. But beyond simply “competition” Arsenal have had some really strange stuff going on with their keepers over the last 4 years: burning through three different players. One of whom is an infamous World Cup winner whose team absolutely play the way that we do and who has been one of the best saving keepers every year for the last three years. Only to land on the very marginal gains offered by David Raya.

And to make matters worse, Fabricio Romano, announced on the Nazi propaganda site formerly known as Twitter just before the game that Arsenal are looking to make the David Raya deal permanent. This, despite David Raya’s own performances being quite shaky. And – I’ve been saying this for four years now – once again we are going to go into the summer needing a solid backup keeper. Because Aaron Ramsdale is already rumored to be looking to get out and get into a starting place at another club, one which he will absolutely find.

So, it’s not a surprise that Ramsdale would have a shaky game. When he came to Arsenal we were all informed that he is a confidence player, and based off this performance – one where he had a really crazy dribble saved off the line by Declan Rice and where he got caught in two minds about a throw, you can see that his confidence is shot. And it certainly didn’t help that the opposition fans saw his confidence was shot and starting signing “you’re just a shit David Raya” at him. This is a problem for the whole team because it means that we may have a problem with our backup keeper now.

We did keep the clean sheet, which might help with Ramsdale’s confidence, but it wasn’t exactly a top performance defensively or offensively which kept Brentford off the scoresheet. Declan Rice saved one goal and Zinchenko saved another, after his own mistake nearly cost us again. Arsenal now have four goal line clearances in 13 matches this season, which is the same number as the previous 3 seasons combined.

We do have the lowest expected goals against total (and per game) and we have conceded the fewest goals of any team this season. We are also on top of the table and all we have to do to win the League is match Manchester City point for point until the end of the season. So, maybe I’m crying over nothing. Maybe this will all work out and Arsenal will win the League this year. If we do, the whole keeper thing will either be forgotten or will be put down as a stroke of genius by Mikel Arteta. We will have to see how it all turns out.

For the match, I’ve already recounted Arsenal’s near-failings in defense but there was a weird problem going forward as well. The team made some hard work of the attack and that also tallies with the stats this season. Our npxG is merely 1.4 (last season it was 1.8) and I think it’s obvious that we are struggling to get goals in open play situations. We are, however, getting penalty goals (lead the League with 6) and goals from set plays (lead the League with 8). Those are pushing our xG and goals scored up to nearly last year’s level (2.1 goals/game this season, 2.2 last). And I have to point out that we are either first or 2nd in passes and carries in the final third and penalty area, while also 1st or 2nd in keeping the opponent out of our penalty area. That is all to say that we are playing exactly how Arteta wants us to play, keeping the clean sheets he wants us to keep, and winning games against solid defensive opposition like Brentford.

So, why am I complaining? Maybe if I’m honest, I just like Ramsdale and don’t want to see him suffering. In fact I hate to see him suffering, so I think I’m just going to wish him the best and hope that his and our situation is resolved quickly and amicably.

So that we can get on with the business of winning the Premier League.



  1. I fully agree re Ramsdale. It’s unknowable whether he or Raya is better, and something weird about Arteta’s man management seems to have ostracized Ramsdale. He has such spirit and love for the team, it hurts me to see him left out. I wish Arteta had embraced him with as much enthusiasm at full time as he did Kai (who also deserved the love). Why not celebrate Ramsdale more, just to boost him, even if his future is done?

  2. Yes, odd that Arteta would marginalize such a (deservedly) popular player when he’s always banging on about team spirit. Clearly Ramsdale is well liked by his team mates, so how must they feel when they see one of their own left out in the cold for no apparent reason?

    1. Agree. Most of the team, at the end of the game went to show their love & appreciation of Ramsdale. He seemed forlorn though.

  3. Agree with the sentiments expressed on Ramsdale. He is both high quality and great character, a great mix of attributes. His performances as much as any others, helped us push for the title and secure Champions League.

    Now he’s Arteta jail for what?

    Buy your t-shirts: “Free Aaron’!

    BTW, Liverpool did us a favor yesterday but Alison was as shaky as Ramsdale and he’s the regular starter between the posts. Our guy gets huge pass from me.

