- Arsenal returned to the title race with a 3-1 victory over Liverpool.
- Images have emerged of one of Mikel Arteta’s stars looking unrecognizable
- IAN LADYMAN picks his five best Premier League centre-backs of all time – Podcast Everything is beginning
A week on, Arsenal fans are still basking in the glow of their dominant 3-1 win over Liverpool last weekend that revitalized their Premier League title aspirations.
Goals from Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Leandro Trossard did the job as Mikel Arteta’s tactics deceived the Reds at the Emirates.
Much credit was given to the quality of Arsenal’s attack, but their defense has been the most impressive part of their campaign. No team has conceded fewer goals than the Gunners in the top flight this season.
And they limited the division’s second-best attack to an xG of just 0.37. Among Arsenal’s back five was a crucial player who looks completely unrecognizable compared to his early days in the game.
After starting out at local Catalan club UE Cornelia, he made the unusual move to then Championship side Blackburn Rovers at the age of 16.
This Arsenal star spent a season on loan at fifth division side Southport during the 2014-15 campaign.
Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal have the best defensive record in the league and are considered by many to be the best defense overall.
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However, he had to wait until the 2014–15 campaign, while on loan at fifth division side Southport, to make his first senior appearances.
“My story is not the typical story of a football player,” said the closer. he told The Guardian last year.
“It is the story of a boy who leaves his country at the age of 16, alone, and fulfills his dreams: who ends up playing for his national team, in the Champions League, and for one of the most important clubs in the Premier League and the world. ‘
After making 20 appearances for the club, he returned to Rovers, where he continued to impress, still without his trademark beard and sporting a larger frame than his current one.
In total, he played 98 times for Blackburn before securing a £3m move to rising Brentford in 2019, looking to achieve promotion to the Premier League for the first time.
That incredible rise came just two years later, following a 2-0 victory in the Championship play-off final against Swansea. The Spaniard would feature 24 times for the Bees in his first Premier League campaign.
The goalkeeper looks noticeably different in his youth without his trademark beard.
He made 20 appearances in total for the Conference League team and finished the season in 19th place.
His excellent performances also allowed him to make his debut for the national team in a 2-1 friendly victory over Albania in March 2022.
Still standing out not only for his goalkeeping skills but also for his ball-playing qualities, the 28-year-old earned a move to Mikel Arteta’s team last summer, ousting starter Aaron Ramsdale, to much fury.
However, with the Gunners now just two points off the top of the table with the best defensive record in the league, there are very few voices dissenting from the introduction of David Raya.
Capped three times by Spain, Raya charted a path to the top unknown to many of his teammates and his appearance has changed noticeably since he arrived on these shores more than a decade ago.
“The path I’ve taken helps you appreciate things and shows that you can do it if you’re determined.” He added to The Guardian.
David Raya has established himself as Arsenal’s number one after replacing Aaron Ramsdale last summer.
‘Coming from the highest point makes you humble, focused, you don’t stop. I haven’t reached my level yet. There is no roof; “I want to believe that I can always be better.”
Raya has established himself as Arsenal’s undisputed number one, having started 18 of the team’s last 19 league games. His only absence came during the 1-0 win against his parent club, Brentford, in November.
The goalkeeper has six clean sheets in the league so far and has conceded an average of one goal per game this season. A figure only surpassed by Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker.