Ramsdale’s error was because he’s low on confidence and game time – but he reacted brilliantly – The Athletic

By Matt PyzdrowskiMar 10, 2024

Just before half-time and with Arsenal holding on to a 1-0 lead over Brentford, Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale found the ball at his feet from Gabriel’s routine back pass.

With Yoane Wissa closing the space between them, Ramsdale put his head down, took his first touch away from the pressure, and looked to boot the ball upfield.

By the time he gained control of the ball again and swung his right leg back to strike the ball, Wissa had closed the distance, eliminating the time and space the Arsenal goalkeeper needed to play out.

As Ramsdale tried frantically to boot the ball upfield, Wissa slid in and deflected it into the back of the Arsenal net to equalise right before the half-time whistle, 1-1.

With so much discussion surrounding the Arsenal goalkeeper position this year, the most recent error by Ramsdale — playing against Brentford owing to Raya’s ineligibility against his parent club — will only intensify those conversations.

There will be some people who will say this shows Arteta was right to drop Ramsdale in favour of David Raya. Others will argue this is exactly what happens when you drain someone’s confidence. Then there’s the technical part of it all.

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I think Ramsdale would handle the Wissa situation with ease if he had been playing every week. When you look at his games and skill set from last year, it’s unquestionable that he has that ability in him. This mistake is probably largely down to the fact he’s low on confidence and hasn’t had consistent game time over the past months.

When Ramsdale takes his first touch to his right he has the option to play the ball to William Saliba out on the right but doesn’t seem to see him and looks determined to go long.

After he takes his first touch, his head is down and he doesn’t look up to see what options he has in front of him. A goalkeeper who is full of confidence and secure in himself doesn’t make this miscalculation and instead makes the easy pass to his centre-back.

Ramsdale looked distraught but reacted well (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

However, when you haven’t been playing recently, and there have been questions being raised about your ability, you naturally play with a level of stress and discomfort that can be difficult for the best of goalkeepers to handle. That alone can make it hard to do the most basic of things on a football pitch, like checking over your shoulder and scanning the field of the play in front of you, both of which he fails to do here. It’s an unfortunate result and it’s hard not to feel for Ramsdale.

I think it’s wrong to say that this one mistake proves Arteta was right to choose Raya over Ramsdale because it’s the type of mistake that nearly every goalkeeper has made at some point in their career, Raya included.

In Arsenal’s match against Manchester City in October, Raya almost made the exact same mistake, and frankly he was lucky not to be punished.

When Raya received the ball from Gabriel, like Ramsdale he also took his first touch across his body and looked to play the ball out the other side.

Similarly, when he put his head down and swung his leg back to kick the ball away, City’s attacker Julien Alvarez quickly closed him down and blocked the ball right in front of goal.

Luckily for Raya, the ball rifled past the outside of his post and out for a goal kick. Had the ball taken just a slightly different path, the outcome could have been the same.

Let’s not forget that, in the lead-up to the City game, there were questions being asked of Raya in goal and whether or not Arteta was correct to drop an in-form Ramsdale. Up to that point, Raya had struggled for confidence and been unconvincing in goal for Arsenal after arriving from Brentford in the summer, and another shaky match against City only intensified those questions.

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Luckily for Raya, Arsenal won 1-0 at the Emirates, giving the goalkeeper another game to right his wrongs, which he would gradually go on to do to lock down the No 1 jersey for Arsenal. Had things been different and the ball bounced another way against City, the entire narrative around the goalkeeper debate could have been shifted at a crucial time in Arsenal’s season.

Yet both Ramsdale’s error against Arsenal and Raya’s against City occurred not due to a technical flaw but because of an error in judgment in a moment of crisis when the pressure was closing in. The difference was Ramsdale was punished and Raya narrowly escaped.

A different bounce of the ball in each moment could have altered the outcome significantly and changed the entire narrative around each game. This weekend, it happened to be Ramsdale who paid the price.

Ramsdale atoned for his error in the second half with two big saves. The first stopped Ivan Toney scoring from 40 yards and the second saw him deny Nathan Collins’ header when it looked as though the Brentford defender had made it 2-1.

Considering the error that happened earlier, these stops are much more impressive. Ramsdale deserves an immense amount of credit for putting the mistake behind him and moving on. It’s not something that just any goalkeeper could do.

Ramsdale’s saves turned out to be incredibly important as Kai Havertz scored the winning goal in the 86th minute. At full time, Ramsdale’s team-mates were quick to rally around the goalkeeper and show their appreciation. In the middle of those celebrations was Arteta, who raced onto the pitch to energetically embrace his goalkeeper.

Arteta inevitably had to face questions about Ramsdale and he was clearly very pleased with how his goalkeeper responded to his first-half mistake.

“That’s the courage that Aaron has, that’s his personality,” the Spaniard told Sky Sports. “Mistakes are part of football, it is how you react to that and he did that.

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“I’m so happy for him and I’m so happy that we won the game.”

With Raya Arsenal’s first choice, it’s possible we won’t see Ramsdale play for the club again this season — or at all. If that is the case, at least his error was followed by some great saves and a win that saw his team go top of the Premier League table.

(Top image: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

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Matt Pyzdrowski is a coach and former goalkeeper who played in the United States and Sweden. He serves as a goalkeeping analyst for The Athletic. Follow Matt on Twitter @MattPyzdrowski

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