Acquired from Cardiff in 2008 for the paltry sum of £5 million, Aaron Ramsey has quietly established himself as a regular starter for the Gunners this season and even became captain of the Welsh national team at just 21 years old.
Arsenal’s form this season has peaked and troughed so erratically from game to game, but the Welshman’s selection in the midfield has been a constant. For a player who rarely produces anything outstanding, it begs the question: Why does Wenger insist on selecting him?
Take the games against Tottenham, Liverpool and Milan last month. Those three games produced magnificent performances from the team, which may well turn out to be the highlight of Arsenal’s season.
Ramsey did not play in any of those games due to injury. Instead, Wenger chose to rotate Song, Arteta, Benayoun, Rosicky, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain around the midfield, utilising an effective balance of defensive solidity and creative dynamism.
Oxlade-Chamberlain stood out, particularly in the Milan game, with his assured positive passing and explosive pace. Benayoun played excellently in the Tottenham game, giving his valuable experience and precision passing to a truly fantastic derby. Alex Song grows slowly in stature in every game he plays, providing wonderful assists from seemingly out of nothing.
Ramsey’s first start after his injury was against Everton nearly two weeks ago. Arsenal, who were on top form, only managed one goal in the eighth minute of the match to win the game. Ramsey didn’t do anything overly wrong, but at the same time he didn’t create anything eye-catching or productive.
Bizarrely, Wenger chose to put the Welshman in the left wing against QPR yesterday, supporting Van Persie with Walcott on the other side of the Dutchman, leaving Benayoun, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho on the bench.
Arsenal fans around the country must have thrown their arms up in frustration at this team selection. Had the Ox been put in Ramsey’s place, the final score would have heaped more pressure on Chelsea and Tottenham undoubtedly.
While Ramsey is a decent player, it is unclear exactly what he is good at.
His small frame and unwillingness to track back shows he is not suited to the holding role, his lack of pace and trickery means he isn’t good enough for the the wings and his constant back-passing and lack of creative imagination means he doesn’t effectively fit in the playmaker role, either. Yet Wenger insists time and time again to put him in the first 11.
That’s not to say that he doesn’t play well sometimes. His crucial goal against Marseille in the group stages of the Champions League meant Arsenal finished top of the group.
But these moments are few and far between. A regular occurrence in his play is him standing still with his hands on his head after he has misplaced a pass to the opposition; a truly aggravating site for any fan.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say Arsenal should sell Ramsey, but an extended amount of time on the bench might be just what he needs to buck his ideas up.
Not only that, other players in his position deserve more playing time than they are getting currently—namely Benayoun and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Simply put, they are playing well and Ramsey isn’t. So why is the Welshman being put ahead of them both?