Arsenal’s season is entering a critical period. A campaign that looked as if it might deliver a Premier League title threatens to end in disaster. If the Gunners fail to make the top four or win the FA Cup, it could spell the lowest point of Arsene Wenger’s tenure. It might even bring about the end of his reign.
Aaron Ramsey, out since Boxing Day with a thigh injury, is due to rejoin training on Thursday and has a chance of making the squad for the FA Cup semi final - as does centre-back Laurent Koscielny (calf).
Aaron and Nacho Monreal are back in the squad, so that is good news. Hopefully they will be available for Sunday.
The return of Koscielny and possibly even Mesut Ozil is undoubtedly a big boost to Arsenal. However, it’s the availability of Ramsey that is key.
In the first half of the season, he was undoubtedly Arsenal’s star player. His blistering form made him one of the most coveted players in the country. Were it not for his untimely thigh injury, he’d be a key contender for the PFA Player of the Year award.
Replacing Ramsey has proved almost impossible. None of Arsenal’s other midfielders have his ability to be effective at both ends of the pitch. On the defensive side, his boundless energy is in stark contrast to the tired performances of the aging Mikel Arteta.
However, it’s his attacking threat which has been missed most of all. What made Ramsey stand out this season was his newfound composure in front of goal. When he picked up his injury, he had already notched 13 goals in just 27 appearances. Tellingly, no Arsenal player other than Olivier Giroud has since surpassed that tally.
Giroud, too, has suffered in Ramsey’s absence. Ramsey provided some of the yin to Giroud’s yang. Without players to run beyond him and meet his intelligent flick-ons, the French forward can appear something of a blunt instrument.
Although Ramsey will be disappointed to have missed so much of the season, his return comes at an ideal time. He could be poised to make his first start in months in the FA Cup semi-final with Wigan. The pain of his persistent thigh problem will be forgotten if he can help Arsenal lift their first silverware in nine years.
There’s also the league to consider. Having led the table for so long, missing out on Champions League qualification would represent a significant fall from grace. Arsenal must steady themselves and tighten their grip on fourth place to avoid a promising campaign disintegrating into disaster.
With Aaron “Rambo” Ramsey in their ranks, Arsenal should have the firepower needed to salvage their season.
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