Who Is David Raya & Why Have Arsenal Signed Him?

Most fans were rather happy with the transfer business done by the Gunners in the 2022/23 season. The signings of Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko and others paid off as the club mounted their first serious title challenge in years. The summer 2023 window remains open at the time of writing, but so far Mikel Arteta’s acquisitions appear even better, with Declan Rice, Kai Havertz and Jurrien Timber all joining.

Arsenal’s latest signing is perhaps the most intriguing of the lot though, as it was recently announced that they would take David Raya on loan from Brentford. The Spanish goalkeeper will undoubtedly strengthen the squad but who is Raya and did the Gunners really need another top-class goalkeeper? Has he been brought in as back-up for Aaron Ramsdale… or direct competition? And, what are the details of the loan move?

Who Is David Raya?

Before we look at his stats and why Arteta signed him, and where he might fit in at the Emirates, let’s look at the basics:

  • Date of Birth – 15/9/95 (turns 28 a month into the 2023/24 season)
  • Place of Birth – Barcelona, Spain
  • Height – 6ft 1in
  • Signed From – Brentford
  • Fee – £3m loan fee with £27m option to buy that could become obligatory (subject to certain criteria being met)
  • Previous Clubs – Blackburn Rovers, Southport (loan), Brentford
  • International Appearances – Capped twice by Spain
  • Strengths – Excellent distribution, brilliant shot-stopper, vocal and commands area very well
  • Honours – Won 2022/23 UEFA Nations League with Spain and won the Golden Glove award in the Championship (2019/20)

Why Have Arsenal Signed Raya?

David Raya
Marcin Koral | Flickr.com

On the 9th of August, 2023 Arsenal sold American goalkeeper, Matt Turner, to Nottingham Forest. Coincidentally, the USA international made his debut for Forest against his former club just three days later, conceding twice as Steve Cooper’s men lost. Turner was with the Gunners for just one season and didn’t make a single league appearance, playing seven times in the FA Cup and Europa League. With him gone, Arsenal obviously needed another senior keeper in the squad.

Many fans will be confused by the move for Raya though, with the Spaniard perceived by most supporters (of Arsenal and other clubs), and by pundits, as a brilliant player who could be the first-choice keeper at a big side. Prior to agreeing to move to Arsenal, he was linked with Man United and Spurs for a fee of around £40m, whilst Bayern Munich were also reportedly interested given Manuel Neuer’s ongoing injury issues.

With the Gunners already having a goalkeeper who has impressed since his controversial signing, Raya appears an odd choice to many. Ramsdale was mocked in some quarters when he was signed for around £30m by Arteta in 2021. However, he has won fans over with a string of fine performances, his leadership and attitude, and his consistency. This has seen him emerge as a serious challenger to Jordan Pickford for the England number one spot. And, now, so it seems, the hunter has become the hunted.

Who Is Arsenal’s First Choice?

According to Melissa Reddy from Sky, “There will be no automatic first-choice goalkeeper at Arsenal” because sporting director, Edu, and Arteta have “designed the recruitment strategy this summer to ensure greater competition for starting spots in the squad.” In other words, the two keepers will battle it out, although with Arsenal playing in the Champions League there is also the possibility of a division of roles according to the competition.

She added that the players were aware of the position and that Arteta had told players they had to “compete at the highest level amongst themselves in every position if they expect to regularly win major honours.” She also stated that Ramsdale was believed to be positive about the situation and this was confirmed when the England stopper told ITV Sport, “Bring it on”.

Arsenal’s Keeper Coach Key

Inaki Cana worked with Raya at Brentford before moving to the Emirates to become the club’s goalkeeping coach. The Barcelona native had close links with Raya and he played a big role in Brentford signing the goalie from Blackburn. It is believed Cana pushed for his signature once again and the Gunners were linked with Raya in 2021 before opting instead for Ramsdale. Cana knows the club’s new signing very well, trusts him and believes the two goalkeepers will really push each other on.

Raya Contract Details

As stated above, Raya came to the Emirates on a loan deal with an option to buy. The loan deal is worth £3m and will last for a single season, though most expect the Barcelona native to stay with the Gunners after the initial loan. In order to capture Raya on a permanent basis, Arsenal will have to pay £27m more.

Prior to this deal, Raya and Brentford agreed an extension to his contract with the Bees, adding two years, with the option of an additional year available to the club. This is believed to be a back-up option should the permanent move to Arsenal not proceed. However, Phil Giles, the director of football for Brentford, stated that the loan with the option to buy simply allowed the “deal to be done more rapidly between both clubs, with all parties wanting to make this a permanent transfer as soon as practically possible.”

The details of the loan move have not been fully revealed but they are known to include a possible trigger that would see the option to buy become an obligation. It is thought that this would be triggered should Raya make a specific number of appearances for Arsenal. However, with all parties seemingly happy enough for the deal to go ahead, a permanent transfer seems likely.

Ramsdale v Raya: Keepers Compared

The stats below show how the two goalkeepers got in 2022/23 in the Premier League. Stats only show so much but it is certainly an interesting comparison.

Ramsdale Metric Raya
38 Appearances 38
14 Clean Sheets 12
42 Goals Conceded 46
69 Save Percentage 77
95 Saves Made 154
2 Errors Leading to Goals 1
63% Pass Accuracy 61%
934 Total Passes 1475
0 out of 5 Penalties Saved & Faced 0 out of 2
22 High Claims 52
14 Punches 10
0/0 Yellow/Red Cards 0/0