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Spotlight: Aaron Ramsdale

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Bournemouth’s former shot-stopper is now Sheffield United’s No. 1. Let’s have a closer look.

Aaron Ramsdale - Sheffield United - Premier League
Aaron Ramsdale won’t be wearing a Bournemouth shirt this season. Should you be interested?
Photo by Peter Powell/Pool via Getty Images

When Dean Henderson was recalled to Old Trafford, ending a two-season loan spell at Bramall Lane, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder moved swiftly to replace him. Just days after Henderson made his exit, Wilder announced the purchase of Aaron Ramsdale.

Ironically, the Blades were buying back one of their own: Ramsdale graduated from Sheffield United’s youth academy before signing a professional contract with the club in 2016. A year later he was sold to Bournemouth, where his Player of the Year performance in 2019-20 wasn’t enough to save the Cherries from relegation. With Wilder in need of a proven No. 1 and Ramsdale looking to stay in the Prem, the reunion of club and player seems a match made in heaven.

But Ramsdale will have big boots to fill. Henderson won the Championship Golden Glove and the club’s Young Player of the Year award on his way to helping SHU achieve promotion to the EPL in his inaugural campaign with them. And this last season, he anchored a Blades team that finished in the top half of the table and made a legitimate push for Europe. Only Ederson and blog-favorite Nick Pope collected more clean sheets than he did.

Is Ramsdale good enough to take Henderson’s place? And should you be considering the Blades’ new shot-stopper for your fantasy squads?

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The Stats

Ramsdale is clearly about to get an upgrade: He’s jumping from one of the worst defenses of the 2019-20 campaign to one of the best. But will Ramsdale be a boost for the Blades? Let’s compare his stats for last season to Henderson’s.

Ramsdale vs Henderson 2019-20

 Wins Losses Clean Sheets Goals Conceded
 Wins Losses Clean Sheets Goals Conceded
Ramsdale 9 22 5 62
Henderson 14 12 13 33

Henderson crushes Ramsdale in every one of these categories. But should we be surprised by that? Chris Wilder plays a 3-5-2 in attack, but when defending, that formation morphs into a 5-3-2, with the fullbacks dropping deep to support the three central defenders. Additionally, rather than having his strikers employ a high press, he typically prefers for them to sit back and cut off passing lanes in the center of the pitch. This makes SHU very difficult to break down in the central areas, and shunts the opposition wide, where they are less dangerous. These tactics are a major reason for SHU’s defensive stinginess, and none of it involves the goalkeeper.

On the other hand, Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth play a more attack-oriented 4-4-2 that incorporates a high press when the ball is lost. This philosophy can pay dividends in the opponents’ half, but also carries risk: With so many players pushed forward, the Cherries often found themselves exposed when their high press was defeated. The result? More than 60 goals conceded in each of their five seasons in the Prem.

So how much of Henderson’s 2019-20 superiority over Ramsdale was due to intrinsic goalkeeping talent, and how much was due to playing behind a better defensive unit? Let’s examine their individual shot-stopping stats.

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Ramsdale vs Henderson: Save Stats

 SOTs Faced Saves Made Save %
 SOTs Faced Saves Made Save %
Ramsdale 187 128 68.4
Henderson 128 97 75.8

Here we see that although Ramsdale faced more shots and made more saves, Henderson had the superior save percentage. How important is that difference? Well, if we assume Ramsdale had been SHU’s keeper last campaign and faced the same 128 shots on target that Henderson did, then Ramsdale’s 68.4% save percentage translates to 9.5 more goals conceded. That may not seem like much until you consider that twelve of SHU’s games ended in draws, and that ten of their fourteen victories were decided by a single goal. Those extra goals that, on paper, Ramsdale would have conceded could be enough to make the difference between the top ten and relegation.

For further elucidation of their shot-stopping skills we can analyze a statistic called “Expected Goals Prevented”, or xGP. Using this metric we can weigh the goals a GK should have conceded against the goals he actually conceded.

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Ramsdale vs Henderson: Expected Goals Prevented

 xG Prevented Minutes/xGP
 xG Prevented Minutes/xGP
Ramsdale -0.7 n/a
Henderson 8.3 390.4

This table shows us that Henderson added value to Sheffield United’s already-tight defense last season. He saved more than 8 shots that should have been expected to score, which indexes to one goal avoided every 4.3 games. This ranks him 2nd in the EPL (Hugo Lloris was #1).

Conversely, Ramsdale added no value to his team, his actual saves actually falling a little short of his expected saves. (Kepa Arrizabalaga was in last place with almost 13 unexpected goals conceded, demonstrating quite clearly why Frank Lampard wants to get rid of him.)

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Conclusion

Because Ramsdale will be playing for a better defense this season, we can expect more wins and more clean sheets from him than he achieved in the last campaign. And because he’ll face fewer SOTs he’ll concede fewer goals. All of these things will translate to more fantasy points.

But he’ll also make fewer saves. Last season he made 128 stops — second among all GKs in the Prem. But in our analysis above, we projected he would only make about 87 saves this season, fully 41 fewer than he made last season.

Saves are less important in FPL than they are in Fantrax, so the boost from the additional wins and clean sheets, as well as the decrease in goals conceded, should outweigh the loss of save points. Further, the Blades lack flashy outfield players, leaving room for the GK to share in the bonus-point bounty. Ramsdale collected 13 bonus points last season to Henderson’s 16. so we know he can benefit from that system. Priced at £5.0, there is no cheaper route into Sheffield United’s defense this season, and I expect him to outscore his fullbacks and center-halves.

I think his returns in Fantrax will be less certain though. He’ll have fewer losses (-4 points each) and fewer goals conceded (-3 points each), but these benefits will be offset by the certain decrease in saves. Forty-one fewer saves would cost him 82 points in Fantrax — that’s almost a third of his total points from last season. With a current price tag of $7.00, I think there are better, safer values in that format.

(Statistics sourced from fbref.com, fantasyfootballscout.com, and transfermrkt.com)

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What effect do you think Ramsdale will have on SHU’s defense this season? Will they be able to challenge for Europe again, or is another Top Ten now in jeopardy? Are you considering Ramsdale for any of your fantasy squads? Why or why not? Take the poll and then share your thoughts in the Comments below.

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Poll

Are you considering Aaron Ramsdale for your GW 1 fantasy EPL squad?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Yes, in FPL
    (8 votes)
  • 0%
    Yes, in Fantrax
    (0 votes)
  • 13%
    Yes, in both formats
    (2 votes)
  • 33%
    Nope
    (5 votes)
15 votes total Vote Now

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