Complete Analysis of Aaron Ramsey's Arsenal Role

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistNovember 8, 2013

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 18:  Aaron Ramsey of Arsenalcelebrates his goal during the UEFA Champions League group F match between Olympique de Marseille and Arsenal at Stade Velodrome on September 18, 2013 in Marseille, France.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Aaron Ramsey has undoubtedly been the star of Arsenal’s season thus far.

His performances have seen him emerge as one of the front-runners for the PFA Player of the Year award and have helped fire the Gunners to the top of the Premier League.

Here, we break down the secrets of his extraordinary recent success.


The Genesis

Some pundits would have you believe that Ramsey’s performances this season have come from nowhere. They’d be wrong. The truth is that Ramsey was one of Arsenal’s key performers last season.

After spending the first part of the campaign as a utility player deployed in a variety of different positions, he eventually settled in to a deep-lying midfield spot alongside Mikel Arteta and played a vital role as Arsenal pipped Spurs to Champions League qualification.

Ramsey made 36 Premier League appearances in 2012-13, and there were many signs of his growing physical confidence. When he initially returned from the broken leg that sidelined him for almost nine months, there was an understandable reticence to throw himself into challenges. However, according to EPLindex, Ramsey won a staggering 90.74 percent of his tackles last season. His faith in his body was gradually being restored.

His technical game progressed, too. He increased his passing accuracy by two percent from the preceding season, leaving him with a final pass-completion rate of 89 percent. That was higher than either Santi Cazorla or Jack Wilshere (both 87 percent).

The extent of Ramsey’s improvement remains a surprise, but it’s clear that the seeds were there as early as last season.


The Goals

The major difference between the Ramsey of last season and the current version is how prolific he has become. He has 11 goals already this season. His previous 11 Arsenal goals took him five years to acquire. What has changed?

The simple answer is: confidence. Ramsey insists so himself. Speaking to Sky Sports, he said:

I'm feeling a lot more confident in front of goal.

I've looked up to players like that (Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard) over the last ten years or so and the amount of goals they get is quite remarkable, so that is what I am aiming to do.

Ramsey believes in himself more than ever before. He is anticipating the drop of the ball and gambling when in goalscoring positions.

Take his most recent goal against Dortmund:

Aaron Ramsey showed great anticipation to score in Germany.
Aaron Ramsey showed great anticipation to score in Germany.

Note how he skips ahead of Neven Subotic, beating him to where Olivier Giroud’s knockdown will land. Having got there, his header was brave and accurate.

These days, when Ramsey shoots it's invariably with a newfound conviction. According to Squawka, Ramsey has a shooting accuracy of 72 percent. To put that in perspective, the Premier League’s top scorer, Daniel Sturridge, has a shooting accuracy of 59 percent. When Ramsey strikes, he is decisive and clinical.

In large part, that’d due to the ruthless efficiency of his finishing. Look at this breakdown of his first 11 goals this season by @Dorkkly:

Ramsey almost always shoots low. In previous years, he would frequently blast the ball over when in a good scoring position. However, his shooting is now controlled and precise.

It is one of the first things you are taught as a young footballer: Keep the ball low and towards the corner, and the goalkeeper will struggle to get there. It may not look quite as spectacular as a top-corner strike, but it’s devastatingly effective.

Of course, Ramsey can find the top corner too, as he showed with that stunning goal against Liverpool. The right boot which thumped home that strike has contributed 82 percent of Ramsey’s goals thus far.


Ramsey’s passing has kicked on again. In this season’s Premier League he has averaged a pass-completion rate of 86 percent. Among those passes, Ramsey has created 13 goalscoring opportunities for team-mates, including four assists.

Mesut Ozil is the only Arsenal midfielder to have created more goalscoring opportunities this season. Given Ramsey’s deeper position, it’s a remarkable statistic.

This map of Ramsey’s passing against Liverpool shows the sheer variety of his ball-playing. Not only is he able to make a telling contribution in the final third, but he also drops deep to receive the ball from the centre-halves and begin Arsenal’s attacks from the back.

Defensive work

Aaron Ramsey is hitting the headlines for his goals, but his defensive work is also outstanding. Whether he plays alongside Mikel Arteta or Mathieu Flamini, he does his share of hard graft, regularly making clearances from inside his own area.

Ramsey is truly effective at both ends of the pitch.

In his last performance at the Emirates Stadium against Liverpool, Ramsey made seven tackles during the match, six of which were successful. Notice how many of those tackles were in the full-back area, protecting Kieran Gibbs.

In this Arsenal team, the wingers don’t have a huge amount of responsibility, so the central-midfield pairing are obliged to provide cover for the attacking full-backs. Ramsey has been doing that job superbly all season.



“Box-to-box” is a sobriquet often attached to Aaron Ramsey. The truth is that it doesn’t do him justice.

Not only does he travel from box to box, but he covers the entire width of the pitch too, as this heat map from Squawka illustrating his performance on Saturday demonstrates:

In attacking terms, Ramsey seems to have particular joy drifting into the penalty area from the left-hand side. Six of his goals this season have been from an almost identical position to the left of the penalty spot.

Obviously, the Welshman benefits from cutting in from that flank onto his favoured right foot.


What next?

Aaron Ramsey is developing in to the complete midfielder. All he has to do now is maintain this form for the rest of the season.

If he can do that, he’s a certainty for an individual prize at the end of this year. What’s more, he might just help Arsenal end their long wait for a trophy.


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