Aaron Ramsey Form Is Leaving Jack Wilshere with a Sideline Role for Arsenal
Arsenal looked to be cruising through the late stages of their game against Marseille in the Champions League group stage on Wednesday night, but a late penalty scored by the French side meant the game finished 2-1.
While Arsenal never really looked in danger of losing the lead once they had scored the first goal of the game, a super strike from Theo Walcott, the value of the second goal was proven once again after that late spot-kick.
As such, the game-winner turned out to be Aaron Ramsey, the quietly impressive Welsh midfielder, who, at the start of this season, has arguably been the Gunners' stand-out performer when he could just as easily have found himself phased out of the team.
While the arrival of Mesut Ozil was met by the rest of the Premier League supporters with equal parts excitement at watching such a talent and jokes about the German being just the type of solid defensive midfielder Arsenal craved, few might have thought that Ramsey would still be the most effective central player in the side.
Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky—Arsene Wenger is not lacking in central midfield options. However, there was a concern that there were too many of the same type, perhaps, which would see at least one player shoe-horned into an unfamiliar role, or else left to wait as substitute.
Injuries to Arteta and, in attack, Lukas Podolski have meant that Wenger has still fielded three or four of his midfielders in each game, but it has certainly been Ramsey who has taken centre stage.
Not only that, but he has forced Jack Wilshere—the great hope for club and country—into a peripheral role in the team for the time being.
While Ramsey sits in the very middle of Arsenal's team, alongside Flamini for the time being, Wilshere was first kept in a central attacking midfield role, with Ozil wide left, but after barely half an hour has changed.
Ozil, with his vision, technique and proven ability, is clearly in the side to be the No. 10, the central playmaker, the conduit for all of Arsenal's attacking phases of play.
The idea is to support him from all angles; protect his back so that if he does lose the ball, the team is still covered while also giving him willing runners to aim for with his incisive passing ability.
Ramsey, in both respects, is outperforming Wilshere right now.
The England man might have expected to be able to play off the former Real Madrid man, passing into feet and running off him to receive the ball back, but Ramsey's greater athleticism, defensive awareness and ability to break into the opposition's penalty box makes him the preferred option at present.
Wilshere has far from flourished in the past couple of matches as he tries to have an impact coming infield from the left, and instead has had to watch on as Ramsey displays some of the finest box-to-box work going on in the Premier League right now.
Ramsey's ability to win the ball back makes him a good partner for Flamini, giving Arsenal a solid base to work from, while his boundless energy and willingness to be a runner from deep means his team are constantly top-heavy with attacking options.
His purple patch in front of goal is a massive added bonus for the team, one which almost surely won't continue indefinitely but has already won several points and matches domestically and continentally.
While Ramsey is on top of his game, Wilshere will not be able to force his way into a key role in the Arsenal team.
The problem appears to be that he can't find his own form while playing from the unhelpful left-sided role. Once Santi Cazorla returns to fitness, Wenger may well find that the only option is to reduce Wilshere to a substitute role for the time being, a far cry from the grandiose expectations placed on No. 10 each season to make the difference.
Wilshere might be expected to be the hero, but right now, Ramsey is the man making the difference at the Emirates Stadium. He brings a dynamism and positive influence to the side, he is as confident as he has looked since joining the club as a teenager and his current ability to find the back of the net makes him undroppable.
It's not quite making for what would have been Arsenal's expected midfield trio going back to the start of the season, but it's certainly working right now.
How long Ramsey can keep this run of form up for could yet prove pivotal for his and the team's season over the longer term—and that of teammate Jack Wilshere.
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