Aaron Ramsdale’s honesty – and his dad’s mouth – is a bigger problem than his concentration…

Ian Watson
Aaron Ramsdale covers his mouth after an Arsenal game
Aaron Ramsdale is now very much behind David Raya in the Arsenal pecking order.

If Aaron Ramsdale really did have problems concentrating through Arsenal games, maybe it’s because he’s worrying about his dad trying to fight his battles for him…

There’s no shortage of people keen to tell Aaron Ramsdale to stop digging. And then take the sodding shovel off his dad too.

The England goalkeeper finds himself in a hole at Arsenal, where he’s been unceremoniously dropped by Mikel Arteta. The Gunners boss prefers David Raya to Ramsdale, and despite his initial efforts to paint the pair as dual No.1s, the hierarchy is set.

Fair enough. Only one keeper can play at any one time and it is Arteta’s job to decide who he prefers to guard his goal. Right now, Raya has the gloves and Arteta isn’t in the same hurry to take them back as he was to remove Ramsdale’s mitts.

It’s a tricky situation for Ramsdale. Going from undisputed No.1 to the odd run-out in the Carabao Cup is problematic on many levels. The 25-year-old is left waiting for Raya to suffer some misfortune or other and, even then, there is no guarantee Arteta will reinstate him.

So, on Tuesday morning when he woke up at St George’s Park, he really didn’t need a six-month-old clip to surface in which, during a candid moment with Ian Wright, Ramsdale opened up over one of his perceived weaknesses.

“If you ask me to concentrate on a match for 90 minutes, I’m finished. I can’t do it. So that’s why I get involved with the fans and I’ll sing along with the songs. If someone’s giving me abuse, I’ll turn around and give them a bit back. I’ve had my two or three minutes madness in my head… straight back to the football. I’ve got 10 or 15 minutes of pure concentration again. Next thing you know, half-time comes around.”

Quite the revelation, that. Not the admission itself, but the fact Ramsdale chose to say it out loud.

That probably says more about the rest of us than Ramsdale. The Arsenal keeper seems unable to be anything other than honest and, for the most part, he should be treasured for that. But as he must have realised by now, many fans and much of the media cannot handle the truth.

If you analyse the words, they don’t form the suicide note of his Arsenal career that many have taken them to be. They speak of a goalkeeper, still a young man, who knows his own character and has coping mechanisms to help cover his flaws.

Ramsdale is referring to what many goalkeepers will tell you is the hardest part of the job: the concentration and alertness required to stay in the game, even when you’re not playing an active role.

Arsenal have undoubtedly provided a different test to his Sheffield United and Bournemouth days. With his two former clubs, Ramsdale was kept too preoccupied to engage with anything other than the ball and those who spent most of their time around him. At Arsenal, or any bigger club, the quieter, lonelier moments can stretch to much longer periods. It can be difficult to retain a laser-like focus.

Very few keepers can easily concentrate exclusively on nothing but the football match playing out in front of them and remain ignorant of all possible distractions. Most stoppers find their own coping mechanisms. Some talk to themselves when everyone else is out of earshot; others offer an alternative commentary, sometimes aloud, often in their own head. However focus is found, it can be f***ing exhausting.

Previous and current England goalkeepers Joe Hart and Jordan Pickford have had similar issues. Pickford, Gareth Southgate’s big dog, was not long ago a daft puppy. Roberto Mancini and Fabio Capello both called out the Hart-Dog and the ex-Manchester City keeper turned to commentary. Hart inspired Sheffield United goalkeeper Wes Foderingham to do the same: “I do it all the time, right the way through a game. I commentate all the way through them, in my head, as if I was on Sky Sports.”

Potential Man Utd target Jordan Pickford fist bumps Aaron Ramsdale

Ramsdale has sussed his limits and found ways to mitigate. Arsenal fans weren’t complaining when they pin-pointed his personality and interaction with fans – home and away – as one of the reasons he had become so popular. Ramsdale has made mistakes but nothing so glaring that we can put down to a lack of concentration. In a reactive position, with keepers having to process many more snippets of information more quickly than any other player on the pitch, errors of judgment are often just that. Very rarely can blame be attributed to wandering minds.

But the Arsenal goalkeeper would have been wisest to keep it between himself, coaches and, as he alluded to, his mentor David Seaman. When it comes to concentration and remaining calm amid the chaos, there can be few better role models. Given the overshare does not feature in the original video, it seems Wright or someone else recognised that it might be more beneficial to keep a lid on it, even if the words eventually emerged.

Ramsdale’s inability to keep shtum presumably comes from his dad, who has struggled to keep his own mouth shut. That’s doing more damage to his son’s prospects than any admission coming from the keeper himself.

At the same time the clip with Wright surfaced, Ramsdale Sr was making waves over comments made on an Arsenal fans’ podcast. Arteta copped it. So too did Jamie Carragher and Danny Murphy.

It’s hardly the first time we’ve heard from Nick Ramsdale since his lad lost his No.1 status. And the Arsenal keeper admitted after his dad’s previous outburst that it did him no favours.

“It doesn’t help that my dad does it but he was on a golf trip in Spain with 19 other lads from the local pub,” said Ramsdale Jr last month. “To be honest, I wasn’t too mad at him. He didn’t say anything out of turn. It just wasn’t helpful for the situation, he knew that. He obviously just had a few too many on the golf course!”

He appeared perfectly sober on his sofa when he spoke to The Highbury Squad and criticised Arteta for his handling of his keeper conundrum. Perhaps there was some validity to his point, as maybe there was when he bit back at Carragher. But his words suggest Ramsdale’s dad has taken this season’s twists very personally indeed. Understandable, but he has to listen to his son when he’s being told, directly or indirectly, to pipe down. At least in public.

Neither moment of candour is necessarily helpful, but Ramsdale’s is hardly the revelation many are making out. The Arsenal stopper is still young in goalkeeping terms and certain traits, like concentration and clarity, tend to come easier with age and experience. Even if, as Ramsdale Sr shows, wisdom might not.

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