Ramsdale vs Leno vs Pickford: Who's the better GK?

Aaron Ramsdale has risen from ashes of relegation ground zero to celebrated national hero. How does he fare against Bernd Leno and Jordan Pickford in his first season

San Marino, Republic of San Marino, November 15, 2021, England's Aaron Ramsdale during FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers - San Marino vs England

With hopes of Champions League football evaporating into thin air, Arsenal's season appears to be suddenly unraveling. While many of these players will need a deep reflection to evaluate their performances, one player who has certainly improved from last season is Gunners number one, Aaron Ramsdale. In this end-of-season review, ZonalSports have pitches his numbers against Bernd Leno and Jordan Pickford. 

Aaron Ramsdale: Relegated to Celebrated

Aaron Ramsdale, who experienced a difficult lone season at Sheffield United, has seen his fortunes remarkably improve in less than a year.

With his whole 1.91m frame between the posts, Sheffield failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their first 10 games, losing 9 and conceding 16, en-route to a Premier League record for the worst ever start by any English top-flight side. 

All through this disastrous campaign, one man remained a mainstay in this abysmal Sheffield side: Aaron Ramsdale. Throughout the whole 2020/21 season, he started all 38 games, playing more minutes than any other footballer in the world's top leagues

At the end of the football calendar year, his report card read:

  • 63 goals conceded
  • 5 clean sheets
  • 29 losses, 

Completely smeared in red ink. 

So under his saving grace, in what was his one and only season with the club, Sheffield were chevied down to the Championship. 

With these horrible stats permanently imprinted on his resumé, it was incomprehensibly stunning, at least to supporters, when Arsenal made not one, not two, but three bids to sign the 23-year-old.

So despite suffering an even worse relegation than Bournemouth, from whom they acquired Ramsdale, Sheffield would sell the player for a profit of almost €10 million. 

For a fee of 28 million euros, Aaron Ramsdale would become the 9th most expensive goalkeeper in the history of football, while Arsenal would become the footballing world's laughing stock.

So at the end of his first season in North London, how does he compare with his immediate competitors at club and national level? 

Is Aaron Ramsdale better than Bernd Leno?

Currently, Ramsdale boasts the joint-7th most clean sheet in the whole of Europe's top league; compared with a 10th place finish for Bernd Leno last season. 

However, Ramsdale's performance could be attributed to a stronger defensive line than his German counterpart enjoyed last year. 

In his first 7 appearances for Arsenal, Ramsdale faced 28 shots at a rate of 4 per game. On the other hand, German goalie Bernd Leno faced a whopping 18 shots in the first 3 games of the season, a palm-shattering rate of 6 per game.

Why did the shots faced drop so significantly?

In the first three games of the season, Mikel Arteta revised his defence five times, including a complete formation change to 5 at the back against Manchester City. 

However, since Ramsdale made his debut against Norwich up until the game against Leicester, a total of 7 games, just one change to the defence has been made: Nuno Tavares for the injured Kieran Tierney.

This means Aaron Ramsdale has enjoyed:

  • First, stability in defence, which has had him get accustomed to the players in front of him. 
  • Secondly, the defensive trio of Gabriel Magalhaes, Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu first debuted against Norwich, which was coincidentally Ramsdale's debut. Since then, all three have added to a far more steely rearguard. 

All this points to one direction, Ramsdale might be doing a great job, but he is benefiting tremendously from the defensive shield ahead of him.

To put this into perspective, in all of Ramsdale's first 7 appearances, Arsenal's new look defence allowed only 8 clear-cut chances, which is just over the rate of 1 per game. 

Contrastingly, in Bernd Leno's 3 appearances, the old guard of Pablo Mari, Holding, Kolasinac, Chambers and Cedric allowed 14 clear-cut chances, an unbelievable rate of 4.67 per game.

This lays bare the mitigating factor: Aaron Ramsdale's success is solely attributable to the strengthened rearguard, while his competitor, Leno, was made the scapegoat for the club's earlier ineptitude.

Two of the three opponents that Leno faced in his first trio of appearances this season were not only the league's highest-scoring teams, but were ranked in the top three of the EPL standings at the time. 

In contrast, none of the first seven opponents Ramsdale faced were among the top seven, nor had they scored more than 15 league goals.

Additionally, in two of his three seasons at Arsenal prior to 2021/22, Leno had one of the best save percentages in all of Europe's top divisions. This performance manifested in light of Arsenal conceding the most chances (SoT) of any Premier League side in those two seasons combined, yet Leno ended both seasons as 2nd and 4th best shot-stopper in England. 

Should Ramsdale be England's Number One?

Of all things Ramsdale has ahead of the pack, the primary standout is that he plays for a more competitive and valuable club than any other English goalkeeper; at least on paper. 

While Jordan Pickford plays for struggling Everton, Sam Johnstone is at second tier West Brom, Nick Pope plays at relegation favourites Burnley, and Dean Henderson cannot buy a game at Manchester United.

History has also shown that the presitge of a club will always be a mitigating factor. Pickford's closest shave with losing his spot came when Dean Henderson was getting consistent game time at Man Utd. 

However, Arsenal have fallen by the wayside in recent years and finished just two points above Everton last season, which raises questions about the team's competitiveness. 

Despite popular belief that they are enjoying a stellar campaign, Arsenal have garnered just five points more than last season's total and have conceded far more goals in fewer games.

Ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, many are of the opinion that England should opt for the younger and supposedly calmer Ramsdale, but the statistics indicate otherwise. 

Against the big 6 teams in the Premier League, the Arsenal man has allowed 18 goals in 8 games compared to the 19 goals conceded by Pickford in 11 games. 

A big game player, the statistics prove that in a major tournament that features the world's best players, the seasoned Everton man is less likely to falter than Ramsdale. 

A development in progress

Players like Pickford and Leno have established their worth over lengthy periods of time, accumulating impressive track records that Ramsdale can only imagine

The 24-year-old is no doubt a great potential and a future England starter, but he is currently a recipient of Arsenal's global prominence as a top team. 

While Pickford is doing what he has always done without much fanfare for close to a decade, Ramsdale is enjoying Arsenal's supporters' intense desperation for a hero. One they have been deprived of in the last few years. This is also not helped by him being English. 

But it's important to keep note that when the big guns came to town, the boys were distinguished from the men.

And in the blink of an eye, the hero they so badly crave could very easily transform the villain they love to despise.