Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Ramsdale recall …

Morning all.

Arsenal will train at London Colney this morning before travelling to Seville for our Champions League tie tomorrow night. It’s a fairly short turnaround from Saturday evening to Tuesday night, but Mikel Arteta has a big squad at his disposal and I think we might see a few changes for this one. We can talk more about that tomorrow when we preview the game properly though.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, I was impressed by our subs on Saturday against Chelsea. Not specifically with the individual performances – although I thought Takehiro Tomiyasu was excellent and might well be pushing for a start at left-back in games to come – but just the quality we had to call on from the bench. We brought on Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah, Leandro Trossard and Kai Havertz too, while Thomas Partey and Reiss Nelson didn’t even get on. Not to mention the fact there was no place for Fabio Vieira in the squad at all, and I don’t think there’s an injury there (I stand to be corrected on that though).

A football squad is always a work in progress of some kind, and you can always point to certain positions that could be upgraded, but this is the kind of depth the manager has very publicly sought and it was useful against Chelsea. It should be useful against Sevilla too.

I wonder if he’s thinking about what to do with regards his goalkeepers for the Sevilla game. I still think the Mudryk goal was much more a fluke than goalkeeping error (despite the shrill bleating from a certain part of Sky’s commentary box), and in general I think David Raya has been fine since he arrived. But just that. Fine. Nothing special. For me, at least, he hasn’t come in and played so well that you just accept this guy is the number 1 now, and that’s it. He may well get to that level, but until he does the debate and discussion will continue.

Aaron Ramsdale wasn’t in the squad for Saturday’s game because he and his wife had a baby, congratulations to them – an extra special moment for them after what happened previously. I expect he’ll be back for tomorrow, and I would like to see him start this one. I think we all see that Raya is a bit more to the manager’s liking in terms of how he plays, and while Arteta has to think about the collective and the team, he also has to consider how he manages certain individuals. By bringing Raya in, he has made Ramsdale a special case, in some ways – and he very publicly stated this was going to be about having two good players in a key position. Which is fine, if you use two players, not so much if it’s just one guy.

The way Brighton use their keepers was cited as an example, and whether it’s right or wrong or something inbetween, both Jason Steele and Bart Verbruggen are involved. There seems to be a kind of pattern to it as well. Two games on, two games off, although Steele came in for this weekend’s game against Man City after his counterpart had played just one game previously. I don’t know if there are specific things about each keeper that makes Roberto de Zerbi choose one over the other for different opposition, but it does demonstrate this kind of rotation is possible.

Raya made a big mistake in the Chelsea game. Not the goal, but passing the ball straight to Cole Palmer – the kind of bad execution we saw from Ramsdale a couple of times last season. That early one against Southampton was perhaps a moment when Arteta started to think about the position in a way he hadn’t previously. Raya did well to recover on Saturday in that moment, and there was a very good save at the feet of a Chelsea player while it was still 2-0, but he hasn’t transmitted the kind of authority you would ideally want.

It could be a case that he’s still settling in. There’s also the argument that the high profile nature of the Ramsdale/Raya situation isn’t good for either keeper, that the spotlight = pressure and that manifests itself in games. I think there could be something to that, but what we don’t really know yet is how that has affected Ramsdale. We saw him play very well in the EFL Cup win over Brentford, but since the Everton game he’s had one start to Raya’s six.

Hence I would be inclined to start him tomorrow, to show that the door is still open. It’s probably not in the long-term, but in order to get the best out of him throughout this season, he has to at least feel like there’s some measure of opportunity for him to reclaim his place. And look, I know this is kind of armchair management/psychology, but isn’t that what we all do when talking about our teams and players etc?

Let’s see what happens.

We will, of course, have an Arsecast Extra for you a bit later on – but we’re not recording until the afternooon. Keep an eye out for the call for questions on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.

For now, take it easy.

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