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It's Going To Be A Big Season For....

Having already assessed the challenges that await Lukas Podolski and Thomas Vermaelen (both 27 years of age), it`s time to look at someone a little younger. Someone for whom high hopes were fostered at the outset of his Arsenal career when he was signed as a 17 year old. His development was enervated in a most brutal and chilling fashion through serious injury. Thankfully, the issue does not appear to have hampered him physically in the same manner that Eduardo and Diaby have been constantly haunted since similar injuries.

Aaron Ramsey really began to break through in the 2009-10 season and found himself a first choice pick in the Gunners midfield. That was until a broken fibula and tibia left him on he sidelines for 10 months. He felt his way back into action with loan spells at Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City before rejoining the Arsenal team at the end of 2010-11- in the midst of the most difficult and compromising spell of Wenger`s reign. That summer, the sales of Nasri and Fabregas left Arsenal plunged into deeper mire (more for the way the sales were handled in truth) but opened a window of opportunity for young Ramsey.

Arsene tried to purchase Mata, Goetze and Cazorla to no avail. With Wilshere and Diaby injured, Ramsey was a default first choice in the Arsenal midfield. He started very well too and looked to be justifying the faith the manager had placed in him. During the summer, I watched the 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge back and, despite van Persie`s hat trick, Ramsey ran the game. But during the second half of the season his limbs- feeling the strain of his first ever full season at this level- felt the strain. Ramsey isn`t and probably never will be a creative pivot like Cesc was. He`s more in the Gerrard or Lampard, box to box mould. It took the team time to adjust to that.

Ramsey was very, very good at finding goalscoring positions but less good at finishing them. Really, his lack of finesse in the area was his biggest fault last season. If he`d have finished half the chances he had created for himself with his buccaneering runs, we`d be appraising his performance in a different light. But he didn`t. By the end of the season a rejuvenated and rested Tomas Rosicky came into form and displaced a clearly tiring Ramsey from the starting line up. In truth, he had a mixed season. A very promising start followed by a leggy, weary finish. It`s always the finish that sticks in people`s minds though. Impressions of the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons for the club are proof positive of that.

I don`t deny Ramsey is something of a cause celebre for me and I`ve tried to stay objective in the article. Personally, I see an enormous amount of potential in him and I see a character with the goods to realise it too. Ramsey is the captain of Wales and last November, his international manager and mentor Gary Speed committed suicide in tragic circumstances. When the Welsh F.A. didn`t consult the players over the search for a successor, Ramsey represented his teammates publicly, "We have just lost our manager and leader through a tragedy and not footballing reasons. For that reason I would have thought they [the FAW] would have contacted the players to hear what we thought.'

There was some small criticism for his comments in the Welsh press, with many questioning whether he had been badly advised. But Ramsey, though seemingly quiet and unassuming, is as headstrong a character as they come, "With regards to being badly advised in my comments I am a grown man and captain of my country, to which I care deeply about the future of Welsh football. I wasn't advised by anyone and nor would I need to be. I gave an honest answer to a specific question and everything I said was done with my best intentions, hence the fact I am willing to stand behind my beliefs and not leave my comments nameless.'

I`m not saying that means he is a good player or that he should be cut any slack. But those are the words of a mature and responsible young man. Not incendiary in his approach, yet firmly standing up for himself and his teammates. There are a lot of characters in the game more than twice his age that could learn something from that. His comeback from injury was managed with a quiet grace and dignity and underlying determination. Even this summer, he took on penalty responsibilities for Team GB in the Olympics. Having scored one in the Quarter Final against Korea, he then missed one. When the penalty shootout rolled around, guess who was the first to step up?

This is a young man that takes his balls to training in a wheelbarrow. He`ll need plenty of that resolve next season too. He`ll know better than anyone that he tailed off towards the end of the campaign. With Wilshere due to return, Diaby lasting more than ten minutes in pre season and Cazorla now acquired, Ramsey isn`t going to get quite as clear a run at the first team this year. He`ll need to fight for his place and show he has developed on his weaknesses. Namely his finishing. (Needs to cut out some of the more unnecessary back heels too). He retains the ball incredibly well and is an accurate passer. But now he needs to turn the ball over much more quickly to help the team maintain tempo. In Mikel Arteta he has the perfect role model in that regard. Off the ball, he needs to work harder when attacks break down. I think he has the talent and the brain. Nobody can deny he`s got the balls. He just needs to bring it all together. LD.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday August 10 2012

