Leaving the Emirates after a triumphant return to the Champions League, the separate paths of goalkeepers David Raya and Aaron Ramsdale almost told a story of their own.
Raya, Mikel Arteta’s chosen one for the time being, turned right towards the waiting press after consecutive clean sheets in his second start since joining from Brentford. A crowd of cameras and lights followed.
Ramsdale, who came out ten minutes later, turned left, avoiding all eyes looking in his direction.
You could hardly blame him. After being eliminated against Everton on Sunday, it was expected that the England international would return on Wednesday. Besides, if he didn’t play against PSV, when would he perform?
But for the Spaniard, speaking for the first time as an Arsenal player, he is living the dream and says Ramsdale must ‘fight for the team’ if he returns to the fold.
David Raya started for Arsenal for the second game in a row in the 4-0 win over PSV
Aaron Ramsdale cut a reserved figure as he left the Emirates after being dropped as number 1
Mikel Arteta plans to change the goalkeepers regularly this season and could even make substitutions
“It’s a dream come true to play at the highest level, so I’m very happy to make my (Champions League) debut, but the most important thing was the result and we got the three points in the end,” he said.
‘I have just been selected for the last two matches. That’s just the gaffer’s choice, not my choice. If Aaron comes in, he will also have to fight for the team and win games.”
When asked if the start in the team came earlier than expected, he replied: ‘Yes of course, you never know when you are going to play and that is the hardest thing to do.
“Making your debut for a club like Arsenal and of course having Aaron as a teammate makes it a little more difficult for you, but it came quickly. You never know when it will be and you have to be ready for it.”
The situation has become a story in itself. Arteta has tried to play down the matter by suggesting that it is normal to change goalkeepers and that he would be open to doing so in a match.
Still, history shows that the rotation between the sticks is almost unheard of, and the sensitive nature around the No. 1 spot.
Chelsea’s Petr Cech said this in 2015 when Jose Mourinho demoted him in favor of Thibaut Courtois: ‘I’m not happy at all. There was nothing to indicate that I wouldn’t be ready to keep my spot. But in a football team you can only have one goalkeeper play per week and that’s how it happened unfortunately.’
Raya, 28, understands the rarity of the scenario.
“I think it’s the first time that two top goalkeepers are in the same team, so that’s just part of football now and the gaffer wants two top players for each position and we have to work with that,” he said.
“I’ve played the last two games and now we’ll see what happens on Sunday.”
Arteta’s handling of the situation is a further demonstration of his sheer ruthlessness. It can also be counterproductive. Both men know that one or two sounds could suddenly jeopardize their position.
On top of the expectations of this campaign, that is indeed some pressure.
But Raya says his teammate has supported him. He’s also backing himself to continue pushing for starts in the lineup.
“He (Aaron) has been great. He is a great teammate and also a leader,” he said.
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Raya praised his teammate as a ‘great leader’ after the final whistle and urged him to ‘fight’
The 28-year-old won his debut for his new club against Everton as Arsenal broke their six-year duck at the Emirates
‘He’s a great boy and a great goalkeeper too, we’re teammates and that’s the most important thing.
“It’s something every player has to do (and that is) back yourself to get into the team, and that’s why I moved to Arsenal.”
On Arteta claiming he would replace goalkeepers in a match, Raya added: “Those are his words, that’s his choice too. He’s the gaffer so we’ll have to deal with that.’
How Ramsdale privately handles the current situation may be another matter.