Aaron Ramsdale bites back at claims Arsenal surrendered the Premier League title
Aaron Ramsdale perches on a bench near the pond at Arsenal’s training base and plonks his cup on the table. It is personalised, in the style of his favourite Yorkshire blend: ‘Aaron’s Tea,’ the mug reads.
But as the goalkeeper settles down to discuss his new contract, his chow chow Blue, his birthday and his back-and-forth with opposition fans, Ramsdale also wants to talk bottles. Well, Arsenal’s bottle and the accusation that Mikel Arteta’s side lost theirs somewhere en route to surrendering the title.
It’s a raw topic. Only two days have passed since Arsenal’s 3-0 home defeat by Brighton all-but ended their hopes of catching Manchester City.
‘I think it’s an easy way out – just a quick, cheap narrative from certain people who have not actually gone digging into stories of what we have achieved,’ the goalkeeper says. ‘We are disappointed but extremely proud of ourselves as well.’
The charge particularly irks Ramsdale ‘when it comes from certain people, who don’t necessarily have the knowledge or the experience.’ Or when critics ignore what they are up against.
Aaron Ramsdale signed a new long term contract this week to extend his stay at Arsenal
The goalkeeper has described the claims Arsenal surrendered the title as ‘quick’ and cheap’
Arsenal were beaten 3-0 at home to Brighton to all-but end their title hopes just before the line
‘It is very hard to say that with a team who could win five of the past six (titles), who are on an 11-game win streak, who might potentially win the treble. We have to be realistic as well.’
That was the message Arteta had tried to hammer home during a team meeting a few hours earlier.
‘He’ll restrain himself from saying things in the dressing room straight after a game. He doesn’t want to say the wrong thing,’ Ramsdale says.
But in their debrief, normally two days on from a match, the manager will outline all they need to work on and all that went wrong. Until the final minutes, when Arteta will show his players what worked well.
‘He knows what we’re trying to do, sometimes we don’t deliver it as best we can. But he will always put a positive spin on it at the end of the meeting,’ Ramsdale explains. ‘To make us walk out and remember the last little bit. Remember what we do.’
This week’s chat, ahead of Saturday’s trip to Nottingham Forest, bucked that trend.
‘We did a different style of meeting, just remembering how far we’ve come. He put on the board about how we can still have the most amount of wins by an Arsenal team in the Premier League ever,’ Ramsdale explains.
‘About how, again, it’s very disappointing at the minute, but how progressive the season has been, how positive we can be.’
The Gunners led for much of the season but sit second, with Man City closing in on the title
Ramsdale has revealed Mikel Arteta is eyeying Arsenal’s record point tally this season
The England international has suggested Man City’s quality has been hard to keep up with
Ramsdale has been caught in this tangle of emotions ever since the final whistle against Brighton.
‘It was my birthday on Sunday – I don’t want to play on my birthday again!’ he says.
‘But that was probably perfect at the same time because I had my mum and dad down, my brother and (fiancee) Georgina.’ They went out for Asian food; on Tuesday, Ramsdale brought in cake for his team-mates.
‘Then I went into London (on Sunday) with Georgina and did a bit of shopping and wedding planning. Luckily I did have that because it could have been a long two days.’
The couple are planning a bash in 2025 but they will complete the legal paperwork this summer. Ramsdale has already committed his future to Arsenal, signing a new, four-year deal this week.
The goalkeeper is one of several young stars being rewarded for a fine campaign: Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Magalhaes have already penned new contracts, while Bukayo Saka’s improved deal is close and William Saliba remains in talks.
‘I think it shows my progression and the team’s progression. It shows the faith the manager and the football club have in me. Obviously you get contracts for performing on the pitch and exceeding expectations almost.’
So has he outdone himself?
Ramsdale says he hasn’t outdone himself as an individual but is happy with Arsenal’s progress
Pep Guardiola’s City went unbeaten in their previous 14 games to cut the gap at the top
‘Personally, no. But as a team, yes,’ Ramsdale says. ‘This season has been incredible. The jump we had from last year, especially (when Arsenal finished fifth). But I understood my ability and it was just about trying to unlock that and do it on a more consistent basis.’
Still only 25, the England international hopes to play for another 15 years. He wants to spend them all in north London.
‘I don’t want to move around anymore,’ Ramsdale says. ‘It’s very hard as a footballer to try and stay in one place for a long time, to create a home where you can have a family… I want to be a mainstay at this football club and do special things.’
Ramsdale has struggled for stability ever since being released by Bolton at 15.
