Aaron Ramsdale perches on a bench by the pond at Arsenal’s training base and puts his cup on the table. It’s personalized, in the style of his favorite Yorkshire blend: ‘Aaron’s Tea’, the mug reads.
But as the keeper settles in to discuss his new contract, his chow chow Blue, his birthday and his back and forth with opposing supporters, Ramsdale also wants to talk bottles. Well, the Arsenal bottle and the accusation that Mikel Arteta’s side lost theirs somewhere on the way to relinquishing the title.
It’s a raw subject. Only two days have passed since Arsenal’s 3-0 home defeat to Brighton but they have ended their hopes of catching Manchester City.
“I think it’s an easy way out – just a quick and cheap story from some people who haven’t really dig into the stories of what we’ve achieved,” the goalkeeper said. “We are disappointed but also extremely proud of ourselves.”
The accusation particularly irritates Ramsdale “when it comes from certain people, who don’t necessarily have the knowledge or the experience”. Or when critics ignore what they’re up against.
Aaron Ramsdale signed a new long-term contract this week to extend his stay at Arsenal
The goalkeeper described Arsenal’s claims as ‘quick’ and cheap’
The Gunners have led for much of the season but sit in second place with Man City closing in on the title
“It’s very hard to say that with a team that could win five of the last six (titles), who are on an 11-game winning streak, who could potentially win the treble. We must also be realistic.
That was the message Arteta had tried to convey during a team meeting hours earlier.
“He will refrain from saying things in the locker room right after a game. He doesn’t mean the wrong thing,” Ramsdale says.
But in their debriefing, normally two days after a match, the manager will outline everything they need to work on and everything that went wrong. Until the last minutes, when Arteta will show his players what worked well.
“He knows what we are trying to do, sometimes we don’t deliver it the best we can. But he will always bring a positive touch to the end of the meeting, ”explains Ramsdale. ‘To get us out and remember the last little bit. Remember what we do.
This week’s conversation, ahead of Saturday’s trip to Nottingham Forest, bucked that trend.
“We did a different style of meeting, just remembering how far we’ve come. He explained how we can still have the most wins of an Arsenal side in the Premier League,” says Ramsdale. “About how, again, it’s very disappointing by the minute, but how progressive the season has been, how positive we can be.”
Ramsdale has revealed Mikel Arteta has been monitoring Arsenal’s record points tally this season
The England international suggested Man City’s quality was hard to follow
Ramsdale has been caught up in this tangle of emotions since the final whistle against Brighton.
“It was my birthday on Sunday – I don’t want to play on my birthday anymore!” he says.
“But it was probably perfect at the same time because I had my mom and my dad, my brother and (fiancée) Georgina.” They went out to eat Asian; on Tuesday, Ramsdale brought cake to his teammates.
“Then I went to London (Sunday) with Georgina and did a bit of shopping and had a wedding. Luckily I got that because it could have been two long days.
The couple are planning a party in 2025 but they will complete the legal formalities this summer. Ramsdale has already committed his future to Arsenal, signing a new four-year deal this week.
The goalkeeper is one of many young stars rewarded for a great campaign: Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Magalhaes have already signed new contracts, while Bukayo Saka’s improved deal is close and William Saliba remains in talks.
“I think it shows my progress and that of the team. It shows the trust that the manager and the football club have in me. Obviously you get contracts to play on the pitch and almost exceed expectations.
So has he outdone himself?
‘Personally, no. But as a team, yes,” says Ramsdale. “This season has been amazing. The leap we had from last year, especially (when Arsenal finished fifth). But I understood my ability and it was just about trying to unlock that and doing it more consistently.
Ramsdale says he hasn’t outdone himself as an individual but is happy with Arsenal’s progress
At only 25 years old, the England international hopes to play for another 15 years. He wants to spend them all in North London.
“I don’t want to move anymore,” Ramsdale said. “It’s very difficult as a footballer to try to stay in one place for a long time, to create a house where you can have a family… I want to be a pillar of this football club and do special things .”
