Major Changes in the Arsenal Goalkeeping Union
Apparently, the Arsenal Goalkeeping Union is a real thing – composed of the No. 1 guy, Aaron Ramsdale, and his deputy, Matt Turner. Then there are the youngsters, Karl Hein and Arthur Okonkwo, as well as the failed Inaki Cana recommendation, Alex Runar Runarsson.
In terms of appearances last season, Ramsdale expectedly featured the most, playing in all 38 Premier League matches, as well as three games in the Europa League, which included the penalty shootout heartbreak suffered in the hands of the team that knocked Arsenal out, Sporting CP. Matt Turner, who was signed as a backup replacement for Bernd Leno, played two FA Cup games and five games in the Europa League. Karl Hein made his Arsenal debut in the 3-1 home loss to Brighton in the Carabao Cup. Arthur Okonkwo had two loan spells with a move to Crewe Alexandra last summer where he made 23 appearances, then he moved again the winter transfer window abroad to Sturm Graz playing 15 Austrian Bundesliga games, as well as the Austrian Cup Final against Rapid Vienna, that saw the youngster win his first piece of silverware. Runarsson also spent the entirety of last season abroad, playing 30 times for Alanyaspor in the Turkish League.
Arsenal had done their fair share of recruitments this summer and seemed content to go into the Premier League campaign with the squad they had, while working out some potential departures, but Nottingham Forest’s interest in Turner coincided with Arsenal’s 2020 summer goalkeeping target, David Raya, available for a sale, following his refusal to extend his contract with Brentford. Raya was one of Mikel Arteta’s earliest targets when he took over from Unai Emery, but Arsenal couldn’t reach an agreement with Brentford for his goalkeeping services.
Fast forward to the summer of 2023, and it has been reported that Arsenal and Brentford have reached an agreement of £30m to sign the Spanish goalie. With Arsenal selling Turner for £10m at pretty much the same time, Arteta is getting a goalkeeping asset that has over nine years’ experience of English football, with 108 appearances for Blackburn and 161 appearances for Brentford. Raya is arriving at Arsenal to provide direct competition to Ramsdale, and his reaction was really good,
“Bring it on. Nothing comes easy in football. But also at the same time you need to move along and adapt as well. I’ve done it to other people when I’ve moved to clubs. I’m not going to be thinking that it’s never going to happen to me.
So, yeah, I think if it happens, it happens and then we’ll fight and we’ll make each other the best version of ourselves because that’s what the manager is telling us as well.
I’m sure whoever plays, me, Matt, whoever comes in, the goalkeeping union … and people will laugh at that but it’s a real thing … your individual disappointment will go away and you’ll put the team first and you’ll put that goalkeeper first as well.”
There will certainly be no ‘Matt’, with Arsenal making the announcement that Turner has joined Nottingham Forest and in a strange twist of fate, Turner’s debut for his new club can be as soon as this Saturday against Arsenal in a place he once called home. I trust him to invoke the spirits of previous ex-Arsenal goalies that tend to put up five-star performances when they visit the ground they once played. Bernd Leno was a thorn in our flesh when Fulham came to town last season, Emiliano Martinez has had his fair share of stormers against us, and Lukasz Fabianski has put up some blinders in the course of his West Ham career when playing Arsenal.
With Nottingham Forest still interested in signing Dean Henderson from Manchester United, Turner might not be a first-teamer after all, but at the moment, he’s clearly ahead of the injured veteran, Wayne Hennessey, and his countryman, Ethan Hovarth. We didn’t get to watch him on a consistent basis, but I wish him all the best with Nottingham Forest. Turner is well renowned for his shot stopping skills and athleticism, and like Henderson, he has a very good penalty saving record.
Coming back to Arsenal, the Raya vs. Ramsdale duel will be one for the ages because it has been a very long time since I’ve seen a club with two top goalkeeping personnel equally adept playing as No. 1s in the Premier League and Champions League. The last time I witnessed such was at Chelsea with Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois, but the Belgian goalie left for Atletico Madrid and honed his craft to become one of the best goalkeepers in the game. On his return to Chelsea, he was deemed better than Cech, and the legendary helmet wearing goalkeeper couldn’t play second fiddle and agitated a move that saw him join Arsenal before hanging his gloves.
Both Ramsdale and Raya are excellent shot stoppers, very good with the ball at their feet, but Raya edges out Ramsdale in his command of area, but if you want to be honest, Raya’s overall stats are expected to be better than Ramsdale, with Arsenal having a better defense than Brentford.
Raya put up some monster numbers last season for Brentford, helping them to their mid-table finish with some breathtaking goalkeeping displays. He was first in the Premier League last season for saves (154), first for saves from outside the box (64), first for touches (1,550), first for long passes completed (410) and second for crosses caught (50), garnering 12 clean sheets along the way.
In direct comparison with Ramsdale, Raya faced 205 shots and conceded 43 goals while Ramsdale faced 138 shots and conceded 42. However, Ramsdale beat Raya to win the Best Goalkeeper award in the London Awards, as well as the Premier League Team of the Season.
Like Ramsdale, Raya is an excellent shot stopper, contains bags of bravery and can build up from the back. So Arteta will be signing a goalie that can offer just as much as Ramsdale in goal. However, Raya’s arrival will produce very stiff competition for Ramsdale and he would know that he’s one cock up away from being benched permanently, and at a club like Arsenal, the trend is quite scary – Leno came up as a backup to Petr Cech, Cech messed up, Leno stepped in. Ramsdale did the same to Leno, and he will be fully aware of how ruthless Arteta can be.
Ramsdale might have usurped Leno to be the No. 1 goalie at Arsenal, but he would know that he will need to improve massively with how he deals with crosses, his distribution, his command of area and sometimes, his one-on-one duels with opposition forwards.
Arsenal is certainly going to be a huge beneficiary of having these amazing goalkeeping talents in their ranks, but the onus is on the manager to keep them competitive and happy in terms of how he features them in the course of the season. Will they share games in all four competitions or will Arteta have a dedicated goalkeeper for the Premier League, while having another for the Champions League?
Whatever happens, the team comes first and I’m very elated Arsenal has gotten over the line in signing players this summer that have improved the overall quality of the squad.
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Posted on August 10, 2023, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Transfer Gossip and tagged Aaron Ramsdale, Arsenal, David Raya, Football, Matt Turner, Premier League. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.