Cherries stopper Ramsdale out to thwart City slickers
Aaron Ramsdale has played in Bournemouth's opening two matches and will hope to face Manchester City
 (Robin Jones/AFC Bournemouth)

Rookie AFC Bournemouth goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale was given the ultimate confidence boost by his manager Eddie Howe, grasping the responsibility of tending the Cherries net in their first two games of the season.

He has been a key component in their promising start to the league season, after a 1-1 draw against Sheffield United was followed up by their first three point haul against Aston Villa, guiding the Cherries to a 2-1 victory.

In his early but blossoming career, England youth international Ramsdale has already shown many of the attributes that will stand him in good stead for a long career at the top level.

However his first major test could be this weekend, when Pep Guardiola's all-conquering Manchester City outfit pitch up at the Vitality Stadium, off the back of a 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur which saw the reigning Champions pepper Hugo Lloris' goal.

Ramsdale will have to be at his best on Sunday to keep Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and co at bay, but he has proved thus far that he is not fazed by reputation and will not let the side down. 

The story so far

Cherries new star Ramsdale was born in Stoke-on-Trent, briefly spending time in the Bolton Wanderers youth set-up but it was at Sheffield United where his career began, initially joining on a scholarship in 2014 and signing professional forms two years later.

Ramsdale did not get onto the pitch for United in League One, but he did get two run-outs in the FA Cup, starting in a 6-0 demolition of Leyton Orient in the First Round in the 2016-17 season, and also getting on the pitch in the Second Round as the Blades went out to Bolton.

A move down south followed in January 2017, joining Bournemouth for an undisclosed fee, and his first matchday experience in the Cherries squad was when he was selected on the bench for a game against Leicester City on the final day of that season.

Ramsdale was shipped out to Chesterfield in January 2018, spending the rest of the season in Derbyshire, getting some valuable game-time (19 league appearances) but also conceding an own goal on his debut against Accrington Stanley with the Spireites going on to lose 4-0.

Another loan spell was next on the agenda, and Ramsdale had a very positive experience at AFC Wimbledon, playing 20 times and steering the side to a 20th place finish and safety from the drop out of League One. 

He was rewarded with the club's Young Player of the Year trophy to cap his time with the Dons, and returned to Bournemouth to stake his claim for first-team football.

First team opportunity

Ramsdale has had a fast start to Premier League life, thrust into the deep end for the season opener against the club he began his career, newly promoted Sheffield United, but he did not buckle under the pressure.

He held steady for the bulk of the 90 minutes, making a couple of stops, and was unfortunate to be beaten by Billy Sharp's sentimental and well-struck 88th minute leveller for his hometown club.

The young goalkeeper also lined up in Bournemouth's second fixture against another newly promoted side, Aston Villa, and was peerless for much of the contest, guiding the Cherries to a 2-1 win.

He was beaten once between the sticks, by an unstoppable strike from 30 yards by Villa's Douglas Luiz but he emerged from the game with his reputation further enhanced.

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Facing the champions

After two record breaking seasons, Guardiola's City are a familiar foe to the other Premier League teams and, with Bournemouth now in their fifth successive season in the competition, they are used to being on the wrong end of a tiki-taka masterclass.

City began their season with an outstanding display against West Ham United in a 5-0 win but, even with this emphatic scoreline, it was their last outing against Tottenham that demonstrated their attacking zeal to its fullest.

Guardiola's men had 30 attempts on goal across the ninety minutes, with ten of those on target, and were only denied victory by the intervention of VAR.

Ramsdale's entry to picture could be Bournemouth's trump card, as a largely unknown entity who will have studied City at a distance while on loan at Chesterfield and Wimbledon in the past two years.

Cherries keeper Ramsdale will need to be fully focused on the task because City's threat comes from all avenues.

De Bruyne and Sterling are always lively, Kyle Walker and Oleksandr Zinchenko provide pace and delivery from wide, both Bernardo Silva and David Silva, use their low centre of gravity to their advantage, while Sergio Aguero doesn't need a second invitation to get in an effort on goal.

City's pattern of play is familiar to their opponents - possession first, cutting off opponents mid-flow and intricate passing that bamboozles defences. 

With respect to Aston Villa and Sheffield United, Ramsdale will not have faced opponents of this calibre before, but for goalkeepers loan spells in lower divisions can be invaluable, the hustle-and-bustle nature of the Football League lending itself to developing shot-stopping and lightning reactions.

It may not be enough, with City racking up 198 points in the last two seasons and pushing aside far wealthier and more established sides like Chelsea and Arsenal along the way, but Ramsdale offers a growing reputation and a reliable presence with a splash of mystery.

The competition

Ramsdale's exposure to Premier League football has been at the expense of experienced shot-stoppers Artur Boruc and Asmir Begovic. 

Former Polish international Boruc took over between the sticks for the majority of the second half of the 2018-19 season, with Begovic taking a backseat after a poor run of form.

Howe took the decision with Begovic at that point having conceded the most goals of any Premier League keeper since the beginning of the 2017-18 season.

The 101 times he picked the ball out of the back of the net ahead of Everton's Jordan Pickford, who conceded 89 times in the same period.

For his part, the 39-year old Boruc had not made a league appearance since April 2017, but Howe's faith in the Pole, who had previously played in goal for Celtic and Southampton, was justified as Bournemouth largely steadied their ship save for comprehensive defeats at the hands of Arsenal and runners-up Liverpool.

Another young goalkeeper, Mark Travers, lined up for Bournemouth in the final two matches of the last campaign, a 1-0 victory against Tottenham and a final day 5-3 away defeat at Crystal Palace's Selhurst Park.  

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What they say

With a long career behind him, Boruc graciously accepted Travers' promotion to the first team at the tail end of last season, and was equally enthusiastic about Ramsdale's chances.

Ramsdale himself benefitted from first-team football on loan at League One side AFC Wimbledon, tallying 20 league appearances in the capital, helping the South Londoners to safety and boosting his standing.

Boruc told the Bournemouth Echo, "Of course, yes. The young lads learn a lot, especially from the games.

“You can see it from both of them (Ramsdale and Travers) now. They’ve improved a lot.

“I’m looking forward to seeing them grow as fast as they can.”

Manager Howe also heaped praise on Ramsdale before the season began and told the same paper that the England youth international is more than ready to handle the pressure.

Howe said "It was a tough decision because we’ve got four good goalkeepers - I have said that many times.

"Aaron didn’t concede a goal in the matches during pre-season, had played impressively and had come back from Wimbledon a better goalkeeper – more mature in everything that he did.

I think he deserved to play.

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