Aaron Ramsey – World Class or Bang Average?
Aaron Ramsey – The most interesting player to review at Arsenal for me.
I know it’s dangerous to go online and give your analysis of a player so what I am going to try to articulate is my journey with Aaron Ramsey. How my feelings have changed, how the game has changed and how I feel Aaron’s game has changed since he joined Arsenal.
People have almost religious views on Aaron – many of those people close to me online I really respect but – it’s time to come out!
I see Aaron’s time at Arsenal driving my analysis of him in phases of a journey.
2008 Cardiff to Arsenal – My First Impression
I can remember vaguely the battle we had with Man Utd for Aaron’s signature. At the time Arsenal were the team that always got the best youngsters. We stole Cesc from Barca and this to me was the next superstar off the taxi rank.
Ramsey was courted not only by Fergie but Everton’s David Moyes before being flown out on a private jet to Basel to meet Wenger face to face.
Wenger was quoted:
“He is still only 17, but has already shown that he is a very intelligent and mature player with great quality.
“Although he mainly plays in midfield, Aaron is a versatile player and can also play across the defence”
Welcome to Arsenal Aaron
Defence I hear you say – Ramsey had spent time at right back during his younger years and also played wide. Already seen as a James Milner type player at 17. This told me immediately we had a physical 17 year old beast on our hands and the fact we beat Man Utd to his signature – I was sold.
As soon as you saw him play I saw someone although brought up in a Welsh environment he had skills of a Spanish baller midfielder with a coltish stride. It was his technical touch, his ability to dribble off both feet, receive on the back foot to open out the pitch and when in possession he could step away from people that caught my eye. At that time, personally I was changing how I viewed football and became interested in coaching and player development. I became intrigued in a deeper way about how a player is constructed and developed.
Wenger had spoken about how to build a player and it lit my football fuse:
“The base of a player is the technique, you get that at the age between 7 and 14. If you do not have technical skills at the age of 14 it will be very difficult to be a great football player. This corresponds to the foundation of a house.
The first floor is the physical aspect, which is developed between 14 and 17 years. Here you see if the player is quick and strong enough.
The second floor is the tactical aspect. The understanding of the game by the player – what to do with the ball when he has it and what to do when he doesn’t have the ball.
The final part, mentality, is developed when the player is between 18 and 19 years old. How much does the player want to be successful? How much sacrifices are the player is willing to make? That’s what Wenger calls the roof”
“If there is no roof, it rains in. And if it rains in, the house collapses.”
In Aaron Ramsey I felt we had a player already constructed in the Wenger way – the house looked built.
He had a quiet deferential outward persona and in my opinion it was only a matter of time before he exploded to the very top in English Football.
Feb 2010 – Aaron’s Big Injury
One of my best friends was a young player at Man Utd and had moved to Luton Town when he could not force Paul Scholes out of the Man Utd first team. He suffered what you call a Tib-Fib compound fracture while playing so I knew what it meant to suffer injury and lose your career and how hard recovery is.
I remember it clearly the Stoke Game – I was actually at an England rugby game the same day and very high in sprits as you always are at Twickenham. On the way out of the stadium I heard about Ramsey’s leg break from a tackle by the hapless Ryan Shawcross. I was very angry.
Ryan Shawcross cuts down our Dashing Colt
We had lost Eduardo 2 years previously and Diaby before that in 2006 to horrific injury and this felt almost unfair.
Ramsey was a player who had played 29 games already and was about to become a top player. My anger did not dissipate once I heard Tony Pulis speak:
“Ryan Shawcross is a young lad, he hasn’t got a bad bit of blood in him,” said Pulis. “He’s got changed and his mum has taken him home, I have not seen him. He’ll be devastated”
At the time none of us were sure when Ramsey would be back and what player would return.
We just felt like victims and a team trapped in the youth project that we hoped would work but to me the English game seemed almost intent in smashing our technique based youthful game as if to say ‘do it our way or else or we will kick you out of the game’
2013 – 2014 ‘The Season’
Do you remember that game v Everton when Song clipped the ball to Van Persie over the top and he volleyed it in on our 125th Anniversary?
What I remember about this game apart from a brilliant goal was the battle between Ramsey and Fellaini.
Ramsey was bettered that day. He was not strong enough and Fellaini just ragged him around the pitch. At that time many Arsenal fans would of swapped them no problem. One was seen as on the rise and one was looking lost after unspectacular loan spells at Forest and Cardiff. I feared for his Arsenal future that day.
But the summer of 2013 Ramsey took matters into his own hands. He hired his own personal trainer and that pre season in Asia it was obvious he was ahead of every other player fitness wise.
Players that were running past him in previous years – he started running past them. With the base of Arteta behind him he managed to be the best player in the country for the first 3 months of the season until a hamstring injury struck him down v West Ham.
He made 38 appearances that season with 18 goals including the goal that helped lift the trophy millstone from our collective necks in the FA Cup Final.
This Goal is Huge in Arsenal History
At this period he was our match winner. We had a team of players that did not have the personality to lead us offensively. Arsenal was recovering from the Cesc, RVP and Nasri departures. Jack was in and out. Ramsey saw his moment to lead and he led.
