Goalkeeper xG: Is It Time To Reinstate Ramsdale As Arsenal Number One?

By Dr. John Harrison PhD

News • Dec 7, 2023

Goalkeeper xG: Is It Time To Reinstate Ramsdale As Arsenal Number One?

With David Raya's form in question, what do the numbers say about Arsenal's goalkeeping dilemma?

Arsenal are flying high at the top of the Premier League table; they have 36 points from 15 games and have only lost once (controversially at the hands of Newcastle). They also boast the best defensive record in the league, conceding just 14 goals thus far, so you would imagine they are excelling in every position on the field. 

However, after David Raya’s two almost costly errors vs Luton and Aaron Ramsdale’s shaky performance on his return to the side vs Brentford, is Arsenal’s goalkeeping department currently in a state of disarray with two top quality goalkeepers finding it difficult to play their best football?

Using Goalkeeper xG’s Overall Goalkeeper Value model (OGV), one can assess how every single action a goalkeeper makes or could potentially make affects the probability of their team scoring or conceding a goal. Subsequently, one can evaluate how many goals a goalkeeper is worth to their side vs a league average goalkeeper.

Last season, Aaron Ramsdale was worth 3.8 goals more than an average Premier League goalkeeper to Arsenal, therefore on average every game he was worth around 0.10 goals to the Gunners. This ranked him as the 7th best goalkeeper in the Premier League. 

On the other hand, David Raya performed exceptionally for Brentford, being worth 11.2 goals more than an average Premier League goalkeeper to them (+0.29 per game). That ranked Raya as the 4th best goalkeeper in the Premier League. 

These performances were enough to convince Arsenal that, while Ramsdale was doing well, if they were to get over the line and grab the Premier League title from Manchester City they needed to upgrade their number 1 and Raya was the perfect man to do this.

As the graphic below shows, other than the Crystal Palace game (where Ramsdale’s quality cross claiming and shot stopping meant he performed nearly a goal above the expected level), Ramsdale’s performance’s this season have been slightly below average. In total, he has been worth 0.58 goals less than an average Premier League goalkeeper to Arsenal. 


This translates as being worth -0.12 goals per game to the Gunners. This drop in performance vs last year may be down to the small sample size but maybe also due to Raya’s presence psychologically affecting Ramsdale. 

This was potentially evident in his last performance vs Brentford. He was lucky not to give away a goal in the first 15 minutes after being dispossessed inside his own area, before the ball was struck past him by Bryan Mbeumo and cleared off the line by Declan Rice. Additionally, he was also lucky that Brentford could not capitalise when he threw the ball directly to them in the 37th minute. 

Ramsdale did rally though, and some solid sweeping and cross claiming meant his performance was not too far below what would be expected if an average Premier League goalkeeper faced those situations. Ramsdale is not in the best form at the moment, but Areta has handed Raya the number one shirt. So, Ramsdale’s form wouldn’t be the end of the world if Raya was managing to put in performances of a similar calibre to those he put in at Brentford.

However, as the graphic below shows Raya is also performing slightly below the level of an average Premier League goalkeeper for Arsenal. 

Raya’s performances thus far have been very inconsistent. Quality games vs Everton, Bournemouth, Sheffield United, Burnley, and Wolves have been marred by weak performances vs Manchester City, Chelsea, Newcastle, and Luton! 


Overall this season Raya has been worth 0.49 goals less than an average Premier League goalkeeper to Arsenal. This translates to being worth -0.05 goals per game to the Gunners; a far cry from his +0.29 goals per game performances at Brentford. 

Again the sample size is small (just 10 games) but there is evidence starting to mount that Raya may also struggling with the pressure of Arsenal having two potential number ones. 

If we look at the mistakes Raya has made so far, all of them have been decision making- or positioning-based (which for me is another form of decision making as you decide where to stand). 

  • Mistake vs Manchester City: to half rush out for a corner and dive at Josko Gvardiol when he was unlikely to get there. Gvardiol didn’t have a clear shot at goal (an average Premier League goalkeeper would successfully claim that corner just 4% of the time so it wasn’t one he needed to try to come for). Luckily Gvardiol’s shot which beat Raya was cleared off the line by Rice.
  • Mistake vs Chelsea: when he was lobbed by Mykhailo Mudryk’s cross, his poor positioning, being past the front post and too high form his line, meant he was in no place to defend his goal and conceded a shot which would be expected to be saved 98% of the time by an average Premier League goalkeeper.


  • Mistake vs Newcastle: again, Raya's positioning when facing a cross was suboptimal and thus when he came for the ball he missed it, leading to Anthony Gordon’s controversial goal. Such a cross would expect to be successfully dealt with by an average Premier League goalkeeper 78% of the time.
  • Mistake vs Luton: when he came for a corner and was beaten to the ball and Elijah Adebayo scored. The corner was only expected to be claimed successfully about 26% of the time by an average Premier League goalkeeper. For a goalkeeper of Raya’s stature and the crowded nature of the penalty box, he was probably better off letting his defenders deal with the ball, and back himself to make a reactive save if need be. 
  • Mistake vs Luton: Raya attempted to use a collapse dive technique to save Barkley’s low shot when a foot save or scoop save would have been far easier to execute. This poor shot stopping decision meant he conceded a goal which would be expected to be saved by an average Premier League goalkeeper 93% of the time.

The hypothesis that it is indeed psychological strain of some sort that is leading to Raya’s drop in performance levels vs his Brentford days isn't far fetched. At Brentford, such mistakes were far less common than Raya is showing for Arsenal and are a huge part of why the graphic above varies so wildly.

In conclusion, the data shows that it is not as simple as bringing Ramsdale back into the side to replace the inconsistent Raya. While he has been more consistent in his performance level overall, he has similarly been performing at the level of a slightly below-average Premier League goalkeeper. 

It seems what Arsenal need to do is bring back the feel good factor to their number one shirt(s) and make either goalkeeper feel comfortable enough in the team that they can perform to the levels we have come to expect of them over the past few seasons. 

This could potentially require Ramsdale going out on loan in January, allowing Arsenal to make a decision regarding both goalkeeper’s futures in the summer while potentially maximising their performances in the meantime. 

This unfolding scenario also hints at a potentially important lesson from that transfer market. 

Theoretically, Raya was an upgrade on Ramsdale but that assumed that Raya could replicate his Brentford form for the Gunners. This clearly has been made a more difficult task than usual with Ramsdale remaining at Arsenal battling with him and breathing down his neck for the starting spot.

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