Aaron Ramsey's Spectacular Return Shows Precisely What Arsenal Have Missed

James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2014

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Arsenal’s comfortable 3-0 win over Hull City on Sunday will have provoked mixed feelings among Gunners fans. 

First and foremost, they’ll be delighted by the three points and encouraged by an incisive attacking performance. However, they’ll also be nursing feelings of regret. In this match, Arsenal were vastly improved by the return to the starting line-up of Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey. Arsenal fans were left wondering what might have been had that pair remained fit for the entirety of the season. 

HULL, ENGLAND - APRIL 20:  (L-R) Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal and Tom Huddlestone of Hull City challenge for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Arsenal at KC Stadium on April 20, 2014 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Matthew Le
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Ramsey was making his first Premier League start since Boxing Day and ended the match with a goal and two assists. It was a remarkably smooth return to action. There was little sign of ring-rust in the Welshman’s performance. 

His box-to-box display reminded the Arsenal fans of the incredible energy that Ramsey brings to the side. In recent weeks, Olivier Giroud has been criticised for a chronic lack of pace. However, Ramsey’s mere presence absolves Giroud of some of his sins. His constant willingness to run beyond the striker adds speed and vibrancy to the Arsenal attack.

HULL, ENGLAND - APRIL 20:  Mesut Oezil (L) of Arsenal holds off Jake Livermore (R) of Hull City during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Arsenal at KC Stadium on April 20, 2014 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

When Ramsey charges in to the final third, he links brilliantly with Ozil. The two seem to share an instinctive understanding and exchange passes at a dizzying rate. For an opposition defender, it’s a nightmare. The two midfielders create a vortex wherein centre-backs become dangerously disorientated.

Ramsey was named as SkySports’ official man of the match. Had he remained fit for the entire campaign, he might well be in contention for Player of the Season. In the first half of 2013/14 he was the most effective midfielder in the Premier League. His goal today took his tally for the season to 14.

How many might he have had he been fit to play every game? 

Many factors have been cited in the analysis of Arsenal’s title collapse. Their mentality has been questioned and their tactical intelligence ruthlessly examined. However, injuries have also played a key part. Arsenal were forced to manage without Ramsey for fully four months. Would Liverpool have sustained their challenge without the likes of Luis Suarez or Steve Gerrard for such a prolonged period? 

Having dispatched Hull, Ramsey and Arsenal will be confident of securing a top-four finish. If they can beat Steve Bruce’s side again on May 17, they will add the FA Cup to the prize of Champions League qualification. A trophy would be a tangible and justified reward for what remains, despite setbacks, a season of progress. 

As Arsenal took the Tigers apart, their fans must have wished fate had treated them more kindly. With Ramsey and Ozil in their ranks, they look infinitely more credible as potential title challengers.


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