Ramsey & Ox: Your Time is Now!

Author @tomdow7

In the space of two weeks, the core of our midfield that many people had suggested could be the key to us winning the title has disintegrated. The injury to Francis Coquelin represented a major blow, but the latest one forcing Santi Cazorla out for a reported three months has turned our already laughable injury situation into nothing short of a catastrophe.

<> at Emirates Stadium on July 28, 2015 in London, England. We are now entering the period of the campaign where it is often said that titles are won and lost. Fixtures pile up and squads are pushed to their very limits up and down the Premier League. Then we have Arsenal, where it seems that everything that could go wrong, has.

The silver-lining to this fiasco? The return of Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. For the former, the prospect of him finally operating in his preferred central role is one that I would hope excites fellow supporters as much as it does me. The Welshman has consistently stated that he doesn’t overly enjoy playing on the right side, and has long pined for a return to his central berth. Well, now he has a clear opportunity to really make the position his own once more.

Supporters have short memories. It was only two years ago when Ramsey was dominating Arsenal’s midfield week in, week out, during a campaign that saw him net an impressive 16 goals. His talent is unquestioned and it has long been apparent that by placing him on the right, you lose a significant amount from his game. Unfortunately for him, the relationship that Cazorla and Coquelin built up meant that it was very difficult for Wenger to separate them. However, it is testament to the ability of Ramsey that Wenger would rather play a central midfielder on the right ahead of a lot of other more natural options.

On the face of it, this is partially down to the inability of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to build any sort of momentum when given an opportunity in the side. For all the calls for the England international to be given an extended run in the team, this season he has not produced many eye-catching performances to suggest he should have dislodged Ramsey. And it was just the luck of Oxlade-Chamberlain that when Ramsey picked up an injury and the Ox looked set to be given a run in the team, he too picked up a knock. Well, now he has the chance, with very few other realistic options available to Arsene Wenger.

Both Ramsey and Chamberlain now look set to play a prominent role in Arsenal’s festive fixtures, and this could be the opportunity that could go on to define the two players in the future, particularly the latter. For so long he has been touted as the next big thing, with bags of potential and seemingly everything in his locker to be a top, top player. That time simply has to be now. He is no longer an 18 year-old prospect for next season. He is an established player that has to show that he is both the present and future of Arsenal Football Club.

The impact that the two players could have on the Arsenal team as a whole is also a fascinating topic. By playing Ramsey on the right, we lose the width that a natural winger provides. It is not uncommon to find Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez bunched together on the left-hand side of the pitch due to the creative freedom that is allowed to our forward players. If we lose possession high up the pitch though, we are often left disorganised and under heavy pressure with sometimes five players taken out of the equation. And although Ramsey is an adventurous player even when central, he possesses a mobility that perhaps Cazorla does not. It is very difficult not to love the little Spaniard, but he will never be renowned for being a dominating, box-to-box midfielder.

Oxlade-Chamberlain could also be an important part of this. He is (in theory!) a right winger and could offer a bit more defensive support on the right because of his natural positioning – something that could be particularly important in pulling Hector Bellerin through his recent dip in form. However, it is highly likely that given the likelihood that Joel Campbell will continue in the side due to the hamstring injury sustained by Sanchez, one of him or Chamberlain will be forced to play in a less favoured left wing position (all be it a position that both should be able to play quite comfortably).

We do have a fairly favourable run of fixtures over the Christmas period, but I said that before both the West Brom and Norwich games! We need to dig deep now and get over our now annual November meltdown. Despite struggling in recent weeks, we still sit just two points of top spot and this season still represents a huge opportunity to end the hunt for that elusive Premier League crown.

Yet again we are without key players, but we do at least have the luxury of having players returning to fitness and able to offer us genuine options on the pitch. Aaron and Alex, time to step up!



Gooner Ramble

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