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David Raya: Is Arsenal's goalkeeper gamble working as Aaron Ramsdale returns in goal vs Brentford, live on Sky Sports?

David Raya is ineligible to play for Arsenal vs Brentford on Saturday so Aaron Ramsdale will return in goal; Sky Sports analyses whether Mikel Arteta was right to pick Raya as his No 1; watch Arsenal vs Brentford live on Sky Sports this Saturday from 5pm; kick-off 5.30pm

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Sky Sports' Sam Blitz crunches the numbers and statistics behind Mikel Arteta's decision to bring in David Raya as Arsenal's number one goalkeeper as he displaces Aaron Ramsdale.

It was the debate that dominated the start of Arsenal's season - David Raya or Aaron Ramsdale in goal?

Fan favourite Ramsdale was named in the Premier League Team of the Season last term, but Raya was the goalkeeper Mikel Arteta went for after the September international break.

The debate emerges once again this weekend. With Raya ineligible to face parent club Brentford on Saturday, live on Sky Sports, Ramsdale will get the chance to start between the sticks having been officially relegated to Arsenal's No 2 goalkeeper. Arteta's stunning September theory of rotating goalkeepers mid-game has not emerged, while recent results have quietened the goalkeeper debate.

But has it all worked out the way Arteta wanted it to? Even though Raya has Ramsdale's No 1 jersey now, the Spaniard has been guilty of some high-profile errors this season. Being caught off his line for Mykahilo Mudryk's cross against Chelsea, two errors in the 4-3 win away at Luton, and even Porto's winner in the Champions League last month saw some fingers pointed at Raya.

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And a close look at Raya's saving stats shows the Arsenal goalkeeper sits in the bottom three or four goalkeepers in the league in this category.

Raya's save percentage from this season sits at 64 per cent - only Brighton's Jason Steele has a worse record out of goalkeepers who have featured in at least 50 per cent of their club's minutes this term.

His Goals Prevented Rate sits at -2.9 - meaning he has conceded nearly three more goals than he should have done this season. Out of the Premier League first-choice goalkeepers, only James Trafford, Matt Turner, Mark Flekken and Sam Johnstone - all of whom play for relegation-threatened clubs - have a worse record.

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But context is key when analysing these numbers. The question is: do Arsenal actually need a shot-saving goalkeeper?

Of course, Raya's palms will be needed at some point, especially in the bigger games as this season reaches its dramatic, topsy-turvy conclusion. But, on average, an Arsenal goalkeeper is relatively quiet with his hands.

The Gunners have conceded 223 shots this season, the second-lowest record in the league behind Man City's winning machine. And, from those shots, Arsenal have conceded the fewest Expected Goals in the league by some distance.

While Raya's saving stats do not look pretty, he does dominate his penalty area. The Spaniard claims the vast majority of his crosses and has won every single duel on the ground this season.

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And do not forget that Raya is currently leading the race for the Golden Glove with nine clean sheets. That is due to the collective effectiveness of Arsenal's defensive game - but the Gunners goalkeeper contributes to that too.

The stats show Raya plays that little bit higher up the pitch than Ramsdale. It is a tiny little detail but it makes all the difference when it comes to Arsenal's shape.

Arteta's team can then play just that little bit higher up the pitch, push their defenders towards the halfway line, move the likes of Declan Rice up to the edge of the opposition box in the high press and gain more dominance up the pitch.

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Arteta himself recognises that. "What I like about David is what he does in goal," he said last month. "The things that he prevents us from, you don't even see because they don't happen, because he has anticipated them."

That is because Raya is an effective sweeper-'keeper - winning 100 per cent of his 13 attempts to sweep up behind Arsenal's high backline. Only one other Premier League goalkeeper - Burnley's Trafford - has a faultless record in this department this season.

Raya's high position is something Ramsdale is cautious about. At the start of the season, Ramsdale spoke about reaching a "compromise" with Arteta about how high that position should be. Arteta is a manager whose tagline is 'non-negotiables' - if he cannot find a player to fit his system, he will look elsewhere, like he did by bringing in Raya.

This is not the only slight marginal tweak that Raya has brought in the Arsenal goal. There is also quick-thinking which has been a big help for the Gunners at the other end of the pitch.

The counter-attack where Arsenal scored against at Fulham on New Year's Eve was initiated from a quick Raya throw. So was the Gunners' third against Crystal Palace, scored by Leandro Trossard.

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Bukayo Saka gives the Gunners an early lead against Fulham at Craven Cottage

Ten minutes into Arsenal's must-win game against Liverpool in February, Jurgen Klopp's side went from attacking a corner to watching Gabriel Martinelli sprint clear and then Bukayo Saka nodding wide of goal from a few yards out, courtesy of one well-timed Raya throw.

Saka and Martinelli ran riot all afternoon in that win against Liverpool. Raya helped them gain momentum.

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Saka misses from close range

Raya's distribution is ultimately a dangerous weapon. Only Alisson Becker and Jordan Pickford have more secondary assists - ie passes that lead to an assist for a shot - than Raya in the Premier League this season. But it is part of a bigger picture.

"There are opportunities in the match when you can play fast and the door is open, that you can maximise those situations like every team does," said Arteta when asked about Raya and his throwing ability.

A lot has been said about how Arsenal need to right the wrongs of last season's run-in, perhaps these small marginal tweaks that they are maximising could help them achieve it.

Raya starting in goal is one, there has also been the inverting of Ben White from right-back to the middle of the pitch, plus the extra inches in height that Kai Havertz and Rice bring in midfield and attack.

It is why Arsenal look relentless and ruthless both home and away in this crucial part of the season. It is why the reintroduction of Ramsdale in goal this weekend could potentially destabilise things at the back...

How will Aaron Ramsdale fare when Arsenal host Brentford this Saturday live on Sky Sports? You can watch the game live on Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm; kick-off 5.30pm...

Anthony Joshua's heavyweight showdown with Francis Ngannou takes place on Friday March 8, live on Sky Sports Box Office with the main event expected around 11pm. Book Joshua v Ngannou now!

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