Arsenal goalkeeper talks to ESPN

The combination of youthful exuberance, freedom of expression and sudden high quality that has propelled Arsenal into the Premier League title race is arguably greatest epitomised by goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.

As the 24-year-old collected his Goalkeeper of the Year prize on the London Football Awards final week, it was straightforward to neglect he confronted important opposition from throughout the Gunners fanbase after his £24 million arrival from Sheffield United in the summertime of 2021. Those supporters, sceptical over his high quality after he had twice been relegated from English soccer’s high flight in a fledgling profession, now view him as a cult hero, primarily by the consistency of his performances but in addition by exhibiting a energy of character Arsenal have lacked in recent times.

Ramsdale is commonly a blur of exercise on the pitch: racing off his line to snuff out hazard or searching for to begin assaults with fast and courageous distribution, all whereas participating with supporters midmatch, to the delight of Arsenal followers and the chagrin of the remaining.

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, extra (U.S.)

There was a second in January, nevertheless, when this badinage turned bitter. After the Gunners had received 2-0 at their north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, Ramsdale kissed his membership badge and caught his tongue out at rival supporters earlier than reaching to accumulate his water bottle. It is exactly the form of interplay that endears him to Arsenal followers however one Spurs supporter was sufficiently agitated to run down from the stand, climb an promoting hoarding and kick Ramsdale within the again, sparking a melee involving a number of gamers from either side.

The Tottenham fan in query, 35-year-old Joseph Watts, later admitted assault by beating at Uxbridge Magistrates Court and was banned from attending soccer matches for 4 years, handed a 12-month neighborhood order and made to pay £100 in compensation to Ramsdale. Although Ramsdale was unharmed, that incident challenged the belief that the pitch is at all times a protected area.

The Professional Footballers Association subsequently famous in an announcement that “absolutely nothing that happens on the pitch justifies a spectator entering the field of play or attacking a player.” Although absolved from any accountability, it might need been sufficient to make Ramsdale query his personal ebullience.

Reflecting on what occurred for the primary time since that day, he advised ESPN: “It probably made me think about it a lot more off the pitch if anything, which probably worried me the most — that if something can happen on the football pitch and it should be the safest place as a footballer, I’m kind of worried about what it would be like off the pitch walking down the street or with my fiancée and going for a walk and things like that.

“But no, the soccer facet of it, it’s one one who made a mistake and has apologised. Out of the 150, 180 video games I’ve had beforehand it is by no means occurred and hopefully will not occur once more. [Up to] 98% of the stadium take it as goodwill and banter — generally they get one up on me, generally I get one up them. It’s simply that one time it acquired uncontrolled however, as I mentioned, he apologised and we transfer on.”

Lost in the maelstrom of that moment was the fact that, despite Arsenal dominating Tottenham in a statement victory, Ramsdale was named player of the match for a string of vital saves. And the flipside, of course, is the strengthening of a bond with those cheering on Arsenal to what they hope will be a first Premier League title since 2004.

“You go away from house like we did [last] Sunday towards Fulham,” Ramsdale said. “Obviously we’re taking pictures away from our followers within the first half, we rating three targets and I get to expertise the followers celebrating as if I used to be the one scoring as a result of I’m the closest one to them. We’ve simply scored, I’ll have a good time after which even when it is not the entire crowd, you will hear murmurs of ‘England’s No. 1’ or ‘Aaron Ramsdale, and many others, and many others.’

“So it gives us such a boost and obviously to have the presence of [ex-Arsenal goalkeepers] David Seaman and Bob Wilson in and around the football ground and being close to me … it puts a smile on David’s face when they sing about a goalkeeper playing for England. So yeah, [it] definitely fills you with so much confidence.”

That confidence was examined within the early days of his Arsenal profession. There was widespread consternation on the membership’s resolution to pursue Ramsdale after they had Bernd Leno as No. 1 and had allowed Emiliano Martinez, who would later win a World Cup with Argentina, to be part of Aston Villa for £20m within the earlier summer season.

Ramsdale would later reveal he acquired “a lot of online negativity; idiots telling me not to sign, threats trying to scare me saying ‘we know where you live,'” as they poured scorn on a soccer training which took within the youth ranks and first staff at Sheffield United, Bournemouth and mortgage spells at Chesterfield and AFC Wimbledon.

