Aaron Ramsey has continued his development as a deep midfielder at Arsenal in recent times, a position which seems to suit him.
Long has Ramsey been the subject of abuse from thousands of aggrieved Arsenal fans, and on occasion, some of the less extreme comments may have been justified. Since that fateful trip to Stoke, before the Welshman had even turned 20, he was regarded as one of the finest young talents in European football. Since his return from that horrific accident he has struggled badly. Often deployed as a more attacking midfielder, especially during the 11/12 season after the loss of Cesc and the absence of Jack Wilshere, it sometimes seemed as though that Shawcross challenge had broken more than Aaron’s leg. His confidence too, looked shattered. At the head of a midfield trio, suffocated of two things which Ramsey thrives on, space and time, the Welshman was poor. His once – majestic ball retention was abysmal. Boo’ed onto and off the pitch, I was among those who feared that the youngest player ever to captain the Wales national side was to fall away into mediocrity.
And then, when Tomás Rosicky flared back into life towards the end of last season, Aaron was faced with his largest, and most befuddling, challenge yet. Arsène Wenger, showcasing one of his more infuriating moments of genius, shifted an already struggling central midfielder to the left side of a front three which relied on pace and speed in the wings to supply the most prolific forward in the league. Heads were scratched across Islington as to what on earth the Frenchman was thinking. The only commonly accepted theory was that Aaron would bring more defensive solidarity to our left flank, but this would not always prove to be the case. The sceptics were provided with plenty of ammunition as the new wingers first few performances were viewed; they were less than impressive, and only fuelled the simmering anger that had begun to boiler over, at both Wenger and Ramsey. Many defeats were blamed on the strange experiment, including the abysmal 4-0 at the San Siro and the dire loss at QPR which ended our impressive winning streak of 9 games.
But Mr Wenger had a plan.
The short-term effects of playing Ramsey on the left were never in the Frenchman’s mind. Instead, this odd shift of midfielder to winger had a very different purpose – one which would only come to the fort almost a year after the plan was initiated. While deployed on the left, Aaron Ramsey was completely deprived of the two things most important to his game: the aforementioned time, and space. By forcing him to adapt to this new environment, Wenger knew that many of the attributes which Aaron lacked would begin to develop. His final ball, his decision-making, his vision, and, most importantly, his awareness of those around him have all noticeably improved in the past few games. Which brings us nicely to, the present.
While sitting in the stands, it is often often hard to judge exactly how a player, or even a whole team, has performed, as you tend to get caught up in the event. However, in the London derby against West Ham on the 23rd of January, from my seat in the Clock End I could tell that Aaron Ramsey had shone.
Many gooners despaired when it was announced that Mikel Arteta would not make another appearance until after the end of January. However, Arsène deployed Ramsey in Arteta’s usual role – the anchor in the double pivot – and he was absolutely outstanding. Mikel faces a fight for his place, after Ramsey’s showing in the London derby. 95% pass completion of 123 passes is impressive enough, before you factor in that a staggering 53% of these were in a forward direction. I cannot express enough how impressive that is for a 22-year-old who, for the past two seasons, has not been given a chance by his critics. And then again in the FA Cup game at Brighton, ‘Rambo’ was deployed as the deepest midfielder behind Rosicky and Abou Diaby, and was again excellent. His long through ball to Theo Walcott in the chance leading up to that breakthrough set piece was absolutely majestic and showcased just how far his vision for a pass and technique with which to execute it has come. Wenger’s plan may just be about to pay dividends.
The real Aaron Ramsey appears to be back but sadly he suffered a calf strain and was therefore unable to play any part in Wales International friendly game yesterday. Ramsey had began to hit form again and this minor setback is rather annoying. However, it is vital that when he does pick up injuries he has the mental strength to come back stronger and ready to fight for the Arsenal cause!
- Tomo (@onetrequartista)