5.31, 3.76, 5.83, 4.04. These are the ratings we’ve given to David Raya in his last four starts. That’s an average of just 4.735, surely the lowest among our starters. It’s downright Nketiahn. Raya, despite being superior to Ramsdale on paper, has failed to convince to thoroughly on the pitch. He’s been caught out, gifted possession to opponents inside the 18, and flubbed his lines. We’ve been very, very fortunate that our opponents haven’t made more of the chances they’ve been given. Surely, it’s time for Arteta to show some of that trademark ruthlessness and start Ramsdale on Saturday.
Had those opponents been more ruthless, we might have lost or drawn to Man City, lost to Chelsea, and drawn to Sevilla. In that last match, Raya was very fortunate that his attempt at punching clear a cross—a fairly routine one that—very nearly failed spectacularly, with the ball glancing off of his knuckles and spinning over the crossbar rather than away from goal. Against Chelsea, he let Mudryk of all people chip him from the wing. Whether Mudryk intended this or not is beside the point. Having already been caught out there, one would have hoped to see Raya raise his game. Instead, not ten minutes later, he placed a soft pass directly to Cole Palmer, who really should have scored.
These are the kinds of mistakes that really should see a keeper dropped, even if his deputy isn’t good enough to start. Last season, Arteta would have dropped Ramsdale for Matt Turner for the Mudryk goal alone. Here, we have a series of gaffes, and the only thing saving Raya’s hash is that we’ve escaped the worst that could have happened.
By contrast, Ramsdale, in his last start (away to Brentford in the League Cup), kept a clean sheet and earned a 7.71 from us (and a 7.2 from whoscored). Brentford may lack the attacking threat of Chelsea, but they have scored more goals to date in the Prem. What’s more, Ramsdale was playing behind a shuffled backline that included at Tomiyasu in for Saliba and Kiwior for Zinchenko. He didn’t do anything wrong, not that he had a whole lot to do—but to see him dropped anyway is puzzling. In his previous starts, Ramsdale played well in the 3-1 win over Man U, was a bit shaky in the 2-2 draw to Fulham, kept a clean sheet against Palace, and saved Rodri’s pen to help us win the Community Shield.
Unless there’s been some kind of row between Ramsdale and Arteta, or if Ramsdale’s attitude in training has been lax, it’s difficult to understand why Ramsdale remains rooted to the bench. The whole point of having depth and quality is to bring out the best in both players. However, even if Arteta’s decision to stick with Raya is meant as a vote of confidence, he runs the risk of endorsing mediocre performances—the exact opposite to why we spent so much to loan Raya in the first place. It’s similar to what we saw from Ramsdale last season. It was clear that Turner was not good enough to motivate Ramsdale to raise his game, and he got a careless. Fast-forward to the present, and we have to wonder whether Raya will start to get similarly complacent if he’s not dropped.
Whoever starts against Sheffield United may get something of an inside track going forward. The woeful Blades have scored just seven goals and conceded 24, and they’re winless away from Bramall Lane.
Arteta seems to have done away with the custom of giving top-tier competitions (Prem and Champions League) to one keeper and domestic cups (FA Cup and League Cup) to the other. That’s fine and dandy like sour candy, but if he’s going to continue to start Raya, we’re really going to have to see the Spaniard perform better. Which Spaniard am I referring to? I’ll leave that to your imagination for now.