Ramsdale has struggled for stability since being released by Bolton aged 15.
“I love the region, the people at the football club and ultimately I want to fight for trophies,” he explains.
In 2021, reports of Ramsdale’s £24million arrival sparked abuse and threats. These days, he’s an extremely popular member of Arteta’s team. And a goalkeeper with a lot of room for improvement.
“I still think I have levels to reach, to be considered a goalkeeper at the top of his game,” he said.
The same goes for his teammates, none of whom Arteta believes have reached their best.
Ramsdale isn’t sure many will make it next season either.
“I still think there’s probably eight to ten players who have another four or five years before they hit their peak. And that’s exciting,” he says.
Although Ramsdale doesn’t overload himself with specific goals, he insists: “I don’t think you can ever reach a level that you can be happy with, or you’ll start to back off and be complacent… I don’t think the goalkeeper can never be reached or finished. It changes every year. Something new happens – a new rule change or a new technique.
Some of the biggest improvements it’s made in recent years have come out of the field: being able to turn off, for starters. “My fiancée has been a huge help to me — just being able to do things with her, with my dog,” Ramsdale says.
“I always watch football pretty closely every day, no matter what it is. But I don’t constantly think about my football team and what I have to do.
He is planning a wedding with his fiancée Georgina, to whom he paid tribute
What he should have done in their last game, what he needs to do next time. What he is authorized to do, even.
“People always say you can’t do things if you’ve lost a game. If I’m being honest, after my first two years in the Premier League, if I had followed that advice, I would have been sitting alone in a dark room in the house,’ Ramsdale says.
Before joining Arsenal, he was relegated with Bournemouth and Sheffield United in consecutive seasons.
“I’ve been able to put football aside when I’m away and play golf, be with my fiancée. I just grew up,” he adds. “The clubbing side is not something I enjoy anymore.”
It becomes easier to indulge in other passions when you fight at the right end of the table.
At United, Bournemouth and Chesterfield, the goalkeeper saw the real risks of falling – to jobs and livelihoods.
“The pressure of a relegation battle is much worse than fighting for the title,” he said.
“It’s more fun when you’re at the top of the league – you try to play with freedom, with a smile. When you’re there it’s really hard to have that mindset because sometimes you worry about what people think: “He shouldn’t enjoy it so much…”
These experiences taught him painful lessons but also a useful perspective.
“If I hadn’t experienced this, I probably wouldn’t know how to handle the disappointment,” added the keeper.
“You have to have a life, you have to be able to compartmentalize the differences between football and home life… of course I would change the clubs that would be relegated, but would I change playing for those clubs and d to be relegated? No.’
Ramsdale have two relegations to their name, first to Bournemouth then to Sheffield United
It won’t be much comfort for the players at Nottingham Forest, who are fighting for their survival in the Premier League. Another cauldron of color and noise awaits Arteta’s players and Ramsdale knows how feverish atmospheres can turn violent – he was sent off by a Tottenham fan after the North London derby this season.
After 90 minutes of nudging and incitement between the goalkeeper and the rival supporters. It has become a weekly ritual.
“They pay their money and rightly or wrongly they can tell you anything they want when you’re in a workplace,” he says. “Sometimes you just can’t take it or you don’t want to take it, so you give them some.”
He knows that invites even more pressure. But?
“I should be able to have fun while playing and that never really crosses the mark – ever,” Ramsdale continues. “If you’re going to give it to me, just know that if we score or you don’t win, I’m going to celebrate in front of you, just like you would give me something if I made a mistake.”
As he did against Southampton last month, giving Carlos Alcaraz a goal within 30 seconds. It was among several costly mistakes made by Arsenal in recent weeks.
They are now praying for a miracle – even victory at Forest might not be enough to take this race to the final day. “It’s a slim chance,” concedes Ramsdale. “Hopefully the disappointment we feel at the minute…we can use it, like we did last year, to bounce back and be hungrier and fight again.”