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.