Five new players featured in Mikel Arteta’s starting lineup against Norwich and if fans were hoping for a vastly different looking Arsenal from the 5-0 drubbing at Manchester City they at least got what they were after visually.
On the pitch there was an improvement, too. Not a great deal, we hasten to add, since a lack of conversion and failure to carve open the gluttony of clear cut chances remained prevalent. But it was different.
Certainly with the personnel.
Of all the alterations to the starting lineup none stood out more than Aaron Ramsdale despite him being the least involved of all the new arrivals to feature on the day.
4 reasons Aaron Ramsdale should keep him place in goal for Arsenal when Mikel Arteta’s side play Burnley in the Premier League
Bernd Leno hadn’t done much wrong up until this point. His performance against Brentford was poor, no doubt, and he did misjudge the flight of the ball for City’s opener, but equally he was fouled for the Bees’ second goal and Calum Chambers ineptitude meant Ilkay Gundogan was winning that header regardless.
Being dropped for matchweek four, the German could have felt somewhat hard done by.
Spending £24m on a backup goalkeeper to sit and watch the 29-year-old all season long would have been a mistake; a poor distribution of resources when other areas of the squad needing tending to.
But there has been a change of plan. Initially set for a gradual integration, Arteta has made the transition now. It’s Ramsdale’s shirt to lose. And in doing so, the outlay is more justified even if two games don’t erase the significance of the fee or confirm that Ramsdale is a goalkeeper who can turn the needle for Arsenal.
Prior to his signing he wasn’t considered an upgrade on Leno and matches against West Brom and Norwich aren’t enough to confirm otherwise. But now looking set in stone to be the number one, we can move forward.
After the decision has been made, it’s one Arsenal shouldn’t look back on. Here is why Ramsdale should keep his spot, with no mention of his actual ability as stating so is speculative. We don’t know truly how good he is yet.
1. His Communication With the Arsenal Defence
Leaving the Etihad Stadium arguably as the best player in red and white, Leno made a string of strong stops to prevent the Citizens making sausages out of Arsenal: they were already mincemeat.
Dotted around those saves, however, was a clearly fractured defence.
Leno doesn’t assume responsibility for the actions of Cedric, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers or Sead Kolasinac, but he does have some role to play in how they were organised. Perhaps it’s being too harsh on a woeful set of performances from Arsenal’s second string defence and a disservice on City’s belligerent forward play, but there was clear division throughout.
Nobody knew where to go, the distances they had to goal or where bodies were. It was a mess. Leno has to have a say in that inside the penalty box. He has the best view of the pitch.
Ramsdale, meanwhile, doesn’t stay silent: he’s barking, reshuffling, informing and instructing for the whole 90 minutes. Seeing him line his wall up against Norwich and proceed to physically praise his defenders for their role in stopping the free-kick, such interactions go a long way to unifying a group and instilling confidence and security.
Arteta singled out his energy and chemistry. That deep northern voice transmitted a calming feeling among his teammates. While that’s nothing to do with ability, it can have just as much of an impact in building harmony and trust. It’s a clean sheet to build on now.
Leno tends to go quiet. Ramsdale doesn’t know the word.
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