This week, I chose to write about the man of the moment, whom I can’t help but love with all my Gooner heart. Plenty has been written about Aaron Ramsey this season, but I felt compelled to have my own say and appreciate the player and what a story his is, in my own words.
Despite having struggled for the first half of the 2012/13 campaign and experienced a potentially career-ending injury in 2010, Ramsey is now in the ascendancy and could be regarded, judging by his current form, as being one of the best central midfielders around. Now every time I see him playing with this new-found freedom and confidence, I am reminded of what a remarkable story Aaron’s is and I smile.
There are few players who evoke as much of a direct emotional response from the fans of their football club as Aaron Ramsey during his recent and ongoing rise to prominence at Arsenal. Aaron’s journey as both a football player and as a man over the past few years has been quite extraordinary, but ultimately heart-warming. I would even say that, when simplified, this journey has all the elements needed for a classically inspirational tale, worthy of being any writer’s best-selling novel, any playwright’s sell-out piece of theatre or any screenwriter’s Oscar-winning film.
Our hero (Ramsey) has gone from showing great potential as a teenager, to receiving a blow and/or encountering an obstacle in his path, to demonstrating great determination and overcoming these challenges and finally emerging more powerful and confident than ever before and thus becoming successful. Except, at the same time as being the perfect story, it really isn’t at all. Why? Because in order to be classified as a perfect story, it must have an ending. Ramsey’s story is far from finished yet.
Ramsey’s goal against Borussia Dortmund in the formidable setting of Westfalenstadion/Signal Iduna Park was, for me, a symbolic action that captured his unrelenting grit and determination to succeed as part of this Arsenal team. When you look back at the season so far, there was only ever going to be one man in the right place at the right time, busting a gut to get just enough on the ball to see it over the line and send Gooners into delirium. It wasn’t a wonderful, tiki-taka-esque move nor was it a 30-yard screamer, but it was vital and it was him.
For the second half of last season, Ramsey improved hugely. However, he was still more of the team workhorse than being a player with any great deal flair or finesse. For me at least, this was no great issue as I appreciate any player who gives his all and plays with real heart and passion. I also happen to hold the opinion that every successful squad needs at least one of those players. I even wrote a blog at the back end of last season praising him for being just that. But what Ramsey has done since the beginning of this season has, I think, both surprised and exceeded the expectations of even the most ardent Ramsey fans. What he has done is recapture the skill and creativity that was so prominent when he was the hugely promising teenager that Arsenal bought from Cardiff City.
As a result of this mini Ramsey-renaissance, which was undoubtedly as a result of new-found confidence, I believe he is now close to being a truly complete central midfielder. And central midfield is certainly where he seems most comfortable and thus at his best. Aside from the Napoli game, where the opposition’s left hand side was pretty poor and exposed easily, Ramsey has looked, in my opinion, much less effective when deployed on the wing. It can be argued that because of the interchangeable nature of the ‘3’ in the 4-2-3-1 formation, he doesn’t have to ‘get his boots white’ – as they say – all of the time. However, Ramsey always seems to perform best when he can see the state of play in front of him from his starting position. But I’m not saying Wenger’s got it wrong or it simply can’t happen, because with so many wingers out and with Ramsey being such a key player, the team must adjust and adapt.
That leads me on to another fantastic thing about Ramsey that I mentioned in my article on him at the end of last season. This is his willingness to play whatever role he must for the sake of the team and giving 110% wherever he is playing. I must admit that this tends to be true of other players in the current squad, as is the nature of their apparent ‘play for one another’ attitude. However, if it were a player with a tad more arrogance or simply a lust for personal glory, they may have got carried away with the form that Ramsey finds himself in and thrown a bit of a wobbly when asked to play a role that may restrict how much they can individually affect the game, even if it appears to be the best solution for the problematic situation incurred by injuries. Ramsey isn’t like that and I like that Ramsey isn’t like that.
Ramsey’s attitude and, as Arsene Wenger would say, ‘mental strength’ is fantastic and has certainly been the driving force behind his emergence, which was quite frankly against the odds considering how so many Arsenal fans, pundits and football fans in general criticised him in the first half of last season. I’m not out to prove anyone wrong, but I think Ramsey certainly was and has been rather successful in doing so. But the best thing is that he, like the rest of the team, is now just enjoying playing well.
I leave you with a Bob Marley lyric that I coincidentally heard whilst writing this article and thought would be quite apt:
“The stone that the builder refused will always be the head corner stone”
Thanks for reading,