  4. I can’t summon any sympathy for Ramsdale. He’s entitled to the sum total of no entitlement to start. He took the shirt from Leno under similar circumstances. Not only that… the club signed off an analysis piece on their own website that detailed Leno’s shortcomings as a keeper. It had Mikel’s paw prints all over it. They later took it down. Aaron need to be a pro, stop feeling sorry for himself and get on with life. He nearly conceded a goal trying to do what Raya can do in his sleep. The difference, to me at least, is clear.

    Arteta has brought Arsenal back into the conversation as a title contender, and deserves immense credit for that. However he is a hard-nosed operator. Those 2 things may be correlated.

    Kai? Not doing cartwheels. He’s supposed to score those, not pity penalties.

    The guy I only have eyes for is Declan Rice. What a player. Has everything… defence, offence, leadership, passion. Our most significant signing since Alexis. That goal line clearance was everything. Arsenal of 5 years ago would have lost that game. he has been massive in Partey’s absence. To me, Rice is the de facto captain of that team.

    1. We nearly won the league with Aaron, don’t forget. I think it’s a bit disrespectful the way you talk about him. His performances from the last two years have merited a much greater respect than Leno. Ramsdale got us to champions league and has still not been given his debut there yet.
      How would you feel in that situation? I have no doubt it would effect your job as well.

      1. Not being disrespectful. Being real. What’s all this teenage moping about? Agree with Gehlo about Jens’ reaction… I’m better than this clown, and I will show it.

        And by the way, I agree with you on Ramsdale playing in the Champions League because he helped us to get there. I wanted him to play those games and think that it must have been a blow to him not to. I do feel for him on that score.

        But I’m going to take slight issue with the “nearly won us the league” part of what you said. He was one of the reasons the wheels came off during the run-in. Watch the defeat to the Southampton again. That was only one game where he conceded a goal in the first minute.

        I think that Mikel wanted to re-establish control there and Ramsdale, good goalkeeper though he is, could be a bit scatty there.

        1. Just to reiterate what I said in the post: the only problem with how this has been handled is that we now have a shaky as fuck backup keeper. I think others have suggested a way to deal with this would be to make him the number one in the Champions League, I like that suggestion.

          Anyway, I guess we all better pray that Raya stays healthy all season and doesn’t suffer his own dip in form/confidence. He’s also a confidence keeper, btw.

  5. I disagree with Claudeivan on Ramsdale but bang on with Rice. I’ll go further: Rice may be the most consequential signing since the the Invincibles era.

    Not that I’m comparing him to any Invincible just yet – we haven’t won anything with this side (just yet!) but his presence on the pitch makes a monumental difference.

    Completely different player, different position, of course, but like the best version of Santi Cazorla, Declan Rice is everything, Declan Rice is everywhere.

  6. Ramsdale’s performance against Brentford tells you exactly why he needed to be replaced. You simply cannot have your first choice goalkeeper so affected by how good he feels. Competition is a fact of life in elite sport; Ramsdale shows that when it gets tough he can’t hack it. Lovely guy but we move on. you want

  7. I think of when Jens was benched for Almunia, and wish that Ramsdale shows the same level of spirit and yes- rage -, as Mad Jens did.

    Full of snide remarks about a keeper who only became a regular in his 30s and that cocksure pride that he is still the better keeper.

    Instead, we have Aaron Ramsdale moping and depressed, feeling sorry for himself and letting it affect his confidence and ability.

    This is elite level sports and Arsenal is an elite level team. An elite level mentality entails that your performances are maintained and improved with competition.

    Frankly and sadly, Aaron Ramsdale is showing that he may be an excellent top level keeper, but his mentality still unfortunately falls short just that little bit.

  8. Y’all are being quite harsh on Ramsdale, who is still one of our players. I just don’t see the need for this toxicity. I think Tim is spot on with his comments on Arteta’s man management.

  9. I think both things can be true – Arteta has been very tough on Ramsdale but Ramsdale hasn’t handled it well himself. Ramsdale doesn’t quite have the distribution of Raya, nor does he do as well claiming crosses, imo. Raya might be too aggressive on the crosses – as we saw at Chelsea. What Ramsdale has is a lot more personality. He’s an emotional player and person it seems to me. Raya is much calmer and quieter. Maybe that’s part of what Arteta likes about him. I agree with Claude – there is no entitlement here. Play your way back into the team, and if you can’t, then find a way to leave. Yes, it’s hard and yes it’s disappointing, but Rambo is a professional and he needs to get on with it. After a shaky first half, he played quite well in the 2nd.

