In the eleven days between Wales’ dogged draw against Serbia and Arsenal’s monotonous PSG stalemate Aaron Ramsey featured in no less than three roles. The Welshman has seen himself occupy an almost ever-changing position in the last few seasons; a persistent positional problem. The multifaceted, enthusiastic 25-year-old throws out more questions than answers. Much like snowflakes, no two players are the same but finalising a fixed position would benefit the progression of both club and individual. Delving deeper into the eleven days spoken about above shows just how and perhaps why Ramsey’s problem needs solving.
Ramsey vs Serbia
With Allen and Ledley sitting behind, Ramsey had free role roaming from the left wing. Frequent interchanges with Gareth Bale meant vacant space could be taken up by Robson-Kanu in a bid to exploit Serbia’s right hand side of Rukavina and Ivanovic. When Ramsey dropped back into central midfield Joe Allen would push behind Sam Vokes, the versatile team shape almost mirroring Ramsey’s movements. Chris Coleman building the Nations hopes on teamwork and the effectiveness of Bale and Ramsey, something the Arsenal man sometimes struggles with.
Ramsey vs Manchester United
Operating in a wide left role again but this time less high up and less flexible, Ramsey and Arsenal struggled at Old Trafford once again. In a bid to provide defensive cover Ramsey committed the most fouls by an Arsenal player, slowing down the game and playing into the hands of Mourinho. Ramsey was dispossessed five times, the most of any player on the pitch, as he struggled to exert his influence in a notoriously difficult ground for the Gunners.
Often the highest player up the pitch for Arsenal Ramsey would find himself at the back post for crosses and provide support for Alexis Sanchez, defensive cover for the out of form Monreal was an after thought. Ramsey carelessly conceded the ball in tight areas when pressed by United and provided them with clear chances to score. When the goal eventually came for the home side it was down the left from which the chance arose; Herrera and Pogba outnumbering Monreal who was left to fend for himself.
Ramsey vs PSG
Partnering Francis Coquelin in a central role Ramsey was back in his favoured position. His defensive duties saw him win the most tackles on the pitch and the most interceptions by an Arsenal player as PSG moved the ball with intelligence in midfield. A scapegoat in the stands Ramsey was safe and simple with his passing selections, not risking to lose the ball to such a lethal counter attacking team. His contributions high up the pitch in terms of pressing and supporting attacks were effective and it was his shot that led to Arsenals second goal.
Coquelin was far from helpful but Ramsey held his own against the stout, skilled midfield of the visitors.
It is clear that for Ramsey to be efficient he has to play centrally or with the team flexible around his movements. A rather polite stalemate with Arsene Wenger has seen Ramsey publicly voice his wishes to play centrally whilst Wenger continues to recognise the Welshmans talents, shoehorning him into the side if possible. It says a lot about his importance when Arsene Wenger, according to Jeremy Wilson of the Telegraph, played Ramsey against both United and PSG despite a broken toe. Regardless of the vast plethora of baying midfielders Ramsey remains key. Kenneth Librecht, a professor of physics, one said “There are a limited number of ways to arrange a handful of bricks. But if you have a lot of bricks, the number of combinations grows very quickly. With enough of them, you can make a driveway, a sidewalk or a house.” Aaron Ramsey must place his brick and find a permanent place in the house that is Arsenal.
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