David Raya or Aaron Ramsdale: who should be Arsenal’s number one?
Let’s compare the two contenders across several attributes:
As most modern managers do, Arteta is fond of a goalkeeper who can distribute accurately as they look to build out from the back. As the gaffer displayed in Arsenal’s 1-0 victory against Manchester City, he used the goalkeeper to draw in the Cityzens’ press, before releasing the ball to a free midfielder.
Ramsdale is better and more accustomed to passes with a longer range, as he looks to find wingers or attacking midfielders. However, the Englishman is yet to misplace a short or medium pass this season. However, his long-range passing has shown to be a little weaker this season, as he has a 44.7% completion rate, however, this stat will naturally be skewed due to the lack of presence in the air from wingers Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka.
Similarly, Raya is also yet to misplace a short or medium pass and trumps Ramsdale with his 49.4% long-range completion rate. However, down to Arteta’s orders, Raya is riskier with his passing, as hJulián Álvarez and Cole Palmer have notably caught him outin dangerous positions. His short passing is arguably technically worse than Ramsdale’s, and he often doesn’t appear to be in full control when pressed.
Away from the data, using the eye test, fans can see just how good Ramsdale is with his distribution, and his ability to pick out that killer ball is just something that Raya hasn’t shown. However, there is some nostalgia in seeing a beautiful Ramsdale pass before watching the keeper turn around and taunt the opposition fans, and this nostalgia will taint our memory of just how good the man is. Although Raya isn’t as flashy as Ramsdale, his distribution is just as good, and if not better than the previously established No. 1.
With Arsenal’s high line in possession, the risk of facing a one-on-one is much higher than most other teams. One time Arsenal have been caught backtracking this season was when Casemiro’s pass was threaded through the lines to youngster, Alejandro Garnacho, who slotted it past the goalkeeper.
When speaking to Alexander from ‘The Different Knock’ (@DiffKnock) goalkeeping expert, John Harrison (@Jhdharrison1) explained that Ramsdale’s positioning at this moment was poor, and he could have done better to eliminate the possibility of a goal. However this is largely down to inexperience at just 25 years of age, and his clutch save against Sporting CP to deny Marcus Edwards last season is an example of his potential in this area. The keeper hesitates instead of rushing out to the former Spurs man so he can narrowly close the gap on the attacker and nullify the threat he holds.
Raya has improved in his ability when one-on-one with attackers in the last few seasons, but he fails to offer the presence that the world-class one-on-one goalkeepers emit. His height fails him in this aspect sometimes, as he is naturally a smaller obstacle for the attacker and that has cost him when trying to rush out. When he commits to meeting the attacker, the opportunity for the ball carrier to go around him is enticing due to his size.
Due to this, Raya is forced to be technically adequate about his movements, but fans are already seeing glimpses of his improvement in his timing, positioning and decision-making when faced with these situations.
Both keepers have incredible reflexes and have saved their respective teams on multiple occasions. For the Englishman, his incredible reflexes against Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Leeds last season arguably won Arsenal the respective games. For the Spaniard, during his time in north London, the amazing save to deny Brennan Johnson in the derby was a magnificent showing of his ability.
At 6″0′ (Raya) and 6″1′ (Ramsdale) respectively, both goalkeepers have a relatively low centre of gravity and they can both get low to the ground quickly and comfortably, a trait which has caused issues for the likes of André Onana.
Although fitting the profile of a ‘sweeper keeper’, Ramsdale stays relatively deep for someone of his skillset. This will undoubtedly be a tactical request by Arteta but even before moving to the Emirates, Ramsdale has always been more conserved in his approach. In possession, he will often allow the two centre-backs in front of him to play the ball, while he is only used if put under a heavy press by the opposition. Out of possession, Ramsdale also puts his trust in his defenders to recover effectively and very rarely comes out to claim the ball high up the pitch.
Dissimilarly, Raya loves venturing out of his box to win unclaimed balls and he contests aerial duels with the utmost confidence. However, once he wins the duels, it would be very uncharacteristic for the former Bee to attempt a dribble or retain possession for a prolonged period afterwards.
Raya is more of a sweeper than Ramsdale, but not necessarily better with his positioning.
What is next for the Arsenal keepers?
With Ramsdale yet to make an appearance in the Champions League, it does not seem that Arteta would be willing to rotate keepers for European competitions. However, in domestic competitions, Ramsdale faced Raya’s former side, Brentford in the Carabao Cup. Arsenal face London rivals, West Ham at the London Stadium in the next round of this competition, which could see Ramsdale start once again.
However, Raya being on loan could be a wildcard for Mikel Arteta. If he concludes that he still prefers Ramsdale, he would simply not choose to extend Raya’s contract. This does look unlikely though due to Arteta, and goalkeeper coach, Iñaki Caña’s, fondness for their fellow Spaniard.
After Ramsdale was displaced from the starting lineup, reports emerged that there’s a possibility that the goalkeeper could make a surprise move to London rivals, Chelsea. However, if the goalkeeper were to move on from the Gunners, the most likely event would be for Ramsdale to wait until the summer to evaluate his offers.