David Raya’s £40m transfer decision should be clear-cut amid Arsenal and Bayern Munich interest
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As transfer sagas go, David Raya’s is slowly becoming one of the more awkward in the Premier League. Brentford have already signed his explicit replacement, the clubs expected to buy him back in June – Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – have turned elsewhere, and there seems to be no budging on his £40m price tag regardless of whether anyone is willing to pay it. The Spaniard probably just wants this all sorted by now.
Bayern Munich are keen on securing his services but so far have only offered to take him on loan – a proposal promptly rejected by the Bees. And now Arsenal have unexpectedly entered the race, with fresh reports suggesting that they want Raya to compete with established number one Aaron Ramsdale.
But where should the Spanish stopper go, given the choice? Which landing spot makes the most sense for a player that Thomas Frank recently described as one of the top four goalkeepers in the Premier League? Let’s take a look at the main options and see how Raya would settle in.
Arsenal’s interest has come from quite a long way out of leftfield. Fans and pundits have lavished praise on Ramsdale’s performances for the last few seasons and he seemed like a solid and settle first choice at the Emirates – so to find out that Arsenal are looking at another big-name goalkeeper makes very little sense at first glance.
Early reports have head coach Mikel Arteta wanting some competition for Ramsdale, but you don’t spend up to £40m on an established international goalkeeper to sit them on the bench, do you? Realistically, then, it looks like Arteta isn’t quite so content with the England goalie after all – and one would imagine Ramsdale himself isn’t too chuffed with the content of the morning newspapers.
Equally, it’s hard to imagine that Raya is salivating at the prospect of entering a two-horse race for a starting berth he should have nailed down at any club he goes to. He’s the first choice for Spain, so why should he be willing to risk being a benchrider elsewhere? On the other hand, he statistically outperformed Ramsdale by a fairly comfortable margin last season by almost every metric – so maybe he fancies it as a competition he would win.
If he does back himself to establish himself as number one, he’d get to be a part of a team whose positional game should suit him – Arsenal press but don’t send their defensive line too far up the field, good news for a goalie who isn’t a true sweeper-keeper. Whether their preferred passing model would work for Raya is a different question, however. He typically looks for long balls while Arteta clearly preferred Ramsdale to knock the ball short, and Raya attempted more than three times as many long passes as the Englishman last season at a substantially higher completion rate. Their short passing numbers are pretty similar, however, so this may just be a case of someone perfectly capable of doing everything Ramsdale can do but adding a little something extra on top.
They can also offer Champions League football and a reasonable shot at silverware, and a place at a club which seems to be on the up. But whether that’s enough to make the move worthwhile when there’s a real risk of missing most of the available minutes is pretty debatable.
By contrast, Raya would certainly be the first choice at Bayern, who are keen to let Jürgen Sommer move on to Inter Milan – and while Arsenal can offer a chance of challenging for trophies, all Bayern Munich signings are provided with an easy-to-install home trophy cabinet as part of their signing-on fee. If a medal collection appeals to Raya’s sensibilities, there really isn’t much of a debate here.
Tactically, however, things are a little more nuanced. Thomas Tuchel continues to play with a very high line as part of an aggressive counter-press, and that’s not something Raya has played in before. While his distribution has improved immensely since his days at Blackburn Rovers, he still isn’t especially comfortable with the ball at his feet and sweeping out to mop up through balls and spring quick passes isn’t a part of his natural game – but it is something that Tuchel will demand.
On the other hand, with a game built around rapid counter-attacks, Raya’s superb long-range distribution will be a big bonus for the Bavarian side. The Spaniard completes nearly 40% of high long balls, which is extremely high, and would allow them to get the ball to the front line even more efficiently.
The 3AM Verdict
Honestly – it’s impossible to argue against a move to Bayern, at least from Raya’s perspective. He’s all but guaranteed to win at least a few tin cups along the way and while there would be more emphasis on his ball control and sweeping skills, having to work on that seems a small price to pay for the benefits.
The real question is why Arsenal, who still have needs elsewhere on the field if they want to reach competitive parity with Manchester City, would spend up to £40m on a goalkeeper when they already have one. Is Raya better? Based on last season’s numbers – yes, in every way. But Ramsdale is still a fine ‘keeper, and it seems like an oddity that they would funnel that cash to the spot between the sticks rather than on, say, a holding midfielder or a striker. But then maybe Arteta simply doesn’t rate his current stopper as highly as we do.
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Either way, one thing is clear – Raya can’t really stay at Brentford at this point. Frank has promised the number one role to new man Mark Flekken, and he’s been taking most of the reps during pre-season friendlies. Raya’s time at the Brentford Community Stadium is done, and he’ll be turning a new leaf over somewhere. He should probably hope that it’s in Germany.