All fans want to see a new signing do well after they arrive at a club, but the circumstances around Aaron Ramsdale’s arrival at Arsenal makes the will just that bit stronger.
The England under-21 international was forced to limit his comments on Instagram due to abusive messages before he even signed for the Gunners, but since then they way supporters have rallied around him has been pleasing to see.
Within five minutes of making his debut for his new team the 23-year-old already had a song dedicated to him by those in the away end, with “duh, duh, duh, duh Aaron Ramsdale” ringing around the Hawthorns to show the stopper had the backing of the crowd.
He more than repaid it with a solid first appearance that gave a glimpse into why Arsenal were so keen to sign him.
Of course goalkeepers need to be good at the fundamental principle of saving shots – and there were plenty of opportunities for Ramsdale to show his aptitude at that despite the scoreline – but the key factor that attracted Mikel Arteta to the former Sheffield United ‘keeper was his ability with his feet.
There was a shaky moment early on where after, being delivered a bit of a hospital pass on the back foot by Rob Holding, Ramsdale was closed down by West Brom forward Kenneth Zohore.
The ball could easily have easily have bounced anywhere but luckily for Arsenal’s new number 32 it spiralled away for a throw in.
From that point on though the 23-year-old was assured on the ball. With a line splitting progressive low pass to Martin Odegaard in the first half he was also able to exhibit a trait that Bernd Leno – who is probably still number one for now – doesn’t necessarily offer when playing out from the back.
This allowed the Gunners to move the ball upfield quicker and with more accuracy than the aimless long balls up to Nicolas Pepe that we have seen against Brentford and Chelsea so far this season.
Arteta was very pleased with his new signing’s performance on the night and singled him out for praise after the game.
“Yes, really happy for him,” said the Spaniard. “He hasn’t trained a lot with us but you can see the quality that he has.
“He’s a really young goalkeeper. He’s done a lot already in the league, you can see the personality he has when he plays.”
After a season of a clear disparity in quality between number one and number two goalkeepers last season, it seems that Arsenal once again have a battle on their hands for the starting spot between the sticks.
Odegaard is home
The debate over which of James Maddison or Martin Odegaard Arsenal should sign to solve their creative issues was always a big one, but one of the key factors swinging it in the Norwegian’s favour was the lack of adaptation time he would need.
After a six month loan spell last season it’s clear that Odegaard knows his teammates well and knows his manager’s tactics down to the ground.
This was on full display at the Hawthorns as the 22-year-old slipped seamlessly back into the side he can now call home.
His second debut was an impressive one as he played a key role in helping knit together a Gunners side that has looked disjointed for much of the start of the season.
Interestingly it was very pronounced how Odegaard would look to hang back slightly deeper in the build up play, lurking in the right half space while his pacier and more potent teammates looked to make runs in behind.
He was consistently available to receive and was deadly with it.
The stand out moment was undoubtedly a Mesut Ozil-esque back heeled assist for Bukayo Saka’s well worked goal right at the start of the second half to well and truly put the contest to bed.
Without Odegaard in the team there is no player to consistently play those passes from deep to release the Arsenal front line.
Emile Smith Rowe is undoubtedly talented, but picking out the eye of the needle pass is not necessarily the 21-year-old’s strength and that’s why it was so important that Gunners moved to make Odegaard’s loan from Real Madrid permanent.
The Norwegian’s importance to his teammates was picked up on by Arteta after the match.
“That’s what he can do,” Arteta told Arsenal Media. “He’s really comfortable in those areas. He loves drifting into that right-side pocket, coming deep and he needs freedom to play.
“He needs players around him to follow and understand him because the moment he has time on the ball he’s a real threat.
“He glides players together. He attracts players. He’s really confident on the ball. He can take the ball anywhere on the pitch and he gives us that continuity. I think tonight he was really good.”
For a while now Odegaard has talked about the need to find a stable home at this stage of his career.
With performances like this it seems he’s found it in North London.
Sensational Saka’s new role
While Odegaard was one of the stars of the night, a performance to just about outshine him came from Arsenal’s very own starboy Bukayo Saka.
After a relatively poor performance against Chelsea on Sunday the 19-year-old bounced back with a stunning display to help his team ease into the Carabao Cup third round.
Diligent, determined and direct West Brom simply couldn’t cope with the threat he had to offer throughout the night.
Interestingly though, the England international took up a slightly different position on the pitch compared to in his display against the Blues.
For most of the night when the Gunners were in possession Saka would come from the left wing into a very central – almost more so than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at times – looking to cause a direct threat through the middle in behind.
Arsenal looked to find him, but at times lacked the bravery to play the ball of to the Hale Ender, much to his frustration.
At one point midway through the first half the 19-year-old made a dart through the middle, pointing to where he wanted the deeper lying Granit Xhaka to play the ball.
When the Swiss international waited too long Saka uncharacteristically threw his arms skywards and was bouncing around in frustration.
In fairness this seems to be a slightly new tactical plan and you assume that the Gunners will get better at it with time.
With Saka coming central, Aubameyang peeled into the left half space from which he got his third goal of the night. Nuno Tavares was tasked with primarily holding the width on the left hand side, while Nicolas Pepe did the same on the right with Martin Odegaard operating in the right half space.
For much of their first two games of the season Arsenal have looked to not have much of a plan in attack, but at the Hawthorns there seemed to be a clear style of play aimed at creating chances.
It worked well against a West Brom side including several young players, but it will be interesting to see if Arteta is bold enough to play the same way against Manchester City at the weekend.
Aubameyang sends Arteta transfer message
Watching Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struggle down the left wing during pre-season friendlies against Chelsea and Tottenham in the Mind Series was painfully frustrating at times.
The Gabon forward can be effective in that position but only if he has runners around him which didn’t happen too often.
Instead of taking shots at goal, he could often be seen putting in wayward crossed with his left foot which is not what you want from the star striker in your team.
Against West Brom though that was very different.
It might sound basic to say, but the closer you get your centre forward to the goal, the more likely he is to score.
If Aubameyang was playing on the left wing, it’s unlikely that he would have broken his goalscoring drought with two of the easiest tap ins he’s likely to get all season, simply just because of where he would have been standing on the pitch.
While it’s just conjecture to say that he might not have scored his third of the night so emphatically without the confidence from those two early strikes, the conviction with which he curled the ball into the top right corner for his hattrick suggested it certainly played a part.
Instead of being asked to drop deep and link the play like in Premier League matches, the 32-year-old was given the freedom to use his pace to get in behind the West Brom backline and looked far more comfortable with Arsenal playing to his strengths.
With the chopping and changing of his positions it has been difficult for the 32-year-old to find too much of a rhythm in an Arsenal shirt recently, but when asked about where he would be playing going forward after the game Mikel Arteta refused to be wedded to playing his captain either solely on the left or up front.
“I think Auba is really comfortable playing in either position,” the Spaniard told football.london .
“We have Laca as well as a nine that he came on later. With the players we had available today and the plan we believed was better we decided to play Auba up front.”
Many of the transfer rumours around Arsenal this summer have situated around the centre forward position, but with his goals at West Brom Aubameyang showed that he is more than capable of leading the line to devastating effect.
When his strengths are played to the 32-year-old is one of the most potent attacking forces in the Premier League, and it will be interesting to see if Arteta opts for a similar approach against Manchester City.
Source by Football London