Has Raya replaced Ramsdale…for real?


Two starts. Two clean sheets. It appears that Aaron Ramsdale’s reign is over and David Raya’s has already begun. Relegated to the bench against Everton and PSV after failing to keep clean sheets in four of our first five matches, it could be that Ramsdale will be lucky to play in League Cup and FA Cup matches while Raya gobbles up the Prem and Champions League minutes. It’s just that simple. It’s tradition. You have one keeper who starts and one who sits unless there’s an emergency…right?

Reality has a way of being somewhat more nuanced, however. Speaking to journalists, Raya hit the nail on the head when he said, “I think it’s the first time that two top goalies are on the same team, so that’s just part of the football and the gaffer wants two top players for every position.” We’re used to seeing rotation at just about every other position to some degree or another. Substitutions are made due to tactics, fitness, niggles. The player between the sticks? He’s seen as much more of a permanent fixture.

Now, however, and arguably for the first time, a club has two keepers, each of whom could probably start for almost every other club in the Prem. We’ve seen the position revolutionised to the point that traditional keepers like David de Gea have been rendered all but obsolete. Our own Bernd Leno, one of of the best players of the post-Wenger era, was himself displaced with a quickness by Ramsdale due in large part to Leno’s discomfort with the ball at his feet.

By contrast with Ramsdale’s replacement by Raya, Leno could at least point to the precipitating factor of his getting injured by Neal Maupay. He wasn’t “dropped” so much as replaced (although the replacement was looming, given Leno’s own discomfort with the ball at his feet). Ramsdale has to feel more like he’s been dropped, but he’s taken that in stride, at least publicly. “Bring it on,” he’s said when asked about competition at the keeper position. “We’ll fight and we’ll make each other best version of ourselves.” We’re quick to make that claim for all of the outfield positions—competition will bring out each player’s best—but it’s going to take a mental adjustment for a lot of us to see the keeper position in the same way.

Ramsdale has a few built-in advantages that might make that adjustment difficult for many. He’s a likable bloke, adept at shithousery; he’s British and is pushing Pickford for the Three Lions. He played a huge role in our title-tilt last year. To see him “dropped” then seems to fly in the face of not only tradition or intertia but also logic and nostalgia. He’s still quite good even if his levels have dropped somewhat.

Is that drop any surprise, really? His competition prior to Raya’s arrival was Matt Turner, an affable American who only started playing footy aged 14. As for Ramsdale’s failure to keep clean sheets in the early going, let’s remember that Arteta was doing a lot of tinkiering. Magalhães had been dropped. Zinchenko was injured. Timber was playing an inverted fullback at White’s expense. When Timber was felled, Partey was deployed at fullback with White moved to centre-back. That’s a fair amount of shuffling for a keeper to contend with, and it’s not as if Ramsdale was guilty of any howlers in the interim. Should he have come up with a worldie or two to keep another clean sheet? Do I know what a rhetorical question is? On both counts, sure.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, though. By most objective metrics, especially distribution and shot-stopping, Raya is the superior keeper. For as much as he’s shown it regarding the former, he hasn’t had much of a chance to prove it regarding the latter, but I suspect he’ll start against Tottenham on Sunday. Maybe. The case could be made that Ramsdale should start because he’s familiar with the roiling cauldron that is the North London Derby. Whatever decision Arteta makes will inspire all sorts of clickbait headlines.

I can just imagine Kai Havertz heaving a sigh of relief as he sees that he’s no longer the scandal du jour. Whoever’s between the sticks on Sunday, all of the pressure is off of him. That’s some 4-d chess from Arteta right there. Wouldn’t it be something to see all of the media’s attention diverted to the non-story of Raya v. Ramsdale only for Havertz to nip in and score to remind Tottenham what colour London is?

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4 thoughts on “Has Raya replaced Ramsdale…for real?

  1. palladio43

    Theoretically it is good to have two goalkeepers of equal, or near equal, ability as opposed to one being substantially better and more experienced. The idea of rotating or shuffling also provides the opportunity for both to remain fresh and alert. It also, as seems to be everyone’s concern, creates a potential rivalry and fear that one or the other may leave in a snit. That seems to be what the press and pundits fear or are touting these days. All of this seems to fall into Arteta’s overall thinking of ensuring a back-up at every position.
    As we have seen, for all the efforts to provide a back-up at each position, something that failed last year and resulted in the steep decline at season’s end when Saliba was gone or even in mid-season with the absence of Jesus, we still seem to have a few small holes. Some will argue that more effort should have been focused upon a back-up for Jesus as opposed to the time and money to bring Havertz to the Emirates (or Arsenal Stadium according to FIFA rules). Time will tell on that set of decisions and it is disconcerting to realize we are already worrying about the number and extent of injuries so early in the season, well before tired legs, bodies and brains, result in more time spent in rehab.
    I agree that the issue of GK is a distraction, as of now. Whether it morphs into something greater will not arise if both prove equally successful. If, however, one or the other errs or gaffes badly and the result is a loss or draw, then the critics will emerge en masse. Until then, we need to worry more about the many injured and when they might return.

  2. A Simple Truth

    there’s an old hockey adage that states “if you have two starting goalies, you have none”, which could apply here soon enough…few, if any, top teams have ever employed 2 bona fide starting Keepers, except when an injury has occured…now I don’t mind the terms of the loan, as the option to buy certainly isn’t unreasonable, considering the talent of the Keeper in question, the bigger concern revolves around the chequebook managerial practices of MA et al, especially on the heels of the substantial re-upping of Ramsdale just a few months back; not to mention the fact that we paid well above the number in the first place…in the end, there’s no doubting that Raya is better with the ball at his feet, but only time will tell how much that truly matters, as I felt we dithered in and around our 18 a bit too much against PSV and stretching the field with the long ball hasn’t really been part of MA’s tactical script thus far, so hopefully this adds another much-needed wrinkle to his oft-times static gameplans

  3. reg

    It seems like the “goalkeeper distraction” is only in the media and fan base. Doesn’t seem to be a problem with Arteta or the goalkeepers themselves. Raya has had two superb games and two clean sheets. Against PSV he claimed every cross into his area.
    It will be what it will be. If If one of them feels hard done by then they will leave.
    And life will go on. As of now it seems like much ado about nothing.
    Lots of clubs would like to have same “problem”.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      good distinction there, reg. It’s easy to assume that what we see in the media matches what goes on in the squad. The “two top keepers” issue is a novelty, so it’s natural that it’ll get a lot of attention. In the long run, this situation will become more common and won’t drive so much sensationalism.


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