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Why Arsenal are trying to sign David Raya

Arsenal have had an active summer transfer window, with the signings of Declan Rice, Kai Havertz and Jurrien Timber. Fabrizio Romano reports that they have now agreed personal terms with Brentford’s David Raya. The player has told his current club that he wants a transfer to the Emirates Stadium and further developments are expected in the coming days.

This feels like a surprising move from Arsenal, as they already have an established number one in Aaron Ramsdale. The England international has seen his reputation increase significantly since moving to North London two summers ago. There are some in this country that think he should be starting for the national team. Some consider him to be a more complete goalkeeper than Jordan Pickford.

Brentford are rumoured to want £40 million for Raya, which is a significant outlay and a lot more than Arsenal paid for Ramsdale. Surely if they agree to pay such a fee for the Spanish goalkeeper, they will have to see him as an upgrade on Ramsdale.

Those that look at goalkeepers closely will see the reason why a potential move for Raya will appeal to Mikel Arteta.

The Spaniard had a healthy save percentage of 77.7%, which put him in the 92nd percentile. This is higher than Ramsdale’s 70.3%. Looking deeper into the stats, a metric called post-shot expected goals (psxG) is a useful one when looking at goalkeepers. According to this metric, Raya should have conceded five more goals last season, underlining how he adds value when between the sticks.

Meanwhile, Ramsdale conceded two more than he would have been expected to from the shots he faced. This shows that he isn’t adding value when it comes to shot stopping. During his four Premier League seasons, Ramsdale has underperformed his psxG in every one of them, with an accumulative underperformance of 9.4 goals.

The swing between Raya’s and Ramsdale’s pxsG last season was seven goals, with the former overperforming and the latter underperforming. That is a substantial swing, especially at the top of the division. Manchester City are so dominant that there isn’t margin for error among the chasing pack. Even a small upgrade in a single position could go a long way.

One of Raya’s biggest strengths is his kicking. Often, he played long in Brentford’s team as his accuracy could get them up the field quickly, while the opposition team was not set. Raya launched 50.7% of his passes and completed 9.13 of them per ninety minutes. That places him in the 97th percentile.

For Brentford, he averaged 45.32 touches per ninety minutes. Raya is comfortable coming out to become an extra player in possession. Ramsdale averaged 31.62 touches per ninety minutes, placing him in the 12th percentile among goalkeepers. There were a few occasions where he was successfully pressed by opposition teams. In possession, Raya would be a better fit for Arsenal.

It does seem like Raya is more likely to join Arsenal than any other team. There were links to Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United and Bayern Munich. As none of those teams managed to sign him, this could be seen as an opportunistic move by Arsenal.

Based on what is discussed above, you can argue that Raya is an upgrade on Ramsdale. He is more comfortable with the ball at his feet and has been shown to be a better shot stopper.

If he is signed by Arsenal, it is likely that Ramsdale would continue in the team to start with. However, Raya wouldn’t be happy being number two and the pressure would be on Ramsdale to improve his performances.

Mikel Arteta has shown himself to be ruthless this summer as he tries to get Arsenal to take the next step. This would perhaps be his most ruthless move to date, but it could be one that is key in helping the Gunners get closer to Manchester City.

Stats taken from fbref (powered by Opta)

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