Brentford No 1 David Raya, Tom Heaton and Sergio Romero among the goalkeepers Arsenal could sign as back-up after Alex Runarsson’s awful start… just months after letting the man with most Premier League clean sheets this season go!
- Alex Runarsson has had a torrid start to life at Arsenal following his transfer
- The Icelandic was brought in to replace Emi Martinez, who joined Aston Villa
- Martinez has excelled at Villa and has kept the most clean sheets in the league
- Mikel Arteta said Arsenal will act to provide No 1 Bernd Leno with competition
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is rarely so direct in his press conferences but in his latest appearance he confirmed outright that the club would look to sign a new goalkeeper this month.
There is no doubt that the sub-par performances from Alex Runarsson – the latest of which in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals against Manchester City saw the Icelandic punch Riyad Mahrez’s free-kick into the roof of the net – have forced the Gunners to reassess their options.
The 25-year-old has been a Europa League regular this season but has rarely looked comfortable between the posts and was brutally exposed by Pep Guardiola’s men for Gabriel Jesus’ opener as well in their 4-1 win.
Arsenal are looking to sign a new goalkeeper this month with Alex Runarsson underperforming
Emiliano Martinez (left) was a fine back-up last season after Bernd Leno (right) got injured
Unlike many of the other issues at the club, this specific problem is not one Arteta inherited, with Emiliano Martinez proving to be an admirable back-up last season once No 1 Bernd Leno had suffered a season-ending injury at Brighton following the restart.
But having won an FA Cup and Community Shield and become – in some fans’ eyes – the undisputed No 1, the Argentine departed in a £20million deal for Aston Villa after Arsenal failed to guarantee he would keep his starting spot, and he has made further strides forward during his 15 appearances for the West Midlands outfit so far.
No goalkeeper has kept more Premier League clean sheets than Martinez’s eight this season, while the 28-year-old’s save percentage of 76.5 per cent is bettered only by Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris’ 77.9 per cent and Burnley’s Nick Pope 77.3 per cent.
Martinez’s departure has therefore left a gaping hole which Runarsson has not come close to filling, but is there a more suitable option available during this January window with Matt Macey also having departed for Hibernian?
Here, Sportsmail takes a look at the options on the table for Arteta as he looks to solve an issue which will save Gunners’ fans from holding their breath should Leno be unavailable.
But the Argentine decided to move on in the summer and joined Aston Villa in a £20m deal
David Raya – Brentford
The Spaniard was identified as Arsenal’s first-choice target to replace Martinez in the summer, but Brentford’s determination not to sell saw the Gunners have a £10m bid rejected.
The north London outfit had wanted to secure the 25-year-old’s signature regardless of the acquisition of Runarsson, and his quality as a leader and with his feet has attracted the Gunners’ interest.
Raya has shown his composure on the ball on numerous occasions and playing out from the back is a feature of Arsenal’s play that Arteta is determined to see succeed.
He is also an incredibly commanding figure at the back and helps to organise the defence, while also possessing the ability to launch swift-counter attacks, which Martinez succeeded in doing for Arsenal last season by finding Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Brentford shot stopper David Raya was Arsenal’s first-choice target in the summer window
Raya’s homegrown status also makes him an even more enticing option with new rules in place now that the UK have left the European Union, with his command of the language also another important aspect.
But if the Bees – who currently sit fourth in the Championship and are aiming for promotion once again after last season’s defeat by Fulham in the play-off final – were reluctant to sell in the summer, that unwillingness will only increase this month.
A summer deal, where Brentford would be afforded plenty of time to source a replacement, looks a far more likely option. Therefore, Raya’s unavailability this month could mean Arteta seeks a short-term fix before revisiting this situation in the summer.
Sergio Romero – Manchester United
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed Sergio Romero is free to leave Manchester United this month with the club having decided not to renew his contract which expires in June.
Romero was left out of United’s Premier League squad – in favour of David De Gea and Dean Henderson – after a move to Everton fell through in October as Deadline Day approached.
He has since been heavily linked with David Beckham’s MLS franchise Inter Miami as well as a move back to his native Argentina with Boca Juniors, which is where many believe he will end up as he comes towards the back end of his career.
Sergio Romero is free to leave Manchester United this month after summer moves fell through
However, Sportsmail understands Romero has not ruled out staying at United until the end of the season and leaving as a free agent.
With Raya seemingly unavailable to Arsenal, the 33-year-old would be an ideal short-term stopgap for Arteta given his vast experience at club level in this country and on the international stage too.
However, the Gunners remain cash-strapped and any attempt to sign the Argentine would most likely have to see them at least match the reported £70,000-a-week he earns at Old Trafford, given that the Red Devils are unlikely to want loan him given his contract situation.
