Dear David Raya
Everyone had an awful lot to say when David Raya came to the club.
A season-long loan signed in mid August had people questioning exactly how the Spanish goalkeeper would be utilised.
In turn, the move to install Raya as first-choice keeper in mid September led to an absolute cacophony of hot-takes, opinion pieces and predictable Sky-Sports-Studio-slander.
This transition was always going to be difficult. Aaron was, and remains, a hugely loved, vital and dependable member of the squad.
Standing in his place has been expectedly tricky; they’re huge gloves to fill. As a result, any mistake of any size was leapt upon by the media and on the timeline.
Any misplaced pass or unclaimed ball was placed under the most microscopic of all microscopics. The discourse seemed endless, didn’t it? It was tedious, wasn’t it?
But in a recent good run of form for the Gunners, in the midst of many truly exceptional performances from the likes of Big Gabi, Odegaard, Martinelli and Saka, Raya, our man between the sticks, has been absolutely outstanding. And the facts don’t lie.
In our last ten games, Arsenal have scored four fast break goals (a league best); that’s up from just one in our first thirteen games of the season.
It’s hard not to point to Raya’s increasing confidence as the deciding factor here. In other notable moments, he sprung Arsenal’s counter for Leo’s game-clinching goal against Palace, and made an under-the-radar penalty save on a disappointing afternoon for the Gunners against Sunday’s opponents West Ham.
Against Liverpool, Raya was confident, assured, quick-thinking and astoundingly able. His distribution, with his feet and out-of-hands alike, was superb (with an inch-perfect swazz out to Martinelli for our early counter-attack a particular highlight).
Moreover, he just seems increasingly inevitable when a high ball is lofted into our box, doesn’t he? Another imperious figure in our already towering defensive set-up. He’s growing with each performance, and delivering on the promise that Arteta, a man whom we simply cannot doubt for a moment, has long known to be there.
The most pleasing factor, undeniably, is his accumulating interactions with the fans. A growing and mutual adoration that I feel he is more than earning.
Hopefully, we can now begin to dial down the noise around the signing, the selection and all that has come with it.
Raya is Arteta’s man, and by extension, he is our man.
Forever. In fear of repeating myself, I assuredly expect this Arsenal team to continue to bring us joyous memories, decorated in silverware.
And Raya will be at the centre of all of it, I have no doubt.
You’re a Gooner, David. Now and always.