    I think the reality is that the way we ask our keepers to play, we are going to have errors. It’s a high stakes role and no one will play every ball perfectly. Allison makes errors regularly. Our 2nd choice keeper, even if he’s glum and disappointed, is still better than a lot of starting keepers at other clubs. It’s tough to have a GREAT backup keeper. They just don’t stick around if they are. Hoping Rambo finds his confidence and challenges for minutes.

  10. it’s unfair to compare lehmann at arsenal to ramsdale at arsenal. lehmann was in his prime and learned to deal with big team adversity that ramsdale is only now being exposed to. lehmann played at schalke (when they were decent), milan, and dortmund before coming to arsenal, fighting for trophies. ramsdale came from bad teams, fighting relegation. lehmann had an entire career fighting to prove he was better than oliver kahn.

    where their careers dovetail is that lehmann had a similar episode when he was ramsdale’s age playing for milan. i remember, clearly, lehmann having an absolute stinker topped off with him picking up a (harsh) back pass. i laughed so hard (because he was from schalke) but i felt bad for him as you could see the disappointment on his face as him picking up that back pass led to a goal. likewise, i thought it was a tackle, not a deliberate back pass.

  11. arteta doesn’t care about how popular you are. is it an ego thing or does he think it’s really best for the team? i don’t know. it’s just his thing. he’s summarily dismissed popular players like mesut, auba, emile, and now ramsdale. these players have all had adverse reactions to treatment received by arteta. when it becomes a serious issue is when you need to call on those players like arsenal had to do on saturday. are they feeling like part of the team and playing well enough to help you achieve your goals? this is what management is.

    i don’t share claude’s view that david raya is clearly better than ramsdale. i wish i saw it but i don’t. it was plain to see with ramsdale being better than leno but i don’t see it here. in fact, one could argue that the jury’s still out. in the meantime, if i were ramsdale, i’d be looking for a new club to move to in january. we’ll see. one thing i will say is that all keepers have blinders and stinkers! all of them, and there are no exceptions. i was pissed when dortmund signed lehmann but once he got a few games in at the club, i was very happy with the move. we need to expect to lose ramsdale this january.

    1. All of this. I think this is a sign of Arteta’s immaturity as a manager. He’s showed growth in many areas but feel he still has work to do with the man management side, especially the big names or big personalities.

    2. I think youre misremembering the Ramsdale/Leno dynamic and the precise circumstances. How could it be “plain to see with ramsdale being better than leno” when Ramsdale was thrown in and Leno was thrown out early in the season? The only way any of us could establish that at the time was if we attended Arsenal practice. In fact, a lot of gooners were surprised that we went for Ramsdale at all, asking why we were buying England’s twice relegated third choice goalkeeper.

      The only thing we know for sure is that Arteta is consistent. When he brings in a keeper (that is not Hein) he’s bringing in a #1.

      I dont remember — with Leno in goal — anyone putting a new keeper on our hierarchy of needs.

      There was a sequence of play against Lens today when Raya put his foot on the ball, patiently waited for his moment, then with great precision found (Rice?) in the middle of the park, Havertz took the knockdown and ferried and two passes later, we had a goal. And he’s done that before. His ability to find players in the middle of the park as if he was deploying a guided missile is at a much higher level than Ramsdale’s. Aaron is a better shot-stopper; Raya is a libero who just happens to play in goal. Arteta thinks that the latter is more suited to the style in which he wants to play. We are not playing Ramsdale’s style of football anymore. In this respect, for me, Raya is unarguably better.

      Thierry put it best. Arteta got Ramsdale to get us into the top 4. He got Raya to win us the thing. All that said, it’s harsh that Aaron isnt playing in the competition that he helped to get us into. He had to have been looking forward to that as a proud achievement.

      p.s. Everyone in the Arsenal back 5 is comfortable on the ball… ball players. It’s why we got Timber and why White (a CB who interprets the RB role with great competence but clearly isnt a natural RB) may not last long in the role. Tomiyasu, btw, was sensational against Lens. Today’s performance makes him undroppable.

