Kai Havertz is Arsenal’s hero, but under-pressure Aaron Ramsdale fails to impress



Kai Havertz stole the headlines with a late winner to lift Arsenal to the summit of the Premier League, but Aaron Ramsdale will be left relieved to walk away with a clean sheet after an unconvincing performance at Brentford.

Brentford remained determined in their tactics and press, forcing the game to almost grind to a halt at times. It looked to be heading for a goalless draw before Havertz headed into the back of the net from close range to secure all three points for the Gunners in the 89th minute and ensure they finish the weekend top of the table for the first time this season.

Lengthy stoppages accompanied every set piece and neither side imposed themselves on the match until the inspired decision to swap Gabriel Martinelli with Havertz paid off in the final minutes.

Before the winner, much of the focus surrounded Ramsdale who had not started in goal since 7 September, but with David Raya ineligible to face his parent club, was handed a rare opportunity to impress.

However, it was clear throughout the game that the pressure has been mounting on the shot-stopper, especially after Gareth Southgate’s statement saying that should he not establish himself for the Gunners, he may find himself out of the Euro 2024 squad.

With less than 15 minutes on the clock, Ramsdale almost gifted Brentford their opening goal. He paused taking a goal kick, tried to let Gabriel Magalhaes take his place, but the defender fed it back to the goalkeeper who made an error. With Yoane Wissa closing him down and blocking the clearance it was only Declan Rice’s quick-thinking to race to the line and make a crucial block that kept the score level.

Arguably Brentford should have pounced, but Bryan Mbeumo took slightly too much time setting up his curled effort and the follow-up from Wissa was wide of the target.

Ramsdale had already been under pressure since the start of the match and made a slightly risky clearance early on that only spurred on the fans, who taunted him from the outset, comparing him unfavourably to Raya.

Aaron Ramsdale looked nervous playing out from the back but went on to keep a clean sheet

(AFP via Getty Images)

That only increased pressure on the goalkeeper, who looked nervous every time he was called on to do something as straightforward as clear the ball. He made another error inside the first half, when he failed to release a throw, hurling the ball down at his toes and having to track backwards immediately as Brentford looked to capitalise.

They consistently put up to six players surrounding Ramsdale any chance there was a corner which only put more stress on the 25 year old.

Arsenal thought they had released the pressure on their goalkeeper when Leandro Trossard was on hand to nod the ball over the line, only for it to be ruled offside following a lengthy VAR debate.

Trossard had squandered a couple of opportunities already but was in the right spot when Gabriel Jesus’s header was palmed upwards rather than away by Mark Flekken, but the fourth official ruled the Belgian offside and the scores were level at the break.

In the second half, it was clear even Mikel Arteta was at least slightly concerned when his former number one was called upon, like making hand gestures for Ramsdale to calm down when he had to take a goal kick. But he looked to have settled down, at least slightly, while the game meandered along without any significant chances for either side, coming off his line to clear the ball in a decisive manner.

Super sub Kai Havertz nods home to send Arsenal to the top of the Premier League

(PA)

Ramsdale’s opposite number almost repeated his first-half error, when he was almost caught in possession by Eddie Nketiah, but was just able to play a risky pass across the face of goal and the score remained goalless.

The game which had been a drab affair, sparked into life in the final 15 minutes. Oleksandr Zinchenko had to repeat Rice’s first half effort, making a key block to deny substitute Neal Maupay’s header from crossing the line before Havertz’s winner.

Arsenal will walk away at the top of the Premier League, but it was far from a complete performance.



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