Tom Heaton – Aston Villa
This potential signing would have a hint of irony attached to it, given it was Martinez who Aston Villa saw as the reliable option needed with Tom Heaton still recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, which he suffered on New Year’s Day last year.
The 34-year-old has stated in no uncertain terms that he will look to push Martinez all the way in his bid to win back his No 1 spot, but the Argentine’s performances make any prospect of that situation arising increasingly dim for Heaton.
The England goalkeeper has had to sit on the bench for Villa’s last three games and has now gone a year without playing a first-team game, which may be of some concern to any potential rival, with Arsenal in particular in need of a keeper who is not trying to blow off any cobwebs.
Tom Heaton has not played a first-team game for more than a year after a serious knee injury
However, should Arsenal opt for Heaton, he would represent a player who would be more determined than most to make an impact ahead of this summer’s delayed Euros.
He earned the last of his three England caps in 2017 but was a regular in Gareth Southgate’s squads before suffering his injury, and Villa boss Dean Smith acknowledged he will have to reassess the situation at the club given Heaton’s international ambitions.
But whether he would get the playing time necessary at the Emirates Stadium to see off competition from those similarly vying for that third-choice goalkeeping spot – such as Henderson – is doubtful.
Stephane Ruffier – Free agent
The 34-year-old goalkeeper made the headlines for the wrong reason earlier this month after he was sacked by Ligue 1 side Saint-Etienne.
Ruffier had been ousted from the first-team squad at the start of the season, with boss Claude Puel confirming that he had refused to play second fiddle to his team-mate Jessy Moulin.
He is the goalkeeper with the most appearances in the history of the club, but the incredible turn of events came after months of legal battling between the player’s agent and the club.
Stephane Ruffier was sacked by Saint-Etienne earlier this month and is now a free agent
The goalkeeper has also been part of many France squads and has amassed more than 550 career appearances in his career, meaning he – like Romero – possesses the necessary experience to fill the void at Arsenal.
Discussions over salary and personal terms are unlikely to be an issue given his current status as a free agent, but doubts remain as to whether he would be comfortable being Leno’s back-up considering not being first-choice is the reason he fell out with former Southampton and Leicester boss Puel.
Barring an injury to Germany international Leno, Ruffier would be unlikely to see much Premier League action either, however Arsenal’s involvement in the Europa League and FA Cup could yet see the Frenchman try his hand away from his native country for the first time in his career.
Seny Dieng – QPR
Dieng is one of the few names to have actually been linked with a move to Arsenal this window, and the 26-year-old has seen his stock grow despite QPR’s lowly position in the table.
So far this season, he has kept four clean sheets in his 20 league appearances and has starred despite Mark Warburton’s side sitting two points outside of the relegation zone.
His rise to QPR No 1, a role in which he has rarely looked out of place, has been incredibly swift after spending last season out on loan at Doncaster Rovers in League One.
Seny Dieng has impressed for QPR despite the club sitting close to the relegation zone
His most prominent attribute appears to be his close-range shot stopping, but doubts remains as to whether he can become equally adept when players strike at goal from outside the 18-yard box.
Dieng – who has also been linked with moves to Leeds and Crystal Palace in recent weeks – has had no fewer than 11 employers already in his career having started out in his native Switzerland with Red Star Zurich more than a decade ago.
However, while he is currently London-based, whether Arsenal believe he is capable of once again raising his game to match the increased standard of the Premier League and cup competitions remains to be seen.
Mat Ryan – Brighton
The Australian is another Premier League-based keeper who has been told he is free to find a new club.
Ryan has been displaced as the No 1 in Graham Potter’s side by Robert Sanchez since the draw at Fulham last month.
The former Valencia man appears to have little chance of appearing in cup competitions either, with Jason Steele turning out for the Seagulls in their dramatic penalty shootout victory against Newport County in the weekend’s FA Cup third round.
‘The day before the Fulham game, the manager told me he’d be giving the other goalkeeper a substantial to run to see how he goes, and would be keeping Jason Steele as his second choice as he likes the way he fulfils the role,’ Ryan told The World Game in December.
Mat Ryan has been told he can find a new club after falling down the Brighton pecking order
‘He added that if I get a good offer in January I should take it, knowing that I want to be playing week-in week-out. It came as a shock and a surprise that he said that.
‘Knowing where I stand now, from what was communicated to me, perhaps it might be better that we do go our separate ways. However, until that opportunity comes – and it’s a good project – then, as far as I’m concerned, I’m a Brighton player and I’m here to fight for my spot.’
Ryan could see that desirable project in the form of what Arsenal have to offer, and with just 18 months left on his deal, the Gunners could be attracted to that sort of offer, and has enough time on his side at 28 to allow Gunners youngsters Karl Hein and Arthur Okonkwo time to fully develop.
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