With all eyes on Gareth Bale following his becoming the most expensive player in history, his career at Real Madrid beginning with more of a Jonathan Woodgate-esque stutter than a bang has meant that attention has turned to one of Bale’s countrymen, Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey.
“Thank God I saw his potential last season and stood by him” Arsenal super-fan Piers Morgan triumphantly declared several weeks ago, with all the self-congratulatory vigour of a man who couldn’t possibly have directly contradicted himself less than 12 months earlier (except when he referred to Ramsey as a “complete and utter liability”). Although, to be fair to Piers (not something I ever thought I’d find myself writing), this was a majority consensus among Arsenal fans on Ramsey up until the start of this season.
Ramsey’s career trajectory is one that is all too familiar. A bright young talent, his progress was curtailed by injury, before he returned on a wave of good feeling and optimism. However in Ramsey’s case, as his form over the next two seasons failed to match that which his pre-injury career had appeared to promise, the benefit of the doubt afforded to him by the Arsenal faithful ebbed away, the sympathy gradually morphing into frustration.
But just when it appeared that Ramsey’s time at Arsenal may have been drawing to an ignominious close as the club began an earnest summer clear out of peripheral figures, he has undergone a resurgence as spectacular as it has been surprising. Not only has his scoring rate shot through the roof (11 goals in all competitions for club and country so far; his previous season best was 6), but he has more than held his own against a fit-again Jack Wilshere and record signing Mesut Özil.
This astonishing turnaround, which saw him awarded Premier League Player of the Month for September, was nowhere better exemplified than in the closing exchanges of last weekend’s game against Norwich, a match in which he scored once again after embarrassing the Canaries’ defence with a mazy run. With the self-confidence and finesse usually only associated with the world’s elite band of flair players, he casually pirouetted between two challenges before nonchalantly back heeling the ball into Özil’s path.
It must be said that it isn’t all down to Ramsey himself. Arsenal’s long-standing issue with the defensive midfield position has been at least partially remedied by the return of Mathieu Flamini, which has afforded Ramsey considerably more freedom to push forward. The increased stoicism of Arsenal’s defense this term will also have gone some way to easing the Welshman’s mind when it comes to his defensive duties, and with this license to roam he has blossomed into the player he looked destined to become prior to the broken leg he suffered at Stoke in 2010.
Ramsey displayed his magic against Norwich having come off the bench, with boss Arsene Wenger opting to rest him with one eye on the crunch Champions League tie with Borussia Dortmund, something which speaks volumes for his now crucial role in his team’s expansive attacking system. Dortmund may boast more footballing pedigree than Caerphilly does, but Jurgen Klopp and co. will no doubt be wary of the Welsh wonder who has finally come of age.