10 Jul The Welshman
Arsene Wenger is well known in the footballing world with his uncanny ability to spot talents and groom them. The list of players he has developed is lengthy and polished for a man with a 21 year tenure at a club. With each young signing, Arsenal fans would hope and pray for the next Henry, Anelka, Fabregas or Nasri.
When Ramsey was purchased from Cardiff City back in 2008, we all had a sense of optimism about him. He had snubbed Manchester United and had decided to sign for Arsenal which made most of the fans adore him instantly.
Wenger was slowly but surely molding a young Arsenal midfield with the likes of Ramsey, Fabregas, Wilshere and Nasri on the teamsheet. Our midfield had so much superstar potential and resulted in fan optimism reaching new heights.
But we are the Arsenal and things rarely go according to plan. Remember Shawcross? Ramsey was “tackled” causing a double fracture which sidelined him for almost 8 months. Most of us thought his promising career was over.
Ramsey’s road to redemption was slow but with Wenger standing by his side, his career was put back on track and he came back stronger with a sense of determination. He was loaned to Nottingham and Cardiff City to gain match fitness and once he came back, was slowly integrated to the team.
Wenger always believed that a player can learn the technicalities of the game when played on the wings due to lack of space and need to make quick footballing decisions. Upon return, Ramsey was deployed on the wings and he was often ineffective, constantly giving the ball away. Many cursed him and howled abuses and yet he persevered regardless. The manager always showed his faith in Ramsey by giving him chance after chance. Wenger once said, “Once Ramsey starts scoring, he won’t stop”. We fans hoped Wenger would be right.
Fast forward to 2013, we had signed Mesut Ozil and then started a period of magic. Ramsey who was playing so awful on the wings started in the middle and instantly switched on the “God mode” and began scoring goal after goal. Combining with Ozil and Santi, we saw some of the best attacking football and his goal against Liverpool can never be forgotten. Everything was going well and we were top of the table at the turn of the New Year.
Hmm something doesn’t seem right here. We were basically injury-free up to then. In December came the massive blow. Ramsey was sidelined for 3 months and a dip in Ozil’s form saw Arsenal fighting for 4th place instead of competing for the title. Isn’t that a familiar narrative?
Ramsey recovered and made his appearance against Norwich to score a wonder goal. The season was not over yet and Ramsey had a crucial role to play in one the biggest matches of the season for Arsenal. The FA Cup final.
Down two goals, Arsenal came to equalize thanks to Santi and Koscielny. If there was one man who carried Arsenal until December 2013 and deserved all the credit, it was Ramsey and he rightfully scored the winner and ended the Arsenal’s much talked trophy drought. All the more reason to love the Welshman.
Most of the fans were optimistic entering the 2014 season but it coincided with a extreme dip in Ramsey’s form. Everyone thought it was a blip but the entire 2014 season, he was playing like a player lacking a footballing brain. He was trying too hard, being selfish and not keeping his game simple.’
If 2012 was bad, then 2014 was worse. Wenger usually never speaks about a player’s wrong doings openly but he did criticize Ramsey for trying too hard and forgetting the basics. The 2014 season saw a return to old ways as Ramsey was played on the wings again and dropped a few times. Wenger never lost faith and started him the 2014 FA Cup Final as Arsenal won comfortably against Aston Villa bringing a disappointing overall season to a close.
Everyone hoped that 2014 was another blip and Ramsey would be back to his best. However, the 2015 season followed a similar path and was hampered by injuries not allowing him to develop to the level we all expected. He used to score the occasional goal and his work rate and endurance had improved tremendously yet he was making the same mistakes.
At the start of the season, with Arteta out, Ramsey was the one to take over. Ozil had taken the CAM role in the team forcing Ramsey to play as a holding midfielder. His mindset for goals left space behind and teams took advantage. Slowly most of us realized, he cannot be trusted with defensive duties and thus arose the problem of fitting him into the team. As the season progressed, he was played on right and left wing despite his opposition to playing there.
Fast forward to the latter stages of this past season. Many suggest switching to a back 3 got the best of Ramsey and Ozil. Our new formation gave Ramsey freedom to make runs to the box and with his attacking mindset, it suited him perfectly. I feel this system and the ability to stay injury free is critical to his success next season and we should not revert to a back 4 system.
In summary, Ramsey, has been a really curious case. With so much talent at his disposal and wonderful work rate, he should be one of the best midfielders in Premier League and yet here we all are frustrated by his playing style. He will surely have his moments but is he consistent enough and prove that he can be elite or will he fade away like so many players who had potential? Only time will tell.