Arsenal are set to bid £30M for Sheffield United keeper Aaron Ramsdale, per reports. Depending on which outlets you read and believe, the Gunners have reportedly already had two bids for Ramsdale rejected. The Gunners have also been linked with West Brom keeper Sam Johnstone. Earlier this summer, Arsenal were linked with Ajax keeper Andre Onana, but those links have cooled off.
Right now, Bernd Leno is the clear #1 keeper this season. The Gunners are in the market for a backup keeper. It looks like academy product Arthur Okonkwo will be the number three. But Leno is at best a medium-term option for the Gunners. He’s out of contract after the ‘22-’23 season and has suggested that he’d like to seek a different challenge / return to Germany.
All of those rumored moves — Ramsdale, Johnstone, and Onana — are long-term goalkeeper solutions, and if Arsenal were to pull either of the first two off, it’s possible we’d see Bernd Leno leave the club this summer. Onana is a tricky case because his now-reduced doping ban will keep him out until November.
I don’t buy the Ramsdale number, not for a second. Well, that may be what Sheffield United want for him, but that’s not a realistic price. I really hope Arsenal aren’t thinking of paying it, and I don’t think they will. The Blades paid £18.5M for him last August, and most of that price was reportedly the club paying £15M or so to buyout a sell-on clause. It was a bit of a panic-buy because they needed a keeper to replace Dean Henderson, who had returned to Manchester United after two years on loan with the Blades. A poor season of boxcar numbers plus Sheffield United being relegated does not equate to an £11.5m price bump, especially when the cost of his most recent transfer was inflated for contractual rather than real player value reasons.
The pulse of the Arsenal internet is pretty anti-Ramsdale — most people don’t seem to rate him or want him. I don’t think he’d be that bad of an add (although again, not for £30M). His advanced stats paint a much better picture than do his boxcar numbers, which are understandably poor because his team last year was one of the worst Premier League sides ever. His post shot expected goals suggest that he is a good shot-stopper, although probably not quite as good as Bernd Leno. He’s quite good at claiming crosses, a significant upgrade on Leno. At 23, he’s young, especially for a keeper, and has plenty of room to develop. And he’s homegrown.
For something between to £15-22M or so, he’d be a reasonable buy. Behind what should be a strong Arsenal defense (like it was last season), I think Ramsdale wouldn’t cost the Gunners games even if he doesn’t, at least initially, keep them in matches in the same way that Leno has. You’re buying the upside and the homegrown status with Ramsdale. Give him another season of Premier League experience and another year of coaching and development, and I think the tune will change dramatically on him.
And let’s be real, to get back to being a consistent Top 4 contender, Arsenal will have to take some risks and hit on a few gambles in the transfer market. Business as usual won’t keep pace with the Manchester clubs and Chelsea. Liverpool are well ahead of the Gunners right now. And then you get Leicester City, West Ham, and Tottenham, the group in which you could generously put Arsenal. I think Aaron Ramsdale is the type of lottery ticket Arsenal should be seriously considering.