‘Best goalie in Netherlands since Van Der Sar’: Arsenal and Ajax fan explains what Onana is all about

Andre Onana is on Arsenal’s radar, with some (admittedly, less reliable) sources even stating the deal is as good as done. So we pulled up an opinion of our fellow fan from Reddit, who’s been watching Onana regularly for years now.

El-Acantilado: “A lot of rumors on Andre Onana occurred regarding a possible transfer to Arsenal. I’ve been a Dutch Arsenal fan for over 20 years and have had a season ticket for Ajax for many years as well. Apart from that I’ve been training goalies on several levels, working with former pros and football schools. Working on becoming a scout, but that’s still in the works.

“ANYWAY. I wanted to give some insights on Onana’s performance and goalkeeping style, his qualities, shortcomings, et cetera. Mostly because I see a lot of judgement calls being made based on highlights or random gut feeling.

“For the past 4 years I’ve missed about 10-15 games of Arsenal and Ajax combined, so I’ve got a pretty clear view on it. Bear in mind, it’s my opinion as a fan so you should take this with a trunk of salt.”

Background

“Onana is from Cameroon and was in Barcelona’s academy from 2010 – 2015, until he moved to Ajax at the age of 18. All in all a solid background and academy, right? Well, let’s dig into that.

Personality & Style

“Onana is relaxed, funny and ice-cool. He really is one of those guys who makes the atmosphere in a room. You’ll notice that in his game as well. You won’t find a lot of goalies with that much confidence. He just doesn’t give a shit to be honest. He has a pretty funky style, so to say.

“He’s not your typical schooled goalie who works within the lines of what he’s been trained. Think of e.g. staying within the 6-yard box, or the other opposite of running out like a maniac in a 1v1. He seems to really go by a lot of instinct, combined with a chunk of talent and proper training.”

Distribution

“Funnily enough, this is by many foreigners and highlight watchers being seen as his number one trait. However, this is not per definition his best trait, but I’ll get there later on. He’s almost ambipedal, which is massive for both players and goalies. Basically the same length with both feet, which makes him utterly reliable wherever he has the ball.

“Saying that, he used to be way too wild with his long range passing. During the warm-up he would barely ever overpower his passes or miss direction, but it happened quite regularly. He developed a lot here, and I won’t say it doesn’t ever happen, but he became really reliable there, regardless of the level being it against amateur teams in the cup, or on Champions League level. The chip shots over the striker still gets me nervous though, but that could be me.”

Positioning & Reflexes

“Here’s the fun part. Or actually, by far his best trait in my opinion. Let me tell you, his reflexes are out of this world. He is so quick, I sometimes thought the ball hit the post, but it then turned out to be a ridiculous save. He’s fast, really strong, but above all his intelligence makes him read the situation really early. He sees what’s happening, acts in time and that gives him just the two inch space he needs to make his saves.

“However, the odd thing is that he relies a lot on his reflexes, because his positioning sometimes seems to be a bit off. This is something I always find really hard to judge because he makes up for it with his reflexes, his reach and his length, so it can be a well considered approach. Saying that, in his younger years his positioning absolutely SUCKED. He was all over the place, making stupid decisions, but this was on academy level.

“The biggest flaw I can mention here is with corners he doesn’t catch the ball too often because he uses his reach to punch the ball away. Personally I hate this, I would never teach anyone doing it when you’ve got the possibility of catching it with two hands, but here we are. I’m on Reddit, he’s the Ajax and possibly Arsenal goalie.”

Dominance

“The box is his. No doubt about it, it’s his, and no one else. He doesn’t give a shit. He’ll bump into you, he’ll shove you out of his way, he’ll take the ball and after that your legs to make sure you won’t do it again. He’ll almost jump on your neck to get the ball. No questions asked.

“However, that’s also one of his flaws. When (figuratively speaking) kind of asserting his dominance, he can get a bit wild and thus reckless. It hasn’t cost him a lot so far, but that’s something I’m always a bit concerned about.”

Leadership

“He talks and coaches his teammates a lot. Very good. He also talks to the ref a lot during altercations. No good. He helps his teammates out in these situations. Very good. He takes a lottttttttt of time when he wants. Mweh, Champions League semis, fuckin hell for fucks sake.

“On a serious note, he makes defenders feel secure which I think is brilliant. You just know there’s a solid, reliable goalie behind you. He sticks his neck out, he’ll get dirty for you. He wants to win at all cost.”

Growth

“He was fucking AWFUL in Ajax’s u21 academy team. His reflexes were good, but he messed up SO MANY TIMES you wouldn’t believe it when you see him play now. He was so wild, making so many judgement errors, diving underneath the ball, atrocious positioning. I’m not kidding, I was absolutely frightened when he suddenly was forced to play in the first team. Basically the first thing he did was save a penalty which was a pleasant surprise but from there on he kept on growing and growing.

“Did he make some errors in the past years? Sure he did, but who doesn’t. Especially at such a young age as a goalie which per definition has a different growth trajectory than a winger. But that was good, he was learning fast and he seems to be developing even this season (bar the banning incident and Liverpool error). If he keeps this growth trajectory going, I’m convinced he’ll turn out to be (if he isn’t already) the best African goalie there has been.”

Overall judgement

“Am I biased? Sure thing. I think he is an amazing goalie. But setting that aside, he has shown his development capabilities. I’m being completely honest here. He is without a doubt a top 15-20 goalie in the world right now. Possibly edging the top 10. And he’s only 25, so still a lot of time left.

“From what I’ve seen in the past 20 years or so, he’s by far the best goalie in The Netherlands since Edwin van der Sar. He does have some flaws here and there, but even then, it’s limited. He’s really all-round, a modern goalie, a huge talent. And if Arsenal can snatch him away for a low fee, it’s a no brainer.

“I hate seeing him leave Ajax, because for me he became the embodiment of Ajax together with Tagliafico and Tadic. But if there’s one club I’d love to see him, it’s obviously Arsenal. And yes, to me he definitely is an improvement to Leno. A slightly better shot stopper, a lot better distributor, more dominant and a showmaker. Love the guy, and I’m positive you’ll love him as well.

“Source: Reddit

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