What the hell is wrong with Raya? Ramsdale would like a word…


Say what you will about the ball going out of bounds or Joelinton cradling said ball between both arms before shoving Gabriel to the ground before said ball falling to Anthony Gordon who scored from an offside position. Any one of those should have been enough to disallow the goal, nevermind all four of them at once. And yet. All of that would have been water under a bridge had Raya, our £28m signing (er, loan), dealt with Willock’s cross as one might expect any keeper at this level would have.

Let’s be fair. A lot of players switched off when they assumed, rightly or wrongly, that the ball had rolled out of bounds after Murphy’s shot. Jorginho and White were perhaps the most culpable, dithering inside the 18 while watching Willock collect the ball and prepare a cross in. We might also fault Saliba or Rice for failing to mark Gordon’s near-post run even as the ball floated over him. None of this would matter in the slightest if Raya had dealt with the cross as he should have—and it’s not the first time he’s flubbed his lines.

It was just short of a month ago against Man City that Raya flailed rather helplessly at a floating cross in from Gvardiol, leaving it to sail past his outstretched fingers. If Erling Haaland was anything at resembling a clinical finisher, we’d have gone into halftime down a goal. It’s a good thing for us that Haaland is little more than a blond Andy Carroll.

More seriously, there’s something to be concerned about regarding Raya’s struggles with these crosses. Neither the one from Gvardiol nor the one from Willock was all that difficult; in both cases, Raya should have had plenty of time to position himself properly, judge the trajectory of the ball, and punch clear if not claim the ball outright. That we very nearly got punished for his failure to deal with the cross against Man City is one thing. Getting punished for it against Newcastle is another. Each side is a contender for a top-four spot if not the top-spot. What does this frailty suggest against weaker sides whose attacks will consist of crosses whipped in with greater frequency?

It’s not as if Man City depend on crosses into Haaland to score. It’s possible that a Newcastle side deprived of Isak and Tonali among others would turn to that hoof-and-hope approach. If Raya can’t contend with gently floated balls inside the six, it’s only a matter of time before the likes of Wolves or Fulham or even Man U try to exploit this soft underbelly.

This is not what we paid for when we loaned Raya in.

The ostensible idea was that there would be competition at the one position at which competition was anathema. No club keeps two keepers capable of starting at just about any club in the league, or so tradition tells us. Arteta boldly went where no club has gone before in signing Raya, but the results have been decidedly mixed. Say what you will about Ramsdale’s performance against West Ham; it would be harsh indeed to fault him for any of the three goals we conceded.

Say what you will about Raya’s superiority on paper. By that standard, he’s clearly the better keeper. However, he’s hardly blown anyone away by his performances on the pitch. If anything, he deserves to be benched even if his replacement is Almunia-esque or Fabianski-ish (or would it be Almunia-ish or Fabianski-esque?).

Whatever the case may be, we have a selection-dilemma that feels just a bit too obvious. Competition for a starting spot is supposed to bring out the best in every player. Let it bring out the best in Raya and Ramsdale as well.

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6 thoughts on “What the hell is wrong with Raya? Ramsdale would like a word…

  1. Danjumadandado2

    Arteta is always right (Boxersque in Animal Farm by George Orwell). Add to the mix Vieri whose physical attributes amount to little, motoring ability none existent and virtuoso zilch. I dare say none of the other 19 EPL teams will have him on their roster. Make a brief mention of Raya whose criterion of been the preferred No.1 goal keeper is the fact that he is Spanish. Discountenance the bed time story about ability to play with his feet. He is a good 3 inches shorter than Ramsdale. And in that position, height is of the essence. Round up with Kai, and it gets curiouser. Only the one with the crystal ball, with the ‘third eye’, sees what is obviously not there. But then, Arteta is always right.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      I get your point but suspect you’re overstating things. By most metrics, Raya still is the superior keeper, and I see no evidence that Arteta favours him simply because they are both Spaniards. Raya’s aerial struggles are a concern, but it starts to sound a bit like tinfoli-tatted conspiracies to cast such aspersions. If Arteta sticks with Raya for Wednesday’s clash with Sevilla, we’ll have to at least consider warming the tar and plucking the feathers if not sharpening the pitchforks.

  2. Press Box Gooner

    Interesting image you’ve used Jon. Check out where Joelinton’s hands (note the plural) are on Gabriel’s back/neck. That in my book is a push/shove aka a foul and the goal should not have stood. Forget the ball out of play or possibility of offside – those issues could not be be determined – this could. The VAR official bottled it. As he did the assault on Jorginho. Similarly, I would not have had too many complaints had Havertz been sent off. Had that have been Granit Zhaka, i reckon he would have been. Incompetent officiating all round. As for the goalkeeping scenario – I question the decisions by the specialist coach. IMO Ramsdale has been hard done by and. accepting he is a bellend, the best goalkeeper Arsenal has had since Lehmann was allowed to go to Aston Villa.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Oh, I was quite deliberate with the screenshot, making sure that Joelinton’s hands fit in the frame. Of the four possible offenses (out of bounds, handball, shove, offside), this is the clearest. He has both hands extending into Gabriel’s shoulders and head. Gary Neville would have us believe that Gabriel was stooping down anyway and any “help” from Joelinton was incidental and beside the point. Attwell has a shite record when it comes to officiating our matches. If Havertz’s clumsy tackle (when there was at least an attempt at the ball) was worth a booking, then surely Guimaraes’s forearm/elbow to Jorginho’s head after the ball was long gone should have been a straight red. Shocking all around. Still, we have only ourselves to blame for failing to create not to mention convert more chances. You don’t win many matches when you don’t score.

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