Where does Aaron Ramsey fit in with this current Arsenal side?
It is sort of heart-breaking in a way to find myself clutching at straws over a player whom we do all adore (everyone except Piers Morgan, perhaps), but unfortunately it is a situation we indeed find ourselves in.
Our vast array of crafty midfield technicians has left us with a slight predicament, one that has for me damaged the reputation of our Welsh Wizard, Aaron Ramsey: there simply is not enough room to accommodate him. In a dream world, yes – all our technicians would operate effortlessly together and slice through every opponent who dares stand in their way, but, sadly, this is not the case.
The correct balance needs to be achieved in order for us to finally bring back the halcyon days of Premier League titles and so forth, and although we seemed close to achieving it last season, something was still missing. Rambo for me is the component in our system whom I believe needs either altering or replacing.
So just where does Rambo fit in with the current set up? Should he feature at all in the starting line up? These are questions I’d like to examine. (And, dare I say, Arsene Wenger should address.)
Does Ramsey work in a midfield pairing with ‘Le Coq’?
It seemed downright preposterous that Wenger abandoned the dynamic and disciplined duo of Cazorla and Coquelin against West Ham, instead letting Rambo operate alongside ‘Le Coq’. Being blunt – it simply isn’t a partnership which will work, in fact it often hinders Arsenal’s defensive shape – meaning that they cannot control possession as they wish to. Coquelin obviously needs a distributor next to him, someone with the mesmeric passing range of Cazorla, who will dictate the tempo of the game and allow Coquelin to get on with the dirty work he does so well.
Rambo sadly is not this; he is player eager to get forward and burst into the box – leaving Coquelin more frequently exposed. It came as no surprise to me that our French enforcer had possibly his worst game during this renaissance period because of the simple fact that he and Rambo do not operate effectively together.
Against Sp*rs last season the duo were once again paired together, and just like the West Ham game we saw a midfield which was easily turned over and failed to control the tempo of the game – thus allowing Tottenham the freedom to attack and exert pressure on our defence.
The Ramsey/Coquelin axis cannot work, and in my eyes Coquelin at this current moment in time is more valuable to the team than Ramsey – so we need to play to his strengths and the man who does that perfectly is Santi Cazorla.
So, out on the wing?
It seemed for a while that Rambo had found a new home on the right-hand side of our midfield: his high energy and offensive capabilities were as impressive as always, but at times it did seem if it was a square peg in a round hole situation (excuse the cliché). Rambo is not a player who possesses natural width -he has spent his whole career being centrally focused – so of course he will drift inside where his body naturally takes him. This simply just makes our midfield narrower and therefore our attacks stagnate and we get frustrated as a team. Unfortunately, our usual response to this frustration is to concede a goal.
Rambo’s best performance in his wide role was the 4-1 demolition of Liverpool last season, where Brendan Rodgers’s side operated with a back three. This meant that Liverpool played very narrow meaning that Arsenal did not require the natural width to stretch the defence like they do when up against a back four.
It was an admirable solution Wenger created when our natural wingers such as Oxlade-Chamberlain were out through injury but I don’t think it’s a solution which provides continuity. The Ox has proven since his return from injury that he is much more deserving of a place on the wing; it is after all his natural position and one in which he thrives. Rambo’s a great option to have in this respect, but should not be the number one candidate when everyone is available.
As a Number 10?
This is a position he occupies internationally and it is his link up with Real Madrid star Gareth Bale in this role which has seen Wales fly up the FIFA rankings to 8th – they may even make it to Euro 2016.
Nevertheless, in my eyes it is simply not feasible at this current time for Rambo to operate in this role because of the presence of a certain Mesut Ozil. Yes I am aware that Wenger does like to occasionally fling our mesmeric German into wide areas (much to the bemusement of the footballing world) but when Özil is in that number 10 role there are few in the world that match his talents.
Sadly this means that chances in this area will be few and far between for Rambo, and while I think that his natural attacking prowess, high energy and general skill make him ideally suited to the number 10 position he will have to adapt his game to fit in with other positions within the team.
(That being said – in my opinion, Ramsey is the perfect back up to Ozil in this position, and – with an inevitable injury crisis probably round the corner – this is an option Wenger should consider.)
Should Ramsey start against Crystal Palace?
In my personal opinion, simply, no. Crystal Palace,with their pacey wingers, will take even greater advantage of our narrow midfield set up than West Ham did, so I feel it is essential we give our team the necessary width. Sanchez and the Ox are the ideal candidates for this task, while moving Santi back next to Coquelin will allow us to hopefully dictate the game better from midfield,. This means Ozil moving back centrally – which is where he belongs.
So – sorry, Rambo, but for the moment you may have to take one for the team.
You’ll be back at some point, I’m sure.