With Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey making his return against Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday, the Welsh midfielder once again outlined his importance to the club; this time at a crucial period of the season, Ramsey will be key to Arsenal's flagging push for the Premier League's top four.
Prior to his injury on Boxing Day, Ramsey was Arsenal's most influential player—marking a resurgence and true maturation in a player once consigned to an increasing list of mired youth prospects—and the North London club have felt his absence dearly.
In the past 10 games, the Gunners have won only three times—picking up 13 points in the process—leaving their once-hopeful season in tatters.
Returning at Goodison Park, Ramsey played 25 minutes, performing encouragingly; according to Squawka, the Welshman also created one chance in his cameo appearance.
Wenger will be looking for Ramsey to continue this season's fine form in order to attain any level of success at the end of this season.
Before a disappointing series of injuries, Ramsey was one of the league's finest performers, and his myriad of lay-offs have undeniably affected the form of the club as a whole.
As per Squawka, in the 18 consecutive starts managed by the midfielder in the first half of the season, Ramsey scored eight goals—making him the club's leading goalscorer and one of the most prolific league-wide—and the Welshman also managed six assists, putting him one behind Mesut Ozil for that period.
Ramsey also formed a formidable partnership with the club's only established senior striker, Olivier Giroud, and his absence following the 3-1 victory away to West Ham at the end of December has undoubtedly worn on the Frenchman—the striker has scored only five goals without Ramsey this season.
The Welshman even drew compliments from a player whom Arsenal have famously failed to replace in their tumultuous runs for the title in the years since his departure.
As per James Gheerbrant of The Independent, once-captain Patrick Vieira attributed Ramsey with Arsenal's midseason success: “If Arsenal are top, it’s because [Ramsey] has been the best player at the start of the season. He has been terrific…the most consistent player in the Premier League.”
This consistency was key to Arsenal's surge to the top of the Premier League table, and ever since his loss, the club have taken a downturn in fortunes; a lacking in consistency—a win away to Spurs one week, a 6-0 drubbing at home to Chelsea the next—is central to this.
Injury isn't a new experience for Ramsey, who was famously subject to a horrible double leg break at the hands of Stoke City centre-back Ryan Shawcross in 2010, but this latest lengthy lay-off is perhaps indicative of a pair of common criticisms regarding the modern Arsenal side under Wenger.
Firstly, there's the criticism that his players are hugely susceptible to injury. Ramsey had long-term treatment table veteran Abou Diaby for company this season: the enduring symbol of the injury-prone Wenger signing.
Be this down to training methods, medical issues or simply bad luck is up for debate; however, the injury regularity affecting the Gunners' league form is alarming.
The second criticism is that Wenger's side is lacking in leaders.
Ramsey, who was once captain of the Welsh national side, is one of the few players at the club who bears a significant authoritative influence on the pitch, and his presence has been missed sorely.
It perhaps isn't a coincidence that Wenger's most vocal player of on-field leaders, Mathieu Flamini, didn't start in the loss at the hands of Chelsea at the end of March.
Without Ramsey and these rare Arsenal leaders, Wenger's side is devoid of an extra dimension, and with his return the Frenchman will be hoping for a change in fortunes.
With Arsenal currently trailing third-placed Manchester City by six points—with the Citizens having played two less league games so far—and Liverpool and Chelsea representing specks on the horizon of automatic Champions League qualification at this juncture, Wenger will likely be looking over his shoulder at his emerging rivals for fourth place: Roberto Martinez's Everton.
Following their demolishing of the Gunners last weekend, the Toffees are now one point worse off than Wenger's side with a game in hand.
Luckily, the Frenchman has an ace in his hand in a returning Ramsey.
Whilst crucial injuries to others have added pressure to the North London side—Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have spent long spells on the sidelines this season, for example—the loss of Ramsey has proved the catalyst to the Gunners' downfall in 2014.
A returning, and increasingly fit, Ramsey will represent a vital authoritative presence in the midfield, whilst also a significant contributor in the attacking third; Wenger will surely be hoping the Welshman can continue his early season form in front of goal in the next five games.
It may be too late to grab the "best player in the Premier League" plaudits—Liverpool's Luis Suarez surely has a space for that particular trophy, dusted and dressed, on his mantelpiece by now—but Aaron Ramsey can prove once more to be Arsenal's key man as this season reaches its climax.
At least, with fan patience running thin, Arsene Wenger will be hoping so.
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