‘I love the area, the people at the football club, and ultimately I want to be fighting for trophies,’ he explains.
In 2021, reports of Ramsdale’s £24million arrival sparked abuse and threats. These days, he is a hugely popular member of Arteta’s squad. And a goalkeeper with plenty of room for growth.
‘I still think I have levels to get to, to be looked at as a goalkeeper at the top of his game,’ he says.
The same goes for his team-mates, not one of whom Arteta believes has reached his best.
Ramsdale isn’t sure many will next season, either.
Ramsdale is still only 25 years old but claims he wants to play for another 15 seasons – and spend them all in north London
He spoke of the excitement at the fact the club still have a number of players who are not even at their peak yet
‘I still think there’s probably eight to 10 players who have another four or five years until they’re at their peak. And that’s exciting,’ he says.
Though Ramsdale doesn’t overburden himself with specific targets, he insists: ‘I don’t think you can ever reach a level which you can be satisfied with, otherwise you will start going backwards and be complacent… I don’t think that goalkeeping can ever be reached or finished. It changes every year. Something new happens – a new rule change, or a new technique.’
Some of the biggest improvements he has made in recent years have come off the pitch: being able to switch off, for one. ‘My fiancee has helped a lot – just being able to do things with her, with my dog,’ Ramsdale explains.
‘I still watch football near enough every single day, no matter what it is. But I’m not constantly thinking about my football team and what I need to be doing.’
What he should have done in their last game, what he needs to do next time. What he is allowed to do, even.
‘People always say you can’t do things if you’ve lost a game. If I’m honest, after the first two years I had in the Premier League, if I’d taken that advice I would have just sat in a dark room in the house on my own,’ Ramsdale says.
Before joining Arsenal, he was relegated with Bournemouth and Sheffield United in consecutive seasons.
‘I’ve been able to push football to one side when I’m outside of it and play golf, be with my fiancee. I’ve just grown up,’ he adds. ‘The clubbing side of it is not something I enjoy anymore.’
It becomes easier to indulge other passions when you are fighting at the right end of the table.
He is set in the process of planning a wedding with fiance Georgina, who he has paid tribute to
Ramsdale has two relegations to his name, first at Bournemouth and then Sheffield United
At United, Bournemouth and Chesterfield, the goalkeeper saw the true risks of going down – to jobs and livelihoods.
‘The pressure of a relegation battle is much worse than fighting for the title,’ he says.
‘It’s more of an enjoyment when you’re at the top of the league – you’re trying to play with freedom, with a smile. When you’re down there, it’s really difficult to have that mindset because at times you’re worrying about what people are thinking: “He shouldn’t be enjoying it as much…”
Those experiences taught him painful lessons but also helpful perspective.
‘If I hadn’t been through that, I wouldn’t know how to probably deal with disappointment,’ the goalkeeper adds.
‘You have to have a life, you have to be able to compartmentalise the differences between football and home life… of course I would change the clubs getting relegated but would I change playing for those clubs and getting relegated? No.’
That won’t be much comfort to players at Nottingham Forest, who are fighting for their Premier League survival. Another cauldron of colour and noise awaits Arteta’s players and Ramsdale knows how febrile atmospheres can veer into violence – he was kicked by a Tottenham fan following this season’s north London derby.
After 90 minutes of poking and prodding between the goalkeeper and rival fans. It has become a weekly ritual.
‘They pay their money and, either rightly or wrongly, they get to say anything they want to you when you’re at a place of work,’ he says. ‘Sometimes you just can’t take it or you don’t want to take it, so you give them a bit back.’
Nottingham Forest lie in wait for Ramsdale and Arsenal on Saturday afternoon at the City Ground
The 25-year-old insisted that if fans wanted to give him stick he was going to celebrate a goal in front of them
He knows that invites even more pressure. But?
‘I should be able to enjoy myself while playing and it never really oversteps the mark – ever,’ Ramsdale continues. ‘If you’re going to give it to me, just know if we score or you don’t win, I’m going to celebrate in front of you, just like you would give me something if I made a mistake.’
As he did against Southampton last month, gifting a goal to Carlos Alcaraz inside 30 seconds. That was among several costly errors by Arsenal in recent weeks.
They are now praying for a miracle – even victory at Forest might not be enough to take this race to the final day. ‘It’s a slim chance,’ Ramsdale concedes. ‘Hopefully the disappointment we are feeling at the minute… we can use this, as we did last year, to bounce back and be hungrier and fight again.’