The clubs that could save Aaron Ramsdale's Euro 2024 hopes - including Chelsea
Aaron Ramsdale's England place could be under threat - but should he leave Arsenal, and if so, where should he go?
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Aaron Ramsdale is a worried man, and he's right to be. Since David Raya first took up the gloves at the Emirates, there has been no sign of the rotation system that Mikel Arteta appeared to promise, and now England manager Gareth Southgate has acknowledged that if he doesn't get some minutes soon, then his place in the squad for Euro 2024 is under threat.
Speaking about his selection for the final qualification matches against Malta and North Macedonia, Southgate said of Ramsdale that "there is a reality as a keeper, if we get to March and he's six months without playing regularly, then I'm never going to promise things that I couldn't guarantee delivering." It doesn't take an especially perceptive person to spot the hint.
That Ramsdale should find himself stuck on the bench after a fine season for Arsenal last year remains surprising, and the former Bournemouth and Sheffield United goalkeeper is probably just as nonplussed as everyone else, even if he has been entirely professional about the entire affair so far. But there is plenty of speculation that Ramsdale could seek a move in January if the situation doesn't change - speculation he has recently fuelled himself.
"I need to get back into my club team to keep getting picked [for his country] and keep giving the manager a headache," he said. Asked if the situation was a worry, he added: "It is. It is the first time I have found myself in this situation."
Not quite a come-and-get-me plea, admittedly, but still a rare public statement of concern and perhaps frustration. The question increasingly seems to be less over whether he wants to leave than where he can realistically go. Barring injuries, few teams are in the market for a goalkeeper in the middle of the season - but we've pulled together a list of possibilities to see what the best fit would be if Ramsdale does decide to force his way out of the Emirates in the new year.
The club most persistently linked with a move, the gossip columns have routinely linked the Blues with a transfer bid for their cross-capital rivals' former number one, either on loan or on a permanent deal worth up to £50m. Whether there ends up being any truth to those reports largely depends on how Mauricio Pochettino feels about Robert Sánchez's performances.
The former Brighton & Hove Albion 'keeper has done decently well since arriving at Stamford Bridge as a replacement for Kepa Arrizabalaga, although it would be a stretch to say he's been astonishing - by xG, he's prevented one less goal than he should have done, although his save percentage of 72.5% is better than all but five rival goalkeepers - and Ramsdale isn't one of them.
All of which said, if Clearlake Capital do decide to bring Ramsdale in to replace their current Spanish stopper, then there's little question that Ramsdale should take it, given that regular first-team football at Arsenal does not seem like an imminent prospect.
Brentford replaced Raya with Mark Flekken over the summer, but the Dutchman has not found it easy going in the Premier League so far - his save percentage of 66.7% is some way below his predecessor's numbers and he has conceded four goals more than he "should" have, based on xG. Only Bournemouth Ionuț Radu has worse numbers in that regard.
Thomas Frank is not a reactionary head coach and there's no reason to believe that they are urgently on the hunt for a replacement, but outside of Chelsea they're probably the best-placed team who could have a need for a new goalkeeper - based on the raw data, you can make arguments for Bournemouth and Burnley, too, but it's questionable whether Ramsdale would want to dive into another relegation battle given that he's already lost two in his career.
It doesn't necessarily look likely that Brentford want to manufacture what would amount to a thoroughly convoluted swap deal for Ramsdale, but it's scarcely impossible that Ramsdale's agent might be able to do a little gentle arm-twisting. Arsenal's apparent interest in Bees striker Ivan Toney is also worth noting, with a Ramsdale plus cash deal for the Gunners far from an absurd proposal to either party.
Brentford would certainly make some sense as a destination, at least on loan, so we're putting the Bees down as a not-entirely-insensible wildcard destination.
An admittedly left-field option, but Manchester United could well be in rather dire need of a goalkeeper to cover for André Onana during the Africa Cup of Nations, which starts in January. There have already been rumours of a temporary return for David de Gea, so why not a loan move for Ramsdale?
Well, a few reasons, let's be fair - starting with the rivalry between the two sides, the likelihood that Ramsdale wants more from a move than a few games followed by a chance of being sent straight back to the bench, and the fact that Onana has been playing much better of late following a wobbly start, which could make Erik ten Hag and the Old Trafford higher-ups a little less jittery about one of their star summer signings. But stranger things have happened, especially when United is involved, and it would probably beat a return to Bournemouth...
Staying at Arsenal
This may be less of an option and more of a necessity in the end, but of course Ramsdale could try to force his way back into Arteta's plans instead of making a move away from the club. Would that work out for him though, if Arteta doesn't keep to his word and give Ramsdale a chance to rotate back in later in the season?
Raya has come under some criticism recently for his positioning at crosses, which cost Arsenal dearly in the 2-2 draw with Chelsea, when Mykhaylo Mudryk's accidental shot sailed over his head, and in the 1-0 defeat to Newcastle United when he found himself flapping at the ball which eventually found its way in via Anthony Gordon and one of the more controversial and convoluted VAR checks of the campaign so far.
But while Raya may not have completely convinced everyone, his underlying number are undeniably better than Ramsdale's - his save percentage this season is 72.2%, while Ramsdale's 55.6% is the worst in the division. Raya has slightly overperformed against xG, Ramsdale has underdelivered. Raya also, ironically given the complaints, has the highest percentage of crosses prevented in the entire league, with a towering 16.9%. Perhaps he knows what he's doing with those near-post starting positions after all.
One piece of good news for Ramsdale is that he will certainly get at least one game in after the international break - Premier League rules prevent Raya from playing against his parent club, and Arsenal's next fixture is away to Brentford. Perhaps if Ramsdale plays really well against the Bees, he can force Arteta to keep his promise about rotation after all...