Time: 10:16AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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Thought he walked away from the Olympics with his head held high! Don't think he'll be a starter though this season.
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10/08/2012 10:33:00

LD, you have captured Ramsey so well, you couldn't have done better if you were is guardian during his growing years :-) Very well written stuff here and can't argue with all what is up there as that is Ramsey all wrapped up. Reading through each paragraph, there were a couple of times I thought "you have missed something there, LD" only for the next paragraph to bring to the fore, the very issue I thought may have been left out.
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10/08/2012 10:55:00

It is such a shame that he was overplayed last season as, had we had decent cover and been able to give him a rest, I think he he would've put away a lot more of those goal scoring opportunities.
No 10
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10/08/2012 10:59:00

"Ramsey was very, very good at finding goalscoring positions but less good at finishing them. Really, his lack of finesse in the area was his biggest fault last season. If he`d have finished half the chances he had created for himself with his buccaneering runs, we`d be appraising his performance in a different light.". This is an area that never ceases to baffle me about Ramsey. I doubt we have another midfielder that is adept at being in scoring positions as he. Painfully, I recall he was putting away the chances before that horrific injury which makes me wonder if that had anything to do with the loss of his shooting boots. One thing is for sure, representing team GB has done him a world of good and if there are some who even think he will not fight for a role in this team, they have another think coming. Ramsey is a gutsy lad and appears to 'know' himself so well, it can only be for good.
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10/08/2012 11:01:00

And, yes. Someone needs to remind him he is no Brazilian. He has to cut out those flicks and back heels; when they click, it is all good. But when they don't come off, it can infuriate as Arsenal's play means there is always a better option and fans don't forget when the games get into the crucial stages.
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10/08/2012 11:03:00

I do also think that Ramsey and Wilshere will be fantastic foils for each other in the heart of Arsenal MF for many years.
No 10
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10/08/2012 11:05:00

On those flicks: I remember a very good coach I had telling a few of the more technical players about the focus or your objective. He said that your first objective had to be to get the ball where you wanted/needed it. If the best/only way to do that was to do a fancy flick, back heal, 'fart it there if that's what's needed', then do it. But using a flick or piece of 'skill' should never be the objective. I still think Ramsey does those back heals because that the flick was what he wanted to do.
No 10
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10/08/2012 11:41:00

No.10 I totally agree with that and have made that point many a time on the old twitter. I get stick when I play from my teammates for doing that and I always use the same explanation- it was simply the best way of the ball getting there and it gets defenders off guard too. However, I do think Ramsey slightly overdoes it.
Little Dutch
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10/08/2012 11:43:00

Excellent article LD. Ramsey is a smart guy and seems the kind who can be self critical after a performance. Hope he can bring all the facets of his game together this season.
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10/08/2012 12:02:00

A fancy flick can be justified if nothing else is on but it’s predominantly about body position and playing percentages. If the rewards for the successfully flick outweigh the consequences of it failing then fine. It’s Ramsey’s decision making here that’s at fault when he chooses to do a back-heel that it isn’t on, but I think that comes down to him wanting to do well rather than irresponsible showboating. He needs a period of playing to consolidate the basics, passing, position and finishing. Get these right and his class will emerge naturally.
Sir Henry
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10/08/2012 13:53:00

By the way; “This is a young man that takes his balls to training in a wheelbarrow” is magnificent.
Sir Henry
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10/08/2012 13:55:00

One of my favorite players at Arsenal. I love the kids attitude and work ethic. Im sure he will come good at Arsenal. Hes a winner , you can see it in his eyes.
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10/08/2012 17:09:00

Wilshere did a little slide back heal to Chamakh and in that situation there was nothing else that would've got the ball where he wanted.
No 10
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10/08/2012 19:23:00

"But now he needs to turn the ball over much more quickly to help the team maintain tempo" that sums it all
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11/08/2012 06:51:00

I also think Ramsey's season was not put in perspective. He had a very good start to the season, so not everyone has forgotten about that LD. I thought that was his season to step up and be counted, but he's still a kid learning his trade. He will be better for the experience, and with experienced pros pushing him for a place, he needs to up his game even more. Solid calls on all 3 players for this piece LD. However, I think its going to be make or break for Diaby this season, so I may have picked him instead. I guess that article would read "if he stays fit" so it would have been pretty short.
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12/08/2012 19:16:00


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