Aaron Ramsey is becoming a very divisive character nowadays.
At only 25 years of age, this fella has already endured some very hard times in his career and is likely to get some more stick from fans, especially if Arsène Wenger keeps playing him alongside Francis Coquelin in midfield.
I still don’t know what to think about the player, I see the enormous potential at his disposal but I struggle to ignore the signs of individualism and tactical anarchy surrounding his recent performances.
Before issuing any kind of judgment, let’s take a leap back and see what Aaron Ramsey endured so far, since summer 2008.
At some point, Manchester United officially stated that an agreement was found with Cardiff City for the transfer of this young, promising Welsh midfielder to Old Trafford, only to find out that Aaron Ramsey himself would favour a move to the Arsenal instead.
In a moment when all our stars were pushing to leave, one of the most promising youngsters in Europe picked us over Champions League winners, Manchester United.
Fast-Forward two years and we’re in 2010, Aaron Ramsey is playing some good football in midfield and seems on the verge to establish himself at the heart of our team – before Ryan Shawcross breaks his leg and forces the Welshman out for over a year.
Aaron Ramsey’s lengthy spell in hell starts during season 2011-2012: upon his return, the guy struggled to find form and collected a long series of poor performances, which prompted a huge section of fans at the Emirates Stadium to boo him; Arsène Wenger would later admit having even considered the idea of not playing Aaron Ramsey at home games because of that, which sounds quite scary for a Club like ours.
Ironically enough, what didn’t really help Aaron Ramsey is perhaps his best quality: wanting to dig in while on the pitch; his willingness to keep trying when things do not work out and keep asking for the ball after each misplaced pass cost him a lot towards the supporters, while he should be lauded for that.
I have a vivid memory of his performance in San Siro, when we lost 0-4 to AC Milan, as the boy kept asking for the ball only to lose it in the following seconds: get the ball, lose it, repeat.
I wasn’t mad to Aaron Ramsey, tho: players who hide because they are scared of doing wrong are not destined to greatness and I don’t want any other Denilson at the Club.
I was slightly mad at those teammates who actually KEPT passing him the ball, but that’s another story…
STATUS: ZERO (Sell him, Arsène!!!)
At the beginning of season 2012-2013, Aaron Ramsey seemed to be on the verge of becoming a bit-part player and things didn’t look very good; at the very lowest, he had two supporters: himself and Arsène Wenger.
Lucky boy, having Arsène Wenger by his side meant he could slowly get back into the team and regain confidence, away from the limelight; towards the end of the season, he had become the engine of the team and played regularly alongside Mikel Arteta, covering so much pitch you could believe we were playing with an extra man.
What happened next season was just magnificent: Aaron Ramsey started scoring goals and literally didn’t stop until a hamstring problem halted his rise; he came back after three months (three weeks, they said…) and scored another two goals in the league before the masterpiece in Wembley, when he sealed our first major trophy in ten years with a superb shot against Hull City.
STATUS: WELSH JESUS
Upwards and onwards, for Aaron Ramsey? Not really.
Season 2014-2015 started with a new haircut, a goal against Manchester City in the Community Shield and the winner against Crystal Palace in the Premier League opening game of the season, but things suddenly turned sour.
Despite not playing in the World Cup and having a proper pre-season, the boy looked heavy and surprisingly lazy: often too high on the pitch, often shooting instead of passing, Aaron Ramsey suddenly seemed to drift away from the team, looking for personal glory instead of collective success.
We were all thriving to see him running from one end of the pitch to the other, tackling opponents next to Mikel Arteta and then surge forward to score a winner but what we witnessed was completely different, a kind of self-obsessed number ten expecting the whole team (Cazorla, Arteta, Özil & Co.) to play and run for him.
Welsh Jesus first became “only” a good player and then had some fans turning against him, once again.
His many injuries didn’t help his fitness and form, however the only things many of us could see while he was on the pitch were his poor shooting and his suspect positioning – definitely not enough to keep hold of his “Welsh Jesus” nickname.
A few good performances as right winger appeased fans’ frustration as did an excellent display in the FA Cup final against Aston Villa, but Aaron Ramsey’s stock was falling – again.
Here we are, Arsenal v West Ham at the Emirates Stadium.
Aaron Ramsey didn’t play bad – not well either – but that shot with half a dozen Irons’ defenders in front of him, instead of passing to Mathieu Débuchy on his right-hand side, infuriated many, including me.
His indiscipline alongside Francis Coquelin, left all alone in his defensive duties and forced to attempt long-range passes way too often, infuriated even more.
Back to square one, the old selfish, goal-hunting, lazy Aaron Ramsey was back.
STATUS: ZERO (Bench him, Arsène!)
Seven years and a few ups and downs later, Aaron Ramsey still divides opinions and can’t really fit into the team.
Shall Arsène Wenger really suffocate his box-to-box nature and restrict his game? No, that would be cruel and absolutely wasteful.
Aaron Ramsey is and will always be a midfielder who needs freedom to roam forward, like a certain Jack Wilshere; we can’t change them, we shouldn’t even attempt that.
In the long term, Arsène Wenger will need to find a player able to sit in front of the back-four and pull the strings, letting players like Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere drive the ball forward.
Perhaps Francis Coquelin will evolve into that player, but it’s not the case yet and our priority is today, not tomorrow.
What Aaron Ramsey should aim for, on the short term, is finding the humbleness and hunger that saved his career twice already and that will surely win his place in the team back.
It’s no coincidence Arsène Wenger always highlight the Welshman’s incredible engine and capacity to cover so much ground – more than his goals or skills.
Aaron Ramsey should get the very subtle hint sooner rather than later.