Last working day of the year for most (shout out to all those in retail and hospitality who will be working whilst we are sitting having dinner and a glass of port with loved ones).
I am really not sure how this came up for discussion, but recently the WhatsApp group came alive with the idea of replacing Aaron Ramsdale.
It was baffling.
Now Ramsdale is not perfect. You probably would not class him in the top 10 keepers in the world. But that does not mean he is not the best choice for Arsenal.
Football is all about styles, and signing the right players to fit that style.
Some might think a goal keeper is not impacted by the teams style. Afterall, they just stop shots, come out for crosses and kick the ball. But these people would be wrong, and have failed to move with the times.
There are mainly two “styles” of keeper – the Line Keeper and the Sweeper Keeper.
A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke was the first time I realised how important the difference was.
Enke sadly took his own life back in 2009 and the book should be an important read for every football fan, and footballer.
In the book, Enke’s disastrous spell at Barcelona shows how important it is not get your keeper right.
Barcelona played with a high defensive line. The likes of Frank de Boer, Carlos Puyol and Michael Reiziger would defend the halfway line.
To do this, they needed a goal keeper whose starting position would be the edge of the box.
Someone who was quick off the line, and able to sweep up any balls over that top. Enke was not this. He was a “Line Keeper”.
A Line Keeper usually excels at shot stopping, eliminating threats from crosses and quickly recovers after blocking a shot. He rules the 6 yard box.
They tend to not be the quickest, are uncomfortable coming outside of the box, and rarely want the ball at their feet.
Whilst Enke was a better stopper than Roberto Bonano, the Argentine kept the German out of the team.
They then had Victor Valdes coming through.
Valdes was not the best keeper. He was actually average at shot stopping, at coming for crosses. Your traditional attributes needed to be a keeper. But he was brilliant as a sweeper keeper.
He loved being on the edge of the box, loved sprinting out to stop an attack, and was very comfortable on the ball.
Valdes and Enke were two very different keepers. And whenever Enke came in for Valdes he struggled.
Barcelona’s high line did not suit Enke’s style of play.
When he came out from his box, he looked uncomfortable. And when he stayed on his line, Barcelona became too easy to get in behind.
Enke’s first spell of depression came during his spell at Barcelona.
Back to Arsenal. Ramsdale is a Valdes regen.
He might make a few errors, and certainly does not save as many as we like, but he has an important role to play as sweeper keeper.
With Gabriel and William Saliba, we play a very high line. To do that we need someone like Ramsdale who will be quick out the box to shut down those attacks.
Likewise, our goal keeper becomes a 11th outfield player when we are passing the ball around the bach.
I have lost count of how often we have played deep, inviting the press, utilised Ramsdale and then launched a counter attack.
Alisson and Ederson are the two best in world at this. We are not signing either of them.
For me, Ramsdale is in a group of players who can be considered “best of the rest” – alongside the likes of Mike Maignon, David Raya, Geronimo Rulli and Manuel Neuer.
Names floated in the WhastApp group to replace Ramsdale were Gianluigi Donnarumma and Jan Oblak.
Both of these are world class goal keepers. Ramsdale is not.
But both are also Line Keepers, and would struggle at the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and Barcelona who rely on the keeper being involved in the buold up play. Who need the keeper to have a starting position at the edge of the box.
Oblak is a great example of having a keeper that is perfect for the style of play.
Atletico Madrid play very deep, defensive football. That means Oblak only really needs to be a shot stopper and deal with crosses. Two things he is excellent at.
Move Oblak to Barcelona, ask him to stand on the edge of the box, to cut out balls over the top and join the build up play, and he would flop. He would not be the keeper he currently is.
Same have also called for Edu to “get the cheque book out” and sign Serbia’s Vanja Milinković-Savić.
He is another who is a beast of a keeper that smothers anything that is in the 6-yard box. But no good coming off his line, outside his box.
The likes of Thibaut Courtois, Hugo Lloris and Petr Cech are other examples of Line Keepers. All great at their job, but all Bambi on ice when coming out of their box.
We all remember the bad old days of Bernd Leno who, whilst probably a better shop stopper than Ramsdale, looked like a deer in headlights when he had the ball at his feet.
Ramsdale is 24 and, importantly, home grown.
The only realistic man that could come in for him is AC Milan’s Mike Maignan. But he would not improve us enough to make the transfer worthwhile doing.
So whilst Ramsdale might have his flaws, the names you all mention to replace him also have flaws. And would struggle to play in Arteta’s system.
Ramsdale will be Arsenal’s number one for many years to come.