A funny old game. Arsenal started with David Raya and Fabio Vieira in place of Aaron Ramsdale and Kai Havertz. I could understand Mikel Arteta leaving Havertz out of the starting eleven because whether one loves or loathes the German, his start at Arsenal hasn’t been the best. Starting with Raya though was a shock, at least it was to me. I don’t think Raya had a save to make but I think it’s fair to say, his distribution was good.
I thought Arsenal started brightly and when Gabriel Martinelli put the ball past Pickford in style, it was no more than we deserved. However, celebrations quickly turned to disappointment as not only was Eddie Nketiah adjudged to be offside in the buildup, our Brazilian went off injured. Leandro Trossard came on in his place and looked very rusty. The game continued in a similar fashion to the one earlier in the year with Arsenal controlling the game but with little end product. Actually, zero end product.
Half-time came and went, very few Arsenal chances came and went too. Then, with around twenty minutes left, Arsenal were awarded a corner which was taken short and played through Declan Rice, Martin Odegaard and then Bukayo Saka before the latter played the ball back to Leandro Trossard. A fine strike from the Belgian off his left book sent the ball past Pickford, onto the inside of the far post and into the back of the net. Incredible skill to hit the ball so well the way he did.
1-0 was how the game ended and finally, after a few years of dismal results at Goodison Park, Arsenal came away with maximum points. Not the best of football matches I’ve ever watched, nor was it the best performance by Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, but three points in the bag nevertheless. Sometimes, that’s all what matters.
Inevitably, right after the match, Mikel Arteta was asked why he opted to play David Raya instead of Aaron Ramsdale:
The same rationale that Fabio played here or that Eddie played ahead of Gabriel Jesus. I haven’t had a single question on why Gabriel hasn’t started – he has won more trophies including me in that dressing room but they don’t [ask why]. It is something that historically is done like this but I cannot have two players in this position and not play them. David has tremendous qualities like Aaron has and Karl has, but we have to use them and it is like this.
I am a really young manager, I have only had three and a half years in the job and I have few regrets. It was on two occasions, that after 60 minutes and at 85 minutes in two games in this period I could have changed the keeper in that moment, and I didn’t do it. I didn’t have the courage to do it, but I am able to take a winger or a striker and put a central defender at the back to make a back five and hold that result. We drew those games and I was so unhappy.
Someone is going to do it, and it’ll be strange and you’ll ask why, but tell me why not? If you have all the qualities in another goalkeeper to do something, or if something is happening and you want to change the momentum, then do it. It is a regret that I have and now my feeling is to get everybody engaged in the team that they have to play, regardless of the competition – this is my message.
What an honest response and I’d never thought of rotating goalkeepers in this way. We know Raya is a very good keeper, just as Ramsdale is so why not mix it up throughout a season because it’s the best way to keep a goalkeeper match fit and used to playing with every player rather than just a defensive group which might only play in one or two of the competitions we compete in. Why is it that a goalkeeper almost has to do something bad on a number of occasions before he’s taken out of the team when in reality, he too might just be in need of a break. Saying that, I’d love to know which two games Arteta is referring to when he wishes he’d changed the keeper during the game.
Honest as Arteta was, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have just the two regrets from his three and a half years in management…..
Catch up in the comments.