If it is a transfer window then Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal must be trying to sign a goalkeeper. A biannual habit can seem an attempt to remedy a mistake from 2020. Now Aaron Ramsdale may be an expensive remedy. Indeed, at a mooted price of £32 million ($44m), a very expensive one.
Alex Runarsson was the cut-price second choice signed last summer but a particularly traumatic, error-strewn display against Manchester City in the League Cup underlined the sense he was not good enough. Then came Mat Ryan, a short-term solution in January before Brighton sold the loanee to Real Sociedad.
And yet an understudy to Bernd Leno was only required because of the sale of the 2020 FA Cup final hero Emiliano Martinez to Aston Villa. A year later, Martinez has been dubbed a “phenomenon” by Lionel Messi for his penalty saves in Argentina’s eventual Copa America win.
He ended last season with the second best save percentage in the Premier League, a fraction below Nick Pope, and as a contender for the unofficial title of the signing of the season. If Ramsdale is a belated replacement, he could come at a cost at least 50 per cent higher.
He would arrive fresh from back-to-back relegations, even if he was far from the sole reason for Bournemouth and Sheffield United’s demise. A price would reflect the potential of a man who ended up in England’s Euro 2020 squad, albeit only because of injuries to Pope and Dean Henderson.
It would highlight the premium English players command. It would suggest that, unlike Runarsson, he is deemed a rival and a possible successor to Leno. The German is entering the final two years of his deal. He has pronounced himself happy at Arsenal but also said in April that he was “open to everything … maybe for a new adventure.”
Perhaps Arsenal are open to an alternative. Leno had a fine 2019-20 while they registered the third best defensive record last season without altering the impression that he is not quite in the Premier League’s elite bracket. Yet nor was Ramsdale as he was a downgrade on Henderson for United.
He ended the campaign with a higher save percentage than Leno (70.7 to 69.2), though each was far behind the magnificent Martinez. He finished it as Sheffield United’s player of the year.
That award felt unfair to David McGoldrick and Chris Basham because Ramsdale’s excellence came too late: he struggled at the start as United’s first 17 games produced just two points and there was a debate if Chris Wilder should drop him.
A particularly poor error to gift Marcus Rashford a December goal highlighted a lack of conviction. A personal renaissance may have been proof of talent and character, but Arsenal would still be paying for what he could do, not what he has done. Which, after just 10 clean sheets in 75 Premier League games, is just as well.
Ramsdale’s youth at least brings the promise of a long stay in the Arsenal goal. In the here and now, however, the beneficiaries of a possible move would be Sheffield United. With relegation long appearing an inevitability, they had calculated they needed to make a transfer-market profit of £40m this summer after advancing Wilder funds last year; to give new manager Slavisa Jokanovic money to spend, therefore, they would need to bring in more.
Apart from Sander Berge and John Egan, they have relatively few assets capable of commanding high prices. They could turn in a tidy profit on Ramsdale, who they bought for £18.5m, but as Arsenal consider the brilliance of the departed Martinez, they may contemplate their losses, and not merely the financial ones.