David Raya As Midfielder Keeper

David Raya passing skills. Raya grew up in Spain playing futsal and in the outfield and that is quite obvious when you watch him play goalkeeper. Looking at all of Arsenal’s players you might say he has the best passing accuracy. And he is a goalkeeper of course! He can angle a chipped ball into the midfield from his keeper position while under pressure from both sides.

It is startling how much of the soccer ball Raya actually gets a touch on in the possession and buildup phases for Arsenal.

Furthermore, the entire opposing team can get sucked up into trying to win the ball. Which opens up spaces out wide and for counter attacks for Arsenal. The other team is drawn into a trap in a way by Arteta and Raya. With one laser-like long ball down the line to Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka or Leandro Trossard and Arsenal have a chance on goal.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this in the modern game of football. At least since the rule change where the keeper can’t pick up the ball when it’s played back to them. Really, since the rule change forced keepers to improve their ball skills. Now though keepers are increasingly becoming involved in the attack.

Arsenal’s manager Mikel Arteta has in many ways made a big bet in starting Raya over Aaron Ramsdale. Don’t forget that Ramsdale was voted to the first team in the EPL by the players. That says a lot. The whole league of players thought he should be in the starting lineup for their team.

However, one stat that stands out and differentiates the two keepers is in passing: “Raya has made 154 successful passes, compared to Ramsdale’s 74 in total. Also, Raya has made 76 long passes, compared to his teammate’s lowly 33.”

Essentially, it is like Arteta is thinking he has to do something extra to get his team over the hump and top Manchester City. It is quite a gamble though. Not because Raya isn’t up to the task but because his style of play is a bit risky in a way. Plus, it is a big change for the team. Nonetheless, if you watch Raya play sort of as a midfielder in the back you can see why Arteta made this wager.

Raya might be so effective for the Arsenal attack that you’d bring him on as a substitute late in the game if you need a goal. And I don’t mean him scoring by coming up on a corner. Rather, it is Raya’s ability to deliver the ball on a string to an attacking player via a half volley or a pass that leads to a goal scoring chance.

Here’s a video of Raya’s passing skills from his time at Brentford:

It is odd in many ways even watching Raya play goalkeeper for Arsenal. Someone away from the game for twenty years shocked at his passing skills. The way keepers are now part of the attack and start the possession game from their foot. Raya is also a master at the side volley. Able to laser to ball out wide to players with supreme accuracy.

Moreover, Raya can also chip the ball into forwards or midfielders who are coming back to the ball. And remember, this is all while he’s under pressure near his own goal.

Overall though, Raya has become not just a sweeper keeper but a keeper midfielder. The original keeper sweeper was Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer. Then, Manchester City’s Ederson took over that throne in many ways. Ederson often ventures into midfield even at times to join the passing triangles. Raya though is a new breed of keeper. The number of times he touches the ball and has it at his feet is astounding in some games for Arsenal.

All goalkeepers have a kind of fearlessness in their game. They have to. But if you asked them I think they would tell you that not only can they stop shots but they could create more chances for their team. They would tell you they could step in the midfield and play the killer pass. And David Raya passing skills are on full display with Arsenal.