In September, I wrote a piece affirming my belief that David Raya had been bought to displace Aaron Ramsdale as Arsenal’s number 1, regardless of all of the speak of potential goalkeeper rotation and competitors (dialog largely pushed by Mikel Arteta). On the danger of sounding smug (!) I now really feel vindicated in that view. Since I wrote that piece, Raya has began each Premier League sport that he has been obtainable for.
A mooted Champions League / Premier League rotation mannequin didn’t come to go both, Ramsdale solely began the useless rubber away at PSV on match day six. In that piece from September, I drew a comparability to the way in which that Ramsdale was bought to improve on Bernd Leno in the summertime of 2021. I’ll begin by saying that I feel Leno was a a lot clearer level of improve in the summertime of 2021 than Ramsdale was in the summertime of 2023.
Arsenal awarded Ramsdale a brand new contract final Could so that they clearly felt that method too, that they might iron out any weaknesses or frustrations they felt with Ramsdale’s skillset. Nonetheless, Ramsdale’s signing in 2021 drew loads of raised eyebrows, he was not a very extremely rated goalkeeper when the Gunners determined to half with £32m to purchase him. However he shortly received the group over with each his performances and the connection he cast with supporters (and, by extension, his penchant for ‘connecting’ with opposition supporters).
Very broadly, goalkeepers are inclined to both fall into the classes of fireside or ice as personalities and Ramsdale was very a lot on the fireplace finish of the spectrum. He as soon as stated he appreciated to ‘banter’ with opposing supporters as a method of motivation. This season, Arsenal have largely moved away from ‘fireplace’ of their total method and extra in the direction of ‘ice.’
Gone are the blistering begins and the rollercoaster matches. If final season was a drunken punch up at a marriage (good enjoyable as long as it’s not your wedding ceremony) this season is far more a case of every part in its proper place. The signing of David Raya in aim is in keeping with that method. Raya will not be prone to stick his tongue out on the opposing followers after a sequence of acrobatic saves.
I feel, nevertheless, Arteta’s considering is that Raya contributes to shot suppression along with his commanding capacity off his aim line and his extra developed sense of when to go lengthy and when to go brief. The ousting of Ramsdale in aim, understandably, raised lots of questions earlier within the season, not least as a result of lots of Raya’s qualities should not at all times instantly perceptible.
It’s the distinction between a tough tackling defensive midfielder and one whose quiet positional sense is harder to understand. Arsenal have sought to show down the emotional dial for a lot of this season and that’s tougher for followers to narrate to for causes which might be solely comprehensible. The goalkeeper is the closest participant to the group for essentially the most half and has the longest idle durations within the sport, it may be an emotional place.
Jens Lehmann made a list of howlers within the Arsenal aim throughout his tenure and misplaced his place as a starter a few instances however his, let’s assume ‘exuberant’ persona received him the love of the followers and, with it, a better tolerance for his foibles. When Almunia made an error, his pores and skin turned gray and he appeared like he wanted a cup of tea and a lie down. When Lehmann made a mistake, he appeared as if he was able to shoot laser beams from his eyes.
But it surely isn’t simply the truth that Raya is a barely extra indifferent buyer than Ramsdale, there have been difficult moments early in his tenure. He didn’t have a pre-season with the staff and at instances it actually confirmed. For a goalkeeper who performs like an eleventh outfield participant these relationships actually matter.
Undoubtedly, the leap from Blackburn to Brentford to Arsenal is an enormous one and the highlight is way harsher at Emirates Stadium than it’s a few miles southwest- particularly when everybody, your personal followers included, is scratching their heads at your presence. I feel there is a wonderful probability that Raya suffered a bit imposter syndrome within the early weeks and months of his time at Arsenal.
Whereas goalkeeping knowledge continues to be in its infancy, a look at his fundamental Brentford knowledge exhibits you why Arsenal have been twice satisfied to attempt to purchase Raya. Utilizing 2022-23 knowledge, his put up shot XG was +5.0 final season (put up shot XG mainly measures what number of photographs you save versus what number of you have been anticipated to avoid wasting so, put merely, Raya saved Brentford 5 objectives). Ramsdale’s was -2.0.
Raya additionally accomplished near 40% of his lengthy passes in comparison with Ramsdale’s 25.4%- nevertheless, this could include the very giant caveat that Brentford have Ivan Toney upfront to goal at. One of many key items of data- and one I feel we’re actually seeing come to life in current weeks- is Raya’s proactivity from his line. He claimed 8.7% of the crosses he confronted final season in comparison with Ramsdale’s 5.8%.
This season thus far, within the Premier League, Raya is claiming 15.3% of the crosses Arsenal face, nearly tripling Ramsdale’s quantity from final season. It’s not simply the claiming of excessive balls that’s essential however the pace with which he releases the ball for counter assaults. We noticed this most ably demonstrated along with his catch and toss pre help for Leandro Trossard in opposition to Crystal Palace not too long ago.
Saka’s early headed probability in opposition to Liverpool on Sunday emanated from Raya claiming a cross from his line and hurling the ball to Martinelli quarter-back style. This can be a ability Ramsdale has probably not proven as a part of his armoury. Raya has accomplished 74.9% of his passes this season thus far, Ramsdale accomplished 68.5% final season. As time attracts on and the pattern measurement will increase, it’s turning into more and more clear why Arteta thought of Raya to be an improve.
There’s a mushy issue part to this too. I feel, as time has drawn on, the dialog across the state of affairs has died down. That is each a mirrored image of the truth that everybody has had time to ‘come to phrases with’ Ramsdale’s relegation and the truth that Raya is trying more and more comfy and adjusted, making it much less of a speaking level.
I don’t suppose the irritation is solely vanquished. At half-time on Sunday I checked out my Twitter timeline shortly after Liverpool’s calamitous equaliser and was stunned to see the blame over the aim weighted much more closely in the direction of Raya than Saliba. Whereas each events bore duty, I feel a superb 80% of that blame belonged to Saliba.
I feel there might be a way of some supporters ready for Raya to make errors however that may diminish over time and, come the summer season, Ramsdale will most likely transfer on and so will the discourse. It actually took a while for Raya to seek out his toes, his arms and his head within the Arsenal aim however on Sunday I even noticed him geeing up the Clock Finish crowd in the course of the second half. He appeared to me like a goalkeeper who has stopped apologising for being a barely shock visitor at a cocktail party and who has began to make himself extra comfy.
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