Few teams enjoy playing against Thomas Frank’s side, who are among the most combative and organized opponents. To play here, on a freezing West London night, you have to undergo a tactical and physical examination that must be very unpleasant to endure. Until Havertz’s winner, Arsenal had little of the usual spark and a lot of unwanted fear.
A lot of that fear seemed to course through Aaron Ramsdale’s veins, especially in the first half. The goalkeeper survived a night that was hair-raising in more ways than one after panicking during the opening exchanges.
In the end, much to his relief, he pulled through. He also left with a clean slate, although perhaps without much hope of ousting David Raya in the coming weeks.
From the moment Ramsdale lost his place in the Arsenal team, this match would have been circled on his calendar. The England goalkeeper has not played in the Premier League since early September, but with Raya unable to play against his parent club, he had known this would be his chance to remind the world what he can do.
The problem Ramsdale has, however, is that he is now the center of attention whenever he steps onto the field. All the talk about the two goalkeepers, all the debate about Arteta’s handling of the issue – it has all served to thrust the man between the posts into sharper focus.
It is of course a goalkeeper’s job to deal with this pressure. But Ramsdale looked taxed in the first half and he played like a man who knew everyone in the football world was watching him.
The first chants of support for Ramsdale had already emerged before the match, with Arsenal fans keen to remind the 25-year-old how popular he is within their fanbase. The reaction from Brentford supporters was to immediately compare him unfavorably with Raya, who is still beloved in these parts for his key role in Brentford’s rise. All four corners of the ground, singing about one man.
Ramsdale has historically thrived in such situations. In recent seasons, there was seemingly nothing he loved more than electrifying a hostile crowd. But on this occasion he seemed very uncomfortable, and it was not long before his performance suffered.
First he hit the ball straight out of play. Then he almost gave away an unnecessary goal and surrendered possession in his own penalty area. He was grateful for the quick thinking of Declan Rice, who produced an excellent block to deny Bryan Mbeumo. An attempted throw then ended up in the turf.
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