The Arsenal goalkeeping position remains Aaron Ramsdale’s to lose, according to Charles Watts, despite Mikel Arteta’s assertion that there would be “no number ones” at the club following the loan arrival of David Raya.
The Brentford stopper completed a loan move to the Emirates last week with a view to a permanent deal. The transfer has led to question marks over the long-term viability of Ramsdale as first-choice for last season’s Premier League runners-up.
Ramsdale retained his spot for Monday night’s hard-fought victory away at Crystal Palace, with Raya having to settle for a place on the bench. However, Watts warned that Ramsdale has got to ensure that his game remains error-free if he is going to stave off the Spaniard for his spot in the starting XI.
“He has to stay at his very top level to keep his place in the team,” Watts told TEAMtalk. “I’m not sure Arteta’s comments changed too much, but Aaron Ramsdale knows now that he can’t make many mistakes because if he does he’s got an excellent goalkeeper behind him.
“Ramsdale has a very strong personality and he’s got a very strong character and I don’t think Raya’s arrival will affect him too much.
“He’ll be up for the fight and he’ll be up for the challenge but he would have to be pretty mad not to be concerned by Raya’s arrival.
“As much as Mikel says there is no number one around now, he is number one at moment, he’s got the shirt. It’s up to David Raya to take it off him and so Ramsdale is in a strong position.”
Three assured starters named
Watts disputed that Arsenal have no number ones in their squad, with a clutch of Arsenal stars currently guaranteed starters.
“The comments were quite interesting because clearly they’re not true in a way because Arsenal do have number ones in that squad,” added Watts.
“If William Saliba is fit, he starts. If Bukayo Saka is fit, he starts. If Declan Rice is fit, he starts so there are number ones.
“I get what Mikel was talking about. It’s all about competition. That’s what he wants in his squad and that’s why a lot of his signings so far this summer are about adding competition to the squad, but there are clearly number ones in in the Arsenal squad.”
Raya threat can elevate Ramsdale
“Some people are having a go at Mikel Arteta for those comments saying: ‘What sort of confidence boost is that to Aaron Ramsdale?’ But Aaron is a big, big boy,” continued Watts.
“There’s nothing that Mikel Arteta says in public which is going to change his thinking and how he’s acting behind the scenes, he knows he’s in a challenge. He knows he’s in a fight. And he said it himself: ‘Bring it on’.
“And so I don’t think it’s going to necessarily worry Aaron what Mikel Arteta says in public. I think he already absolutely knows 100 percent that he’s in a fight for his place at Arsenal now.”
Watts has been impressed with how Raya has settled in, working under his compatriot Arteta, and expects the 27-year-old’s presence to elevate Ramsdale’s game to new heights.
“Raya was training with Arsenal before the transfer was announced,” Watts revealed. “They’re getting on really well by the looks of it and they’re bringing the best out of each other.
“There was a really interesting clip that Arsenal shared on social media last week of the training session between them, and it was amazing to watch the agility, the saves they were making, it was a real eye-opener into top level goalkeeping.
“Raya is very supportive of Aaron Ramsdale, as soon as joined he talked about the goalkeeping union. They’re going to drive each other forward. That’s the aim.
“Matt Turner said when he left Arsenal the few times that he played, and thought he played well, the next game Ramsdale came back in and took his game to a whole new level. I think that’s what this signing is about. It’s about trying to take Arsenal’s game to a whole new level.
“If Ramsdale can go to another level, then that’s fantastic. And if he doesn’t, if he starts to make mistakes, and they’ve got a goalkeeper who can come in, who could possibly get to that level himself, so it’s a win win for Arsenal in many regards.”
Raya chances could come in Champions League
Raya will initially have to bide his time and await opportunities in the Arsenal goal, according to Watts, and the Spaniard must make the most of his chances when they come.
“Champions League is a little bit different from the Europa League, it’s not quite so easy to rotate,” said Watts. “But Mikel Arteta wouldn’t be worried about playing Raya in the Champions League.
“I think if you were playing Matt Turner, with all due respect, you would, you would be a little bit concerned because there is clearly a big difference in quality.
“He will get games no doubt about it and then it’s down to him to perform in those games.”