Aaron Ramsdale is planning quite the season. Flying high with Arsenal, the England goalkeeper is targeting silverware with club and country as the Gunners prepare for Europa League action and the Three Lions set their sights on the World Cup later this year.
Back-to-back shutouts on the road at Bournemouth and Crystal Palace contributed to Mikel Arteta’s side’s 100 per cent start after five games and they go to Manchester United on Sunday knowing victory there would send out a statement they are determined to break into the top four, perhaps even beyond.
Ramsdale will look to overcome a knock suffered in the 2-1 win over Aston Villa to play, having become a fans’ favourite since signing from Sheffield United a year ago.
It helped that after the 3-0 win at Bournemouth he refused to say the name of north London rivals Tottenham, referring only to ‘others down the road’ in his post-match interview, with fans seeing him as one of them. He modestly says: ‘It must have just rolled off the tongue!’
Something special is going on at Arsenal. Back in Europe after finishing fifth last season – obviously not the fourth place they had hoped for – Ramsdale wants to bag his first pot with the Gunners, who will be aiming to go at least one better and qualify for the Champions League.
‘The dressing-room targets have been sort of left alone,’ he claims. ‘The cliche is “one game at a time” but it’s a new experience for a lot of us playing in Europe and personally I think that can be a priority for us, to go and win the Europa League.
‘I don’t see why (we can’t), a trophy is a trophy: it’s European football. We came close to the top four last year. That should be a given and a trophy along the way.’
The pain of that failure to get over the line remains, the Gunners having been pipped by Spurs after a 3-0 capitulation with ten men away from home in May’s derby.
The meltdown brought great scrutiny and Ramsdale admits he still has much to learn – off the pitch as well as on it.
‘In my eyes I’m far from where I want to be, in experience terms as well,’ he says.
‘There’s a long way to go but I’m very happy with where I’m at. If you’re happy with the spotlight or not, it comes with the territory at a big club. You either embrace it or you don’t. Sink or swim. Only the ones who can deal with it will survive. I’m loving it at the moment and it only gets more pressurised if you’re in the England team.’
Ramsdale followed the Lionesses as they won the European Championship in July and hopes the men’s team can continue to ride that wave of success at the World Cup – 56 years after England last won it.
‘I watched all but one of the group games and then every game after that,’ the Stoke-born keeper says. ‘What they did over the summer was amazing. It shouldn’t have taken a European winner’s medal to get the recognition they deserve.
‘I don’t think we need more fuel but the feelgood factor is there. Hopefully that inspiration and joy they brought to the nation we can roll into our (World Cup) and make it a year no one will ever forget.’
At 24, Ramsdale is one of the youngest top-flight goalkeepers but he is already making waves. His 12 clean sheets in 34 Premier League matches for the club last term compare favourably with Jordan Pickford (seven in 35) and Nick Pope, then of Burnley (nine from 36).
Maintaining such form would see Pickford under pressure going into November’s World Cup but Ramsdale admits it will not be easy to add to his three caps in the Middle East.
‘It’s difficult when someone’s been a mainstay for so many years and been one of the main structures of everything good England have done recently,’ Ramsdale says.
‘It is always going to be a huge ask but I have time on my side. It might be the last chance I ever get potentially to go to a World Cup but I’m not looking at it that way.
‘If I get picked as a support player, I’ll try my best and be pushing Jordan all the way. It is a team sport and there’ll be 26 lads there.
‘If we win it, there will be 26 who have won it, not 11.’
Ramsdale opens up when he speaks about Bournemouth and Wales midfielder David Brooks, one of his best friends, who is on the road to recovery after being diagnosed with stage-two Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer, last October. Last week he signed a new contract until 2026 with the newly promoted Cherries, who the Gunners defeated 3-0 recently.
The pair played together at Bramall Lane as well as the Vitality Stadium and Ramsdale harbours hopes they will both be in Qatar, where their sides face each other in Group B on November 29.
‘I’ve known him since I was 17 and we lived together for two years at Sheffield United, then later he joined me at Bournemouth,’ he adds.
‘It helped I wasn’t in Bournemouth (when Brooks was diagnosed).