He worked very hard physically and was rewarded. During this period Aaron was allowed to break forward at will and we needed him to and he did it well.
It was all about how he followed this up – good players don’t have laps of honours too soon.
Ramsey – The Ego
Arsenal was starting to change. We moved on from the make do era and started to invest. This caused reactions to players that were previously unchallenged stars.
What did I notice about Ramsey?
Like any top professional he looked at the situation and wanted to keep his lead role. He had become accustomed to being the man – a goal scoring midfielder and even though we had purchased Ozil from Madrid and Sanchez from Barcelona he found it difficult to adjust his game.
In fact he didn’t adjust his game.
He spoke regularly about wanting to be only central to Arsenal’s fortunes.
Arsenal – The new Creative Leaders?
I tend to favour players who put the team first. I’m a coach, I eulogise the team always. I felt he was not doing that especially as I thought in while in comparison to Santi Cazorla.
He looked at the new players we had purchased and he chose to reinvent himself to add to the group while leaving the wings and the number 10 to Sanchez and Ozil.
Aaron spoke of being a player like Gerrard and I saw something else. I saw a body changing. I saw a player previously more dynamic become more one paced. I sensed as long ago as 2015 he should look to model his game not on Gerrard who was a power sprinter – bang bang shooter and use his metronomic marathon running ability to control a smaller space behind the ball focussing facilitation for others.
Develop more like a Tony Kroos but with a touch more 3rd man running.
This is what I call a Midfielder – Tony Kroos
Kroos was also a young prodigy at Bayern and was a number ten but other players were on the rise at Bayern and Germany – Ozil, Mueller, Goetze, Reus all with offensive gifts equal to his but more sharp dynamism and pace. But by playing further back and staying behind that ball and dictating the play from deep he was superb.
Kroos now masters this game at Madrid.
Not everyone agrees with me but before you say that – lets talk injury.
Ramsey has had multiple hamstring breakdowns. Not what I call warm up injuries early in games but wear and tear from repeat sprints. His body dynamics has changed and he is performing too many sprints for his body type.
It’s key as a player develops you recognise your game identity.
Aarons first step is always to break – his confidence is built from the goals he scores. I often ask myself why?
There are many facets to a centre midfield. Why does goal-scoring underpin your confidence Aaron ? That tells me how he see’s himself and it’s different to how I see the role that is available for him at Arsenal.
Since that season he is measuring himself more on goals and is repeatedly running into areas where I feel he is not always needed.We have better players now to score the goals. Aaron needs to recognise this and throw away his ego defined from that season and his International love in with Wales and concentrate on building the house again.
Focus on the fundamentals – balance the mentality and stay healthy. When he is fitter you start to feel his influence grow. So he needs to do less to get more results over a longer period of time. Stay on the pitch and stop being a hero.
My fear is he thinks he is better than he is. I think he is very good but which other top 6 side would he command a place?
Ramsey – The Future
Wenger needs to do more to help Ramsey. He needs to nurture his strengths or go another direction.
If I were Ramsey’s coach I would sit him down and say:
- Even though you can do everything you are in danger of being an all rounder. Do you want to be James Milner?
- Define your style – stop trying to do 2 jobs because you have the engine, as this team needs just one job.
- If I were his coach I would change the system to allow him to be that 3rd midfielder where we see only his positives and not his negatives.
- I would get Aaron to focus on timing into the box – at times he arrives too soon and too high and too often. Wasted miles. Less is more.
- Improve you pace of pass. Don’t lend the ball – pass it with purpose
- Execute with simplicity – no need to embellish just focus on precision
- Be mindful of distances – Make a partnership work
- Above all play with humility.
However – In recent weeks I have started to see something else.
I have started to see humility return and a focus to be more consistent. Ok he is a loose passer and that will not change and that is not always bad dependant where you are on the pitch. I acknowledge he seems to be thinking more about the collective.
The second half at Preston, Last 30 minute’s v Burnley when we were down to 10 men. Top work. Influence is looking real again.
Game Clarity is returning. It needs to. Others players are circling most with contracts.
Iwobi – 2 footed, faster, as powerful, better pace of pass, scores, and assists.
Xhaka – Regista with every pass in the book. As big but as slow. Can’t tackle!
Coquelin – Can Tackle, a transition-pressing specialist. Heart of a lion with pace.
Jack – Able to play every position in CM with talent, timing, invention and drive
Elneny – Simple early one touch passer who is focussed on one job. Big engine.
Ox – Power dribbler with a big shot and the attributes of a 3rd CM in time
Santi – Genius footballer, 2-footed player who can master any scenario.
Aaron is the one player that can in some way do all of the above – Does that make him a complete midfielder or a steady all rounder?
This is where the fan divide begins.
However – Which one competency does he excel above and beyond his competitors?
I would say off the ball movement and goals historically.
It’s for him to resolve. I hope the manager helps him by changing the system.
I want it to work – I have the feeling our season depends on Aaron Ramsey
Thanks for getting this far – I’m now going into hiding 🙂