Rambo is in the wars again.
Nearly 18 months have passed since Aaron Ramsdale took a kicking for having the temerity to join Arsenal – red on red trolling that followed the England goalkeeper’s £30million move from Sheffield United and included sinister threats to his safety. Then on Sunday, after he produced arguably his finest display under Mikel Arteta, the attacks turned physical.
Police will deal with the Tottenham supporter who clambered towards the pitch and booted Ramsdale at the end of an emotional north London derby. Fortunately for the 24–year-old, the attack left little lasting damage: just a ‘sour taste’.
Aaron Ramsdale was happy on Sunday after keeping a clean sheet in the north London derby
He racked up seven saves against Spurs, the most he’s made in a league match this season
The best treatment for that? A quick glance at the table, which shows Arsenal now eight points clear of Manchester City. And at the stats. Ramsdale racked up seven saves against Spurs, the most he’s made in a Premier League match all season.
The 2-0 win strengthened Arsenal’s grip on the title race and intensified the spotlight on Hugo Lloris, whose error put the visitors on course for victory. Ramsdale’s performance also served as a useful reminder after a turbulent 24 hours in north London: sometimes, from the rubble of a failed transfer, other diamonds can emerge.
Arteta insisted he would not let the attack on Ramsdale dampen his day. His side did their best, meanwhile, to erase the spectre of Mykhailo Mudryk, who was nabbed by Chelsea shortly before Sunday’s derby.
Mykhailo Mudryk wore a Ukraine flag as he was unveiled in front of Chelsea fans on Sunday
The winger had been Arsenal’s top target and after months of work behind the scenes, all signs pointed towards a deal with Shakhtar Donetsk. Last Friday, an agreement (worth up to £80million) seemed close. Arsenal’s confidence stemmed, in part, because the Ukraine international seemed set on the move.
Talks had not been straightforward – Shakhtar turned down two Arsenal bids and the Ukrainian club repeated in private what had been made public: their £88million valuation was dictated by Jack Grealish’s move to Manchester City and Antony’s move to Manchester United. Arsenal weren’t going to go that high. Not with such obvious mitigation: Grealish had lots of Premier League experience and Ajax had – to put it politely – driven a hard bargain with Antony. Mudryk, meanwhile, had made less than 50 senior appearances for Shakhtar.
Arteta wanted reinforcements early in January but the club were prepared to go the distance. Shakhtar, after all, have a habit of holding out for their players.
The waters were muddied further by Shakhtar’s league plight: they face a fight to qualify for next season’s Champions League football. That meant weighing up the benefit of cashing in on Mudryk against the cost of losing their best player.
The Ukrainian club also failed in their bid for €50million worth of compensation from FIFA after emergency transfer rules allowed foreign players and coaches suspend their contracts during the Russian invasion.
The 22-year-old had long been a target for Arsenal before Chelsea hijacked the move
And then there was Chelsea who, with Todd Boehly at the helm, have become rather – shall we say – unpredictable in the transfer market. They had long threatened to scupper Arsenal’s plans.
There was little alarm in north London when Shakhtar’s director of football, Darijo Srna, appeared in a box at Stamford Bridge earlier this month. Arsenal had been dealing primarily with CEO Sergei Palkin.
By the time Srna re-appeared at Chelsea on Sunday with Mudryk in tow, however, Arsenal had conceded defeat. They weren’t going to match Chelsea’s £88m offer. Even if £20.5m is now going to help Ukrainian soldiers and their families. Arsenal were never keen for a bidding war.
They had already walked away from a possible deal for Joao Felix when they saw the loan fee. He, too, ended up at Chelsea for £9m.
Last summer, meanwhile, Arsenal abandoned a move for Lisandro Martinez after deciding the numbers didn’t add up. Instead, they signed Oleksandr Zinchenko, who has helped transform Arteta’s side alongside Gabriel Jesus. The Brazilian joined only after the Gunners failed to replace Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang last January.
Pulling away from signing Lisandro Martinez, Oleksandr Zinchenko has been a shrewd buy
Ramsdale signed a year after Arsenal tried, unsuccessfully, to land Brentford goalkeeper David Raya. Despite initial mutiny among supporters, despite early shock at the demands at Arsenal, despite shaky displays this season, the England international is a vital member of Arteta’s squad. His willingness to return fire when rival supporters give him stick has endeared him to Arsenal fans while his performances have, it’s understood, put him in line for a new deal.
All of which should reassure supporters: Arsenal can deal with setbacks in the transfer market. So after missing out on Mudryk and Felix, where could they turn now? They have been linked with Leandro Trossard – who wants out of Brighton – and Raphinha. Sporting director Edu is close with the Brazilian’s agent, Deco, and Arsenal looked at the former Leeds winger last summer, only to walk away when it became clear he wanted to join Barcelona. Elsewhere, Arsenal are interested in Real Valladolid right back Ivan Fresneda, 18, with Sportsmail told the Spanish club want around £13million.
Further forward is where reinforcements seem more urgently required. But Arteta has been adamant that Arsenal will not sign the wrong player. They have also counted the cost of overpaying in the past – most obviously with £72m Nicolas Pepe.
‘We want to improve our squad in this transfer window,’ Arteta said on Sunday when asked about Mudryk. ‘But we will do the deals we can do and the ones we feel are right for the club.’
And Arsenal can return to drawing board knowing there is often value in having a second glance.
Arsenal failed to land David Raya but Ramsdale has proven a brilliant acquisition 18 months on