Aaron Ramsdale charges onto the field to embrace his teammate and fellow goalkeeper David Raya, as the Spaniard saves his second penalty of the evening and sends Arsenal through to the Champions League Quarter Finals for the first time in 14 years.

There is joy in the moment, indeed Ramsdale is grinning from ear to ear. 

And yet, it is clearly the very final nail in the coffin of his Arsenal career.

Even calling it “the final nail” is a misrepresentation of sorts. In reality, the moment David Raya entered the building, a clock on Ramsdale’s time at the club had started ticking.

In fact, some Arsenal fans may even tell you that the clock started ticking at 8:01 PM, on Saturday the 21st of April 2023. The nightmarish moment in which Ramsdale misplaced a seemingly routine pass, gifting Southampton the lead at The Emirates stadium.

A moment that signified the inevitable collapse of Arsenal’s surprise title challenge. A moment that led to questions of “bottle” around Ramsdale and the rest of the squad. A moment that may have been at the forefront of Mikel Arteta’s mind when news of David Raya’s availability became apparent.

In truth, the 2022/2023 title collapse was a culmination of many factors, including injuries to William Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu, but the fact remains that when Arsenal needed a dependable figure between the sticks, Aaron Ramsdale dropped the ball.

Even despite the occasional catastrophe, Ramsdale quickly endeared himself to the Arsenal fans. “Rammers” (as “Rambo” is reserved for a certain Welshman) has an almost unmatchable talent for getting his own fans to love him, and rival supporters to absolutely despise him. We’re talking about a man who wound up a rival fan so much, that said fan felt compelled to try and kick Ramsdale in the head. 

His antics make matches more interesting, it’s as simple as that. He lives, he laughs, we love (and many hate).

And when on his game, he makes some terrific saves. Often game-defining saves that have a real meaningful impact on the final result. Leicester away, Tottenham at home, Liverpool away… Although his time at the club may be coming to an end, it would be unfair to forget the contribution Ramsdale has made in taking Arsenal up the Premier League table.

Ramsdale tips a James Maddison free-kick onto the bar against Leicester City – one of his iconic stops in an Arsenal shirt.

Arsenal now find themselves in a similar position to last season, facing a tense title run-in against both Manchester City (again) and Liverpool. Thus far, David Raya has yet to blunder in the same manner that his predecessor did and seems to only be going from strength to strength, which ultimately leaves Aaron Ramsdale in an uncomfortable position.

The man once considered “England’s future #1” will finish the season as a 26-year-old. Certainly not old by goalkeeper standards, but not a “prospect” by any stretch of the imagination. And despite an impressive highlight reel, very few accolades to his name. Given that his departure from the club is inevitable, it’s time to look to the future.

Arsenal will be looking to recoup the £25M+ they paid for Ramsdale in 2022, which further complicates matters. A step down from Arsenal is almost certain given that a step-up would require a move to one of maybe four or five clubs in world football. But an obvious “fit” hasn’t presented itself as of yet.

A team looking to elevate their possession game should certainly be eyeing up the situation. Neither the statistics nor the eye test suggest that Ramsdale is in the elite echelon of “ball-playing” goalkeepers – Alisson, Ederson, Raya, etc. But there is a speciality to this part of his game.

Ramsdale’s ability to pick out medium-to-long-range passes will benefit a team that utilises an aerially dominant forward. He spent a season launching long counter-attacking passes to players like Saka, Jesus, and Martinelli to mild success. He never did enjoy the luxury of having Kai Havertz to aim for.

Outside of decent distribution, a team employing the services of Aaron Ramsdale will also enjoy having an aggressive sweeper that enables front-foot defending from the entire backline. That almost intangible attribute of “knowing when to come, and when to stay” is comfortably present, and he’s confident in dealing with dangerous balls over the top of the defence.

Ramsdale ranked 6th out of all Premier League goalkeepers in “average distance from goal” in defensive actions during the 22/23 season. (stats via FBref)

But despite these positives, questions will always be asked of the goalkeeper who admitted to “struggling to pay attention during matches”. A statement that Ramsdale almost certainly regrets putting into the public domain. Like most quotes, it’s been taken far beyond its original context, though it remains a glowing red flag on his profile.

In many ways, Ramsdale has become a victim of being too “normal”. Football fans have been crying out for players to stop hiding behind their PR teams and let their personalities shine through, yet in this instance, it’s largely only served to lower Ramsdale’s stock in the public eye.

Ramsdale himself will be hoping that this perception doesn’t extend beyond the viewing public, and at the very least, Gareth Southgate has kept relative faith in the 25-year-old by reaffirming his position as the England #2 ahead of Euro 2024.

Beyond that, it’s tough to tell where Ramsdale will land come the start of the 2024/2025 season. Speculative links to Chelsea and Newcastle linger from the January window, though the former seems to have settled comfortably on Djordje Petrovic, and the latter still retains the services of Nick Pope, pending his return from a shoulder injury.

Ironically, it’s not entirely unlikely that Brentford present themselves as an option. As Raya completes his permanent move to Arsenal, Thomas Frank’s side may very well look to move on from Mark Flekken, who has thus far failed to impress in his start to life in the Premier League.

Roberto De Zerbi also continues to sway back and forth between Jason Steele and Bart Verbruggen – and with the Italian coach potentially departing the club in the Summer, a new head coach may very well look to the transfer market to solve the dilemma.

Upon arrival at his new home, wherever that may be, Ramsdale will quickly win his fans over. Be it his antics towards opposing fans, eccentric personality, or highlight reel saves, the man knows how to win hearts and minds.

And perhaps, after experiencing heartbreak at Arsenal and watching fans quickly warm to his replacement, a new home will do him the world of good.

The story of Aaron Ramsdale is far from over. One day we’ll be reflecting on his time at Arsenal as the necessary formative struggles that gave him the experience he needed to unlock his full potential.