Aaron Ramsey has made 25 appearances for Arsenal this season. To put that in perspective, it’s more than Abou Diaby, Andrey Arshavin, Tomas Rosicky and young Serge Gnabry combined.
Remarkably, for a squad player, Ramsey has started 12 of those games—the exact same number of opportunities handed to the far more promising Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
It has to stop.
The problem is not so much when Ramsey plays, but where he plays. The vast majority of his appearances have come in the wide positions, a role he is plainly unsuited for.
It’s unclear why Arsene Wenger persists with playing Ramsey on the wing. Perhaps he is seeking to emulate the success that Yossi Benayoun had in that spot last season. Benayoun became invaluable on the flanks, working tirelessly to combine the two seemingly disparate functions of auxiliary playmaker and defensive winger.
Ramsey doesn’t possess the pace, skill, defensive nous or attacking verve required for that position. His finishing is poor, too: This season he has just one goal to his name. For a man nominally playing as part of a front three, that isn’t good enough.
Make no mistake, Ramsey is a man now. This is no longer a wiry teenager recovering from a broken leg: This is a 22-year-old who has captained his country. It is time for him to convert his potential into performances.
He ought to be arriving at his peak. Worryingly for Arsenal fans, he seems to be regressing.
There’s definitely a good player in there. Beneath the self-doubt and the poor form, Ramsey is a talented midfielder. However, continually playing out of position is damaging his confidence and his development.
Arsenal recently handed Ramsey a long-term contract, hoping to make him part of a British core for the team alongside Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It’s a huge show of faith in Ramsey, and one that suggests the club believes he can recapture the sparkling promise of his early performances.
If he’s going to do so, he needs to play in his true position: central midfield. That is where his power, stamina and drive truly come to the fore.
In the meantime, better options exist on the wing. Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky and even Arshavin all offer far more in that spot than an out-of-sorts Ramsey.
The difficulty for the Welshman is that with the return of Diaby, game-time in the centre is at a premium. It is Wenger’s desire to include Ramsey in the matchday squad that has seen him forced to the wings, like a square peg in a very ill-fitting round hole.
With the January transfer window open, perhaps the best option would be to allow Ramsey to move on loan. Regular football in his regular position could return him to something like his old self.
That is something all Arsenal fans would like to see.