With the Premier League on a six-week break, it seems like a good time to look back over Arsenal’s first 14 league matches (plus 6 in the Europa League and 1 in the Carabao Cup) and hand out some grades. It’s technically not halfway through the season, but the time off divides the campaign into two close-to-equal halves, so we work with what we’ve got. The Gunners are off to their best start ever in the PL, so the marks are going to be pretty high across the board.
It’s tough to give Aaron Ramsdale anything lower than an A because he’s tied for the fewest goals allowed among Premier League keepers, and at the end of the day, that’s probably the most important metric for a goalie. He seems to have rediscovered at least some of the form from the start of last season. He’s not all the way there yet, but he’s much improved over his second-half slump in the spring.
The advanced stats say Ramsdale has been average this season. His post-shot xG less goals against is -.06, which means that he’s basically doing what you expect. He isn’t letting in more goals than he should be, nor is he keeping out chances on which you expect him to concede. To be fair, it’s tough to put up great goalkeeping numbers when you’re facing a lower than average post shot xG per shot on target. Basically, the average shot Ramsdale faces is of lower than average quality. Put differently, the defense is playing really well in front of him, and he’s not being asked to make difficult saves.
It would be harsh to grade Ramsdale down for his pedestrian advanced stats because, as I said, the keeper’s job is to stop the other team from scoring, and Ramsdale has given up the joint-fewest goals in the Premier League, tied with Nick Pope. Unsurprisingly, the pair are tied for the lead in clean sheets (7) as well.
Ramsdale was superb against Leeds, a big part of why Arsenal managed to win that match when they probably weren’t the better team on the day. Beyond that, he hasn’t had to stand on his head for Arsenal to get results.
He also does more than just stop shots. He’s still excellent in terms of controlling the area in the air and a big part of why Arsenal’s corner and set piece defense is once again towards the top of the PL. His distribution is fantastic. Anecdotally, he seems to be going long a bit more frequently than last season.
And you can’t talk about Aaron Ramsdale without mentioning his attitude and leadership. He’s clearly a vocal presence at the back, and I’d bet dollars to donuts that his positive, fun-loving nature helps keep spirits high in the locker room.
Matt Turner has been pretty much as advertised this season. His shot-stopping has been solid. His distribution is developing. The marked improvement in his on-ball play from the first Europa League match, in which he looked shaky playing the ball, throughout the group stage, is the driving force behind the B+ mark. He’s getting better with the ball at his feet.
He was limited to just four of the six EL group matches by a groin problem that has since healed. It looks as if he’ll be the starting keeper for the U.S. at the World Cup. I’d expect him to play in the FA Cup in January as well as at least the first knockout round tie in the Europa. Whether he gets the nod beyond that (should Arsenal advance) likely depends on the draw and how things are going in the Premier League.
Karl Hein played in the Carabao Cup loss to Brighton. He was alright, at least that’s what the reports were. That match wasn’t broadcast so there isn’t too much analysis to be done. His slip to concede a penalty in the first half wasn’t his finest moment. It’s tough to make your senior debut backstopping a heavily rotated side against the first choice XI of a Premier League team, especially one like Brighton that are having a fantastic start to the year.