Arsenal themselves had initially plotted a transfer for Brentford’s David Raya and been linked with Ajax’s Andre Onana (who later joined Inter Milan), however Ramsdale had additionally been into consideration for a while and a sequence of non-public telephone calls with head coach Mikel Arteta satisfied him that one thing particular was starting to take form.



Ramsdale takes on blindfold penalty problem

Arsenal and England goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale takes on ESPN FC’s Ralph Karumazondo in a blindfolded penalty saving problem.

Arsenal spent £142m to usher in six new gamers that summer season together with Ramsdale (£24m), Ben White (£50m) and Martin Odegaard (£40m) as a new-look facet emerged with an emphasis on youth, supplemented by academy graduates together with Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah.

Arteta’s want for his staff to play out from the again — plus Ramsdale’s switch payment — put stress on Leno’s place. The Germany worldwide began the primary three video games of the 2021-22 season earlier than being changed by Ramsdale towards Norwich on Sept. 11. Leno then began one Premier League sport for the remainder of the season.

However, Ramsdale was not an innate ball-playing goalkeeper, a truth which partly defined how his father, Nick, turned an sudden star of Amazon’s “All or Nothing” documentary on Arsenal, throughout which he was exasperated as his son tried to evade Norwich striker Teemu Pukki in taking part in out to construct an assault.

“He still hates it, absolutely hates it,” mentioned Ramsdale. “Still threatens to text Mikel. The only problem is if I push it too far saying ‘go on then, you won’t do it,’ he actually will because he’s got his number! I’ve got to play that one really carefully.

“It wasn’t one thing that naturally got here to me. I used to be launched from Bolton for my peak and never having the ability to kick the ball. So it is not one thing I’ve at all times had and an enormous credit score to Sheffield United and coaches at youth age with England once I first acquired into the system. They simply talked about coaching with the outfielders or to sharpen up slightly bit greater than what you’d do on the soccer membership. I used to go and assist coach the youthful goalkeepers on Tuesday and Thursday nights for slightly bit more cash once I was a youth-team participant and I’d additionally take part with the U16s in possession stuff and play as an outfielder. That simply acquired me slightly bit extra snug on the ball and having the ability to play off each toes. It is one thing which has at all times been growing.”

It is testament to Arteta’s coaching that every player can provide specific examples of how they have improved under his tutelage, although Ramsdale is drawn to the Spaniard’s idiosyncratic motivational techniques. Having previously played Liverpool anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at training to prepare his players for the intensity of Anfield [although that backfired in a 4-0 defeat] and used a light bulb to illustrate team spirit during a team-talk, Arteta instructed Arsenal to bring a timepiece replica of the Clock End at Highbury (and now Emirates Stadium) into their dressing room at Fulham to make away trips feel more like home.

“He comes up with these items to strive to get us going,” said Ramsdale. “We play video games within the lodge. Sometimes it may be dodgeball, generally it may be spot the distinction on the TV to get our brains working. It is simply his manner of attempting to make us to change on earlier than the sport, earlier than the warm-up, ensuring we’re dwelling and respiration soccer after we’re resting. The clock one was one other genius concept. Not all issues work, however what he is attempting to get out of it, I positively get to see the advantages of it.

“I did find the ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ one a little bit funny. Obviously, the goalkeepers are out there a lot earlier than the players, so we’re just training and the next thing is you hear this big loud noise, you turn around and they’re walking out to music. It’s become the norm now, so the lads will do their warm-up to a bit of music — that can be any type of music. There’s certain things that have worked and certain things maybe not, but it’s just trying to find that balance.”

Arsenal maintain an eight-point lead over Manchester City on the high of the Premier League desk going into the worldwide break and are 10 video games away from surpassing all expectations to win the title.

Ramsdale, like so lots of his teammates, is decided to dwell within the second, to embrace the thrill of the chance they’ve created. He has beforehand spoken about taking part in every sport with a mindset as if Arsenal had been tenth or eleventh within the desk; however can that actually endure because the stress of the run-in intensifies?

“Maybe as a team it’s a little bit different, but for myself, that’s how I see it,” he added. “Some people like the pressure of being No. 1 and getting chased. For me, I’m going out there with a group of friends with a smile on my face, just going through the motions and playing on autopilot.

“It’s similar to if you had been taking part in along with your mates once more. You have a sense you are going to win however you do not take it with no consideration. Suddenly you will be 2-0 up, 3-0 up and also you’re on cruise management. It’s only a nice feeling to be round.”

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