Make or break time for Ramsey

17th May, 2014.

When Aaron Ramsey scored the extra time winner in the FA Cup final against Hull City, his world looked very different. It was the end of a season in which he was voted Arsenal’s player of the month continually from August to November before then being named the club’s player of the season. His partnership with Arteta looked a fixture for the years to come,  or at least until the latter would eventually retire, and Ramsey, who suffered from so much criticism in 2012- 13, had emerged as a the star man of this team in a real tale of redemption. There was talk of the Welshman being handed the captaincy and manager Arsene Wenger was such a fan he even attempted to play a 4-1-4-1 formation, meaning record signing Mesut Ozil was used out on the left wing, in order to accommodate Ramsey in a central position. Injuries and a poor start to the 2014/14 meant however that this style of play was soon abandoned and Ozil soon took his spot in the middle again as Ramsey watched on from the sidelines. Ozil also began to show some form towards the end of that season, meaning Ramsey was always unlikely to displace him, and thus began a long-running spell where he has been forced to play out of position due to the formation and other personnel Wenger favours.

Since 2014, Ramsey has been shunted to the wing, come into central positions in failed partnerships – like his ill-fated pairing with Mathieu Flamini – and his scoring form has largely deserted him. Ramsey’s Arsenal career seems to have moved on significantly from that glorious day in May 2014, primarily due to patchy form and consistent injury troubles. Injuries are a constant force at Arsenal, often meaning that as one player returns another seems to be ruled out for a lengthy period of time, and whilst this is of incredible frustration to the manager and to the fans, it does sometimes present opportunities for fringe players to come in and make their mark. The likes of Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin, now stalwarts in the first-team, both got their chance after injury crisises in their respective positions and perhaps this might soon be the case for Ramsey too. With Cazorla still injured, Elneny off to the AFCON and other injuries causing Wenger a headache, this is as good an opportunity Ramsey will likely ever get to make the central midfield position his own. Xhaka likes to play deeper and distribute, the closest resemblance to Arteta (with whom Ramsey had his best partnership) that this team has ever had. Their performance against Preston did not soothe many a nerve, but it is too early to judge their partnership.

The upcoming fixtures for Arsenal provide a run long enough for him to seize the opportunity and come back to stake his claim on his spot in this team. If he stays fit, Ramsey should have around seven games to start and perform in – Swansea, Burnley, Southampton/ Norwich, Watford, Chelsea, Hull and Bayern Munich. The games aseem to be structured well as neither he or his partnership with Xhaka is being thrown in the deep end to cement itself. Swansea, Burnley, Southampton and Watford provide a nice crescendo of fixtures before we hit the high note of Chelsea in February. Ramsey has also featured reasonably this season so his readiness and fitness for these games should hopefully not be a concern. He has a tendency to look extremely rusty before having a certain threshold of minutes under his belt, but let’s hope that he has met that threshold this season and is fit and raring to go.

When the opportunity is as good as it is, it also means there are no more excuses. At the end of these run of fixtures, the time for Aaron Ramsey being treated like moulding clay would come to an end. If we have reached the middle of February and we do not see a convincing midfield with Ramsey in it, we have to accept that that the 26-year-old Welshman is probably never going to fit into Arsenal. For better, or for worse, we would know whether Ramsey would be a fixture at this club or whether it is time to move on. I am probably not Ramsey’s biggest fan, but how could you not want an Arsenal player, especially one who rejected Manchester United for north London, to succeed? If I am honest, I find it difficult to see Ramsey settling into our midfield but if you had asked me about Coquelin, recalled from Charlton, and Cazorla as a central midfield partnership, it would felt less likely to work before the fact. Sometimes you can predict which two players will work together, and other times you just can’t – who’d have thought the best midfield partnership in the league last season would have been the one between N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater, after all. At least now we can have a good look at Ramsey rather than just seeing him perform in supporting roles, and let’s hope he finally brings his best to the pitch. We could do with the player he was in 2013/14 in our team right about now.

By Vikas V



Guest Writer

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