Arsenal’s interest in Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale continues despite a failure between the clubs to agree on a fee, with Blades boss Slavisa Jokanovic confirming on Tuesday that the player wants to play in the Premier League.
The numbers behind the player provide a clue as to what Arsenal and Mikel Arteta are after and why they are willing to spend a serious figure on him.
Considering Arsenal’s need to improve a number of areas of the team, it is surprising to see the figures associated with the deal.
football.london understood that Arsenal were in advanced talks with Sheffield United to sign Ramsdale and that an upfront figure in the region of £24 million was talked about. However, it was Sheffield United wanting more that made the Gunners reconsider.
Bernd Leno, the club’s current starting goalkeeper, remains under contract with Arsenal until 2023. In July, it was reported that the German goalkeeper would be open to departing the club be it this summer or in a future window.
Ramsdale, at just 23 and with Premier League experience, would provide a long-term option to the club, in addition to being homegrown and an England international.
Yet, there were more than simple qualitative factors which provide an explanation for Arsenal’s interest in Ramsdale. With Edu wanting to take a more data-driven approach to player recruitment, it is important to investigate the statistics of Ramsdale and look for reasoning there.
It is necessary to put into context the situation of both keepers. Arsenal had the third best defence in the league last season, conceding just 39 goals, as Arteta shored up the Gunners’ backline. In contrast, Sheffield United finished bottom of the table, letting in 63, with Ramsdale between the sticks.
Playing for a club that battled before eventually succumbing to relegation, meant Ramsdale was under far more pressure and faced more shots than his German counterpart.
When looking at the expected goals conceded (xCG) Ramsdale finished the league season with 63.01. This meant that he conceded almost exactly the amount a keeper would be expected to let in based upon the percentage chance of a goal being scored from where the shots were taken.
Leno, meanwhile, conceded less but his xCG 36.65, slightly below the 37 goals he conceded throughout the campaign, shows very little superiority in shot-stopping.
For further context, arguably the best keeper in the league last season was former Arsenal man Emiliano Martinez – and the statistics support it. Martinez had an xCG of 55.72 but only conceded 46 for Aston Villa. Yes, another eye-roll moment for Arsenal fans to suffer in the wake of their 11-year employee’s departure.
Although, while the goalkeeping may be of a good standard for both Leno and Ramsdale according to the statistics, Arsenal will also have considered other key factors in deciding to try and sign him.
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When comparing the pair’s passing statistics, it reveals where the duo deviate in similarities. Of all the losses in Leno’s last campaign, 30.7% of them occurred in his own half. Comparatively, Ramsdale’s was just 22.9%.
Martinez was great for Villa and previously Arsenal at finding teammates with longer passes to bypass the press, something which Leno has struggled with due to a lack of quick decision-making.
An error against Burnley in March helped cost Arsenal a valuable goal and a repeat of the episode happened in the pre-season match against Watford.
While both times the receiving player was most culpable of the error once given possession, both opportunities could have been avoided had Leno assessed the situation faster and found a teammate with a lofted ball under much less pressure.
In contrast, Ramsdale’s long passing is more frequent and accurate than Leno’s. Last season Leno averaged 4.25 long passes per match with an accuracy of 64.2%. The Sheffield United man more than doubled the amount with 10.29 long passes and greater accuracy of 68.9%.
Breaking it down further, Leno will manage a pass into the final third less than once a game (0.94) whereas Ramsdale attempts more than four times the amount (4.4). The England international’s accuracy of 68.3% compared to Leno’s 34.3% speaks volumes as to why.
It is important to address the elephant in the room, however. Arsenal are a club that is coached by Arteta to play more frequently out from the back, whereas Sheffield United under Chris Wilder chose to go long more often up to their aerially adept forwards.
The transfer window is in full swing and things are beginning to ramp up with Edu and Mikel Arteta’s dealings at the Emirates.
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Naturally, this would explain the frequency of Ramsdale’s long kicking, however, the accuracy of those passes do not lie. Neither does the percentage frequency of balls lost in Leno’s own half compared to Ramsdale.
Arsenal clearly noticed the competency in Ramsdale’s distribution to make them push as hard as they did for the former Bournemouth man and twice Premier League player of the season for his respective clubs.
Now reportedly also on the lookout for alternatives, Arteta and Edu will certainly be assessing options of who falls into the category of players whose distribution upgrades on their existing choices.. Yet with mere weeks remaining, time is running out and options are few and far between.
Which goalkeeper would you sign for Arsenal? Follow our new Arsenal Fan Brands Writer Tom Canton to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.