It has been a rather depressing few days in the life of Arsenal fans after yet another sickening blow inflicted by the arch nemesis that is Chelsea. Despite the fact the red card we were dealt this time to Per Mertesacker being the correct decision, the sour taste left in the mouths of the Gunner faithful will take some time to eradicate fully.
In truth, despite our 1-0 loss we actually held our own against a Chelsea side who were happy to protect a slender lead with their numerical advantage. Our character shown was a small silver lining of sorts, however, proceedings unveiled an issue which needs to be eradicated sooner rather than later.
The issue I am talking about lies in midfield, an area where we have had considerable injury woes and have subsequently not been able to perform to our usual high standards in recent months. I could spend this piece voicing my criticisms about Mathieu Flamini but with Francis Coquelin nearing a return I feel no need to repeat the already known faults with what is in truth a mere squad player.
No, the issue that I think needs addressing concerns a player who is a vital component of our club and one who does possess the ability to reach the very top, Aaron Ramsey. Many a time I have questioned where the Welshman’s ideal position is and am yet to find a truly convincing answer. His performance against Chelsea revealed his shortcomings in a position that was supposed to be designated as his own. So the question has to be asked, where does he play?
In a midfield two?
Part of a midfield pairing was set to be the position in which Rambo would thrive and conduct this Arsenal side. Unfortunately his natural tendencies to lack discipline and regularly be dispossessed mean that this concept has descended into fantasy.
Ever since Santi Cazorla’s injury I struggle to think of a game where we have controlled the midfield area. We may have won games but at no point did I feel that we consistently setting a tempo from the middle of the park throughout proceedings.
This is the Spaniard’s forte and it has been a platform for our success in recent times; Rambo is certainly not a player who can perform these duties. His energy and intelligent runs from deep are what he does well, but acting as a deep-lying play-maker and a dictator in midfield is something that he is clearly not capable of.
We seem to lose a dimension to our overall game with Rambo in the centre of the park at times and if he is to continue playing this role, Wenger will have to find a suitable partner in order for him to flourish. By the way, Coquelin is not that partner.
Back out on the right?
At the start of the season I was very concerned with seeing Rambo utilised as a wide player. By nature he likes to drift inside which I thought may strip us of essential width. However, Hector Bellerin’s offensive capabilities and boundless energy do go some way to covering this aspect.
At times this would also allow our Welsh midfielder to drop in to midfield to cover space left by others making us a more compact unit. Whether it is a position he actually enjoys is another thing altogether but as a team we were very effective with this system in place.
Of course, the emergence of Joel Campbell offers another spanner in the works with the Costa Rican proving himself to be a crucial member of the squad in what really was a time of need.
In a midfield three?
Now with the presence of Mesut Ozil in the side this scenario is very unlikely to ever happen on a regular basis. Nevertheless, I do feel this is the system which would suit Rambo the best.
If we cast our minds back to early 2015 at the Ethiad, where we were 2-0 victors, we used a midfield three. Coquelin operated at the base while Cazorla and Rambo sat just ahead of him. It was one of our finest Premier League displays for years and it seemed as though the Welshman felt comfortable in a role which in truth, is tailor made for his talents.
He was given more freedom to excerpt his talents and was given the necessary support in order for his faults to not be regularly exposed – the perfect situation for any player really.
Of course, Ozil offers a serious conundrum to this matter. The club’s most important player has a reserved spot in his favoured role which removes any idea of the possibility of a midfield three.
Rambo is without question, one of our most talented players at the club. He has contributed heavily to our recent successes but now it feels as if his correct position or partner needs to be found sooner rather than later. The sooner we see Elneny in action the better!
We don’t want to see him sacrificed or worse than that leave the club, but if things carry on the way they are it may be for the greater good. Food for thought.