It still doesn’t feel like an accepted fact that Aaron Ramsdale is one of the Premier League’s finest goalkeepers.
Ask your average fan about their opinion on Ramsdale – somebody who works nine ’til 5, streams matches on their laptop and attends the stadium bi-annually – and the chances are their nose will scrunch up before the administering of begrudging praise.
Perhaps that’s understandable. Never shy of baiting supporters like an expert matador, Ramsdale’s on-pitch demeanour suggests he’s cosmically working up to the biggest goalkeeping gaffe of all time, involving dropped shorts as well as a dropped ball.
His participation in relegation seasons at both Bournemouth and Sheffield United also rears its ugly head whenever the keyboard warriors limber up to goof on any Arsenal slip-up.
But Ramsdale is one of the best goalkeepers in the country. The ease with which he distributes the ball from his feet contrasts with the whole litter of kittens David de Gea has whenever it rolls in his direction.
And the England international has proven himself to be reliable at keeping the damn ball out of the net. Without going all Roy Keane and saying that’s just his job, Mikel Arteta would have appreciated his presence at Newcastle on Sunday afternoon.
Leading through Martin Odegaard’s mole-murderer, Arsenal had to man the barricades as Newcastle unleashed successive tidal waves of attack upon their goal.
As a corner was swung into the battle zone, Fabian Schar rose highest to nod the inevitable equaliser. His header, while central, was both close and powerful enough to render its fate academic.
But Schar hadn’t counted on Ramsdale. Spreading himself like the family moggie giving itself a thorough groom, the Arsenal shot-stopper flung his forearm in the direction of the ball and saw it rebound to safety.
The home fans in the Gallowgate End clasped their heads in their hands. Arsenal’s hero allowed himself the merest nod of self-satisfaction before helping his side navigate its way to a 2-0 victory.
WHAT A SAVE!
Aaron Ramsdale to the rescue for Arsenal with this brilliant stop 🧤 pic.twitter.com/OOSmfhvd7I
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) May 7, 2023
Ramsdale has now become only the third different goalkeeper to record 10 away clean sheets in a single Premier League season, after Petr Cech and Ederson.
And the England goalkeeper has a big fan in the form of Wayne Rooney. Writing in his Times column at the end of April, Rooney said: “Despite his slip-up against Southampton, he has made a number of fantastic saves and played with huge presence.
“Normally, with goalkeepers, you want them to have character and presence but you want them to have calmness as well.
“If you’re going to be as vocal and extrovert as Ramsdale, you have to back it up with your performances, because otherwise it all looks a bit cocky.
“Well, he does and he reminds me of Peter Schmeichel. Obviously, Ramsdale has to keep improving to get near Schmeichel’s levels but the whole package makes him the closest thing I’ve seen for a long time to the Great Dane.”
Arsenal’s victory on Tyneside is unlikely to help them win their first Premier League title since 2004, but a challenging assignment has ticked off and Manchester City will at least have to work to retain their crown.
And, if nothing else, the days when Ramsdale was the punchline to scores of witless jokes, on this showing and his other performances this season, appear to be over.
By Michael Lee