Ramsey had faced the club where he began his career before. The two clubs played out a scoreless FA Cup tie in 2009. On that occasion, Ramsey was booed by the crowd and it clearly impeded his performance. After just an hour, he was withdrawn. Speaking to London24, Arsene Wenger said:
The first time he went back to Cardiff in the FA Cup tie, he was not comfortable with the situation—it was too much for him, now he is much more experienced.
The first time it affected him, he wanted to do so well that he missed a lot of passes at Cardiff.
Now he takes that in a more positive way. Every time he has since come back to Wales, he has done well.
Wenger’s words seem prescient now.
On this return home, Ramsey played the full 90 minutes, was man of the match and capped the performance with two excellent goals.
The class of his play has been in evidence all season. During this game, we learned a little about the class of his character.
The first goal was an outstanding header. Olivier Giroud dropped off the front to begin the move and eventually the ball found its way to Mesut Ozil. He looked up and clipped a perfect pass in to the path of Ramsey’s run and the Welshman responded with a beautifully-placed header into the top corner. The timing of run, pass and header were all perfect.
Ramsey opted not to celebrate. This gesture has become so ubiquitous that it often seems to lack sincerity. However, on his return to a club who gave him his grounding in football, Ramsey’s actions were heartfelt and won him the applause of the Cardiff fans.
After Mathieu Flamini had converted another excellent Ozil pass to wrap the game up, Ramsey put the gloss on the score with a third goal. It was a classic counter-attack: Ramsey burst up the field, exchanging passes with substitute Theo Walcott before thrashing into the roof of the net.
The Cardiff fans broke into spontaneous applause, chanting “One Aaron Ramsey” at the man who still holds the record for being their youngest ever player. Ramsey responded in kind, before replicating the Cardiff fans’ iconic “Ayatollah” celebration.
It was a moment of genuine mutual respect. Such instances are rare in football. After the game, Arsene Wenger commended the Cardiff fans for reciprocating Ramsey’s honourable behaviour:
Ramsey’s performance both on and off the ball won the game and a host of new admirers. If he continues at this level he is surely a certainty to be crowned Footballer of the Year.