Man. I don’t know what they’re smoking over there at the Emirates, but it’s some heady stuff. It wasn’t so long ago that Leno and Tierney were counted among our best players, but they’ve each been ousted with a quickness so dizzying that one would be left wondering whether either one was any good at all. So it may also go with Ramsdale, who’s gone from hero to mare to such an extent that we’ve loaned David Raya in from Brentford for £3m plus a £27m buy option clause. It’s not often that you see competition for who’ll be a club’s #1 GK, but here we are.
The rumours around us signing Raya did seem to fuel Ramsdale’s fire to some extent. He saved not but one but two penalties in the preseason, and he also came up with vital saves from Rodri in the Community Shield. However, he was also caught out a few times; Rodri’s early shot, deflected wide, would probably have beaten Ramsdale had it not been for the deflection, and Rodri very nearly lobbed Ramsdale, who hardly bathed himself in glory as he tumbled into the back of the net. Yes, “Rammers'” did well to deny Rodri’s point-blank header from a corner and Foden’s point-blank shot from a counter-attack, but it’s all a bit flimsy
Enter Raya; exit Turner. Ramsdale is now on notice, having displaced Leno just one year ago. Raya is arguably the better keeper in just about every regard, and his signing suggests that Arteta will relentlessly look to improve at every position while also creating depth at every position. There aren’t many clubs that can claim two keepers who are each capable of starting. Outside of Man City and Liverpool, one could make a decent argument for either or Ramsdale or Raya starting. We have them both.
The loan deal is not only necessary for FFP considerations; it’s also shrewd. If his arrival inspires Ramsdale to re-discover his passion and focus, all the better for us. If his arrival allows us to compete on all four fronts (UCL, Prem, FA Cup, League Cup), again, all the better. It’s not as if keepers suffer injuries all that often, but they do occasionally suffer drops in form, and that’s the situation Ramsdale finds himself in. Raya’s arrival puts Ramsdale on notice.
On a broader level, it puts a lot of players on notice. Gone, apparently, are the days when players could blithely assume that they’d walk into the squad regardless of form, training, or attitude. There’s competition at just about every position now. Arteta also has options at his disposal. The upshot of all of that is that each player will have to be on his toes and at his best on the training ground as well as on the pitch.
This is the way.
If we’re to compete on all four fronts, if we’re to build on last season’s potential, there will have to be rotation and competition and sacrifice. Signing Raya might feel like a luxury when we already have Ramsdale. Then again, such a signing may just herald a return to caviar after years and years of sausages.