Ramsdale in the spotlight as Arsenal look to go top

    Arsenal have a chance to go back to the top of the table this afternoon when we take on Brentford at the Emirates.

    With the big showdown between Liverpool and Man City taking place tomorrow, it’s an opportunity not just to take three points, but put a bit of pressure on our title rivals. We know already there will be at least one change to the team that beat Sheffield United, with Aaron Ramsdale coming in for David Raya who is ineligible to play against his parent club.

    It’s a big day for the former number 1, potentially his last game in an Arsenal shirt unless there’s an injury or suspension to deal with, and it was put to Mikel Arteta in his pre-game press conference that Ramsdale is more ’emotional’ than Raya, and asked if that was a concern. He said:

    A player has to be himself, and one of the biggest qualities of Aaron is his character, his charisma, his enthusiasm, his energy, and he’s contagious with that, and you cannot cut that. That’s him.

    There’s no question the two are different characters, but I wonder if his time on the bench has given Ramsdale a chance to reflect a bit. There was something endearing about the way he spoke about engaging with fans as a way to keep his concentration up during games, and it’s very much in line with the ‘All goalkeepers are a bit mental’ theory. Perhaps though, it’s something you need to get on top of as you mature if you want to be the first choice at a club like Arsenal. I think that ship has sailed for him now, and it is a bit sad because he’s such a likeable guy who was a big part of our progression, but going forward, wherever he goes next, maybe he needs to find a better balance with that stuff.

    Today, Arteta will expect and demand he plays the way Raya does. There will be no question of changing style, or of what he wants from his keeper both with the ball in his hands or at his feet, and it’s up to Ramsdale to deliver. Ideally, as we have seen in recent games, he’s essentially a spectator with nothing to do, but Brentford will definitely pose more threat than Sheffield United, so we need him to be switched on today.

    If there’s no other reason to not play basically the same team though, I’d stick with what we saw on Monday night. If Jorginho can start two games in midfield, I’d do it, although if his recent fitness niggles means it’s an either/or between today and Tuesday, I’d save him for the Champions League. That would mean some pieces need to be moved around. Kai Havertz could drop back into midfield, for example, or you could keep him up top and fill the left 8 position with one of Leandro Trossard, Emile Smith Rowe, or even Fabio Vieira. There are options.

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    Trossard may well be needed on the left, depending on how serious the cut Gabriel Martinelli sustained was, and how quickly it has healed. Again, while we’re very much in one game at a time territory now, Tuesday might just factor into the decision making here. I also think that set-pieces, a strength of Brentford and something we have to mindful of from a defensive point of view, could be a way to hurt an opposition side who will try and frustrate us today. We know fine well they’re tough side to beat.

    They are without Ethan Pinnock, a real defensive force for them when defending crosses and set-pieces. No player has made more clearances in the Premier League this season. They’re also missing Ben Mee, an important part of their defensive set-up, so with our quality delivery and prowess from dead-ball situations, it wouldn’t surprise me if we found a way through in that fashion.

    Brentford will try and prevent us from making a fast start, but we just have to do what we did against Newcastle. They tried, we just didn’t let them, smothering them in their defensive third, and the confidence this team has now and the momentum we’ve built will hopefully be evident in today’s performance. Captain Martin Odegaard says:

    That’s the mentality we have in the team now, we want to keep pushing, keep playing, keep scoring goals. If we get one, we want two, then we want three. That was the mentality, and you never know whether goal difference might mean something in the end.

    Not every game can be won by such significant margins though. Sometimes at this point of a season, you need to be able to scrap to three points however they come, but I think that fight and ability is something this team is capable of too. Hopefully it’s easier than that, but if the final whistle goes and we’ve won the game, it’ll be job done, and we can sit down and see what happens tomorrow. Then prepare for Porto.

    As ever, you can join us for live blog coverage later, and we’ll have all the post-game stuff for you over on Arseblog News. There’s also a preview podcast to listen to right now on Patreon.

    Have a good Saturday folks, catch you later, and come on you reds!

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