      1. I only dispute that one part of this comment: that Ben White may not last long in the role. Ben White is more comfortable with the ball than Tomi. In addition, White does something better than anyone else in that RB role: overlap. He can dribble like a traditional winger, and play short passes in a triangle on the right side of the opponent’s third with Odegaard and Saka, something that is sorely missed when he isn’t played there. Tomiyasu is an excellent defender, and is better at delivering lofted balls into the box, but if White doesn’t last as a RB it is because Arteta has decided that he wants a more defense-minded RB, not because White’s skills are inferior to anyone else’s.

      2. i don’t think tomiyasu was only good today. i said last season that i believe tomi is the best right back arsenal have. i also implied that white plays ahead of tomi because arteta spent so much money on ben white. as usual, i made all of that shit up but that doesn’t make it untrue.

        here’s the big kicker i mentioned last season that no one has spoken on. ben white was revered as this supremely gifted technician and tactician. wouldn’t it make sense that arteta would play white in the inverted fullback role? i don’t recall him ever even trying it in a game. hell, he’s tried tierney, tomiyasu, and even thomas partey in that role. why not ben white?

        white is only alright technically, in my book. i would rate lauren, eboue, david luiz, vermaelen (and andre santos) better technicians than ben white. obviously, the santos mention, while true, was tongue in cheek. tactically, ben white is better than the lot other than the first two.

  12. i don’t think you understand me. i wasn’t saying we knew ramsdale was better than leno when arsenal signed him. i’m saying that after a few games, most were convinced ramsdale was better. this is not the case with raya.

    also remember, i was the guy who shared with the 7am fellowship the story about a former player of mine, a senior in high school at the time, who told me that ramsdale (then at bournemouth) was his favorite keeper in world football.

    i will admit, david raya looked really good last night and argue that it was his best performance in an arsenal shirt. he looked as if he knew, after ramsdale’s performance against brentford, that this was now his team.

    arteta will probably try and keep ramsdale but, if any of us were ramsdale, we’d be trying to force a move to another premier league team in january. that would put 25% of premier league keepers having played under arteta in his short stent as a manager; raya, ramsdale, turner, leno, and martinez…not to mention fabianski is still the #1 at west ham. btw, turner wasn’t a #1 keeper and arteta signed him. we’ll see how it all works out.

    1. Thing is, Raya played like that many times before last night. And I’ve made note of it here.

      Ramsdale isn’t going anywhere in January; mainly because he won’t be allowed to. Rightly so. If Raya get injured, he has to step in.

      Again, I just wish we’d stop this prolonged pity party for the bloke. Arteta’s been tough on him, but he’s not the first. He needs to get his head down and take his opportunity when it comes. It could be one long term injury away.

      1. His wife had a miscarriage and his game went to shit. It happens…

        In the last year my wife was hospitalised, my son has had two surgeries and was hospitalised for viral and bacterial infections. Thereafter my wife developed an autoimmune syndrome from the stress. All-in-all 4 hospitalisations. My work-life balance was absolute sh1t. Didn’t matter how professional I tried to be in my career.

        I think we need to contextualise what’s happened to Rambo (the death of his unborn child) and not pity him but have some empathy.

        The more Arteta is evasive with his answers on the topic of goalkeepers, the worse he makes it.

        1. thanks for sharing such an intimate portion of your life. it does go to show how significant human factors can be; sometimes we need to be reminded that these players are human beings and they have responses to stress too. sometimes, their responses to stress are different than anything we’ve ever seen.

          the slight hesitation i have with your post is the final statement. the bottom line is we don’t know why arteta is so deliberately vague when discussing ramsdale. it may be in an endeavor to protect the man. while we’d all like clarity on the keeper situation, the fact is it’s none of our business.

          why was ben white sent home from the world cup? why didn’t police charge thomas partey with sexual assault? certain things we don’t know but arteta does. he has respected their privacy as individuals and for the good of the club. all we know is that ben white has not been considered for england this year and thomas partey has not been charged by police with assault. they know more than we do and we have to live with that.

        2. Again. Thanks for sharing. My dear brother after having 45cms of cancer removed from his stomach last year has just been diagnosed this month with lukiemia. My life is on hold. I sympathise with you and wish nothing but pure love to you and your family. Some things are more important than who’s in goal. At the end of the day it’s just a game. Respect an sending nothing but love an positive vibes to you and all.

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