How Aaron Ramsey Can Rescue Arsenal's Season

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How Aaron Ramsey Can Rescue Arsenal's Season
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Aaron Ramsey’s Arsenal story is characterised by the club’s unerring faith in the player. 

First, they plucked Ramsey from English football's second tier as a teenager, fighting off interest from Manchester United and Everton to convince him that his future was with Arsenal. Then the club stood steadfastly by their man when he suffered a career-threatening injury, showing complete confidence in him throughout his rehabilitation.

It didn't stop there. When Ramsey eventually made his return, his performances didn’t always hold the same exhilarating promise they had prior to his broken leg. However, Arsenal never blinked. At the peak of Ramsey’s criticism, in the winter of 2012, they handed him an extended contract.

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What a good decision that turned out to be. Ramsey is now a bona fide star. Only Yaya Toure and Eden Hazard have scored more goals from midfield in this season’s Premier Leagueand that’s in spite of Ramsey’s absence of more than two months.

It was while injured that Arsene Wenger once again demonstrated his remarkable belief in Ramsey. According to The Guardian, he has agreed a new contract that more than doubles the midfielder’s salary. Since 2008, Arsenal’s faith in Ramsey has been absolute.

Now, Ramsey has a chance to repay that faith. The Welshman could be about to help rescue Arsenal’s season.

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The success of Arsenal’s 2013/14 campaign is very much in the balance. In Arsenal’s last Premier League match, they lost at Stoke. They now trail league leaders Chelsea by seven points. However, they have a crucial game in hand. What’s more, with a fixture against Jose Mourinho’s side still to come, Arsenal do still stand a slim chance of reeling the Blues in. All is not yet lost.

On another front, the FA Cup appears to be parting like the Red Sea to allow Arsenal a procession to glory. After a succession of home draws, Arsenal find themselves in the last four of a competition along with Wigan Athletic, Hull City and Sheffield United. They are clear favourites.

However, the Gunners have been here before. In 2011, they reached the semi-finals of the League Cup along with Ipswich Town, West Ham and Birmingham City. The long wait for a trophy appeared certain to be over, but Arsenal conspired to lose the final to troubled Birmingham. They will have to keep their form and concentration high to avoid a similarly embarrassing outcome.

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Ramsey’s return comes at the perfect time. The Gunners are entering the most crucial period of their season. It’s a daunting fixture list, and they need their best players available. Ramsey’s form this season ensures he is counted in that category.

What’s more, the Gunners have recently lost Jack Wilshere to injury. That blow has created something of a void in the Arsenal midfield, and it’s one that Ramsey is more than capable of filling.

One thing he’ll immediately provide is an extra goalscoring threat. Ramsey has eight league goals, and 13 in all competitions. He is the only Arsenal player to come close to Olivier Giroud’s tally of 18. Aside from Ramsey and Giroud, no member of the Arsenal squad has more than six goals against their name.

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Since losing Theo Walcott to injury, Arsenal have missed someone who is prepared to burst in to the penalty area and meet Giroud’s knock-downs. Ramsey is able to fill that role. His predatory instinct is far greater than that of Wilshere. This season, Ramsey has averaged 0.44 goals in each Premier League appearance. Wilshere, on the other hand, produces just 0.13 goals per appearance.

It’s easy enough to see why: According to Squawka, Wilshere hits the target with just 44 percent of his shots. Ramsey is nearly twice as accurate, testing the goakeeper with 71 percent of his attempts at goal.

Ramsey’s newfound composure in the final third is key. Take a look at this Squawka chart of his attempts on goal in his 18 Premier League appearances.

Chart via Squawka.com

In the past, the Welshman would regularly be guilty of blazing the ball way over the bar. Now, the majority of his efforts are low. He’s got his head over the ball and his mind on the goal.

However, Ramsey is not just a goalscorer. He has become the complete midfielder. According to Squawka, Wilshere makes an average of just one defensive action per game. Ramsey averages two.

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Despite playing less league games, Ramsey has made almost double the number of clearances that Wilshere has, with 14 as opposed to eight. He is a true box-to-box midfielder.

Graphic via Squawka.com

Ramsey is effective at both ends of the pitch. Having started 2013/14 like a house on fire, Arsenal will hope he is also effective at both ends of the season.

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here.

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