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Why Aaron Ramsey Is the Key to Arsenal Success This Season

Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey celebrates after scoring against Crystal Palace, during their English Premier League soccer match, at Emirates Stadium, in London, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Bogdan Maran)
Bogdan Maran/Associated Press
James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistAugust 30, 2014

With the transfer deadline approaching, a lot of fuss is being made over who Arsenal should buy in what little time remains. However, the Gunners may already have made their most important signing of the summer: American fitness guru Shad Forsythe.

Forsythe was recruited to help prevent the muscular injuries that have hampered Arsenal’s campaigns for several years now. If Arsene Wenger could be granted a wish for one player to remain free of injury, it would surely be Welsh wizard Aaron Ramsey.

Last season, Ramsey missed four months with a troublesome thigh problem. His absence arguably cost Arsenal the title. Although the Gunners suffered some humbling defeats against Liverpool and Chelsea, they still managed to finish just seven points off top spot. A few crucial winning goals from Ramsey in the second half of the season could still have made all the difference. 

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 23:  Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal scores his team's first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Arsenal at Goodison Park on August 23, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

He brings something unique to the Arsenal team. Not since the peak years of Cesc Fabregas have the Gunners had a midfielder capable of making penetrative late runs in to the box to score. Ramsey had always had a penchant for arriving in the penalty area in promising positions.

However, he lacked the composure to finish. Last season, boosted by improving confidence levels, he began to deliver the goods in front of goal. Ramsey finished the campaign with 16 strikes to his name. Had he not picked up a major injury, he would surely have broken the 20-goal barrier. 

His contribution in the first half of 2013/14 was quite extraordinary. According to Squawka, at the time he picked up that fateful thigh injury against West Ham on Boxing Day, Ramsey figured in the top three for most touches, assists, successful passes and tackles won in the Premier League. He was also the second-highest scoring midfielder in the division behind Yaya Toure with eight goals.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal holds off Kevin Nolan of West Ham United during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Arsenal at Boleyn Ground on December 26, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/G
Ian Walton/Getty Images

What’s immediately evident from those remarkable stats is Ramsey is the complete midfielder. He’s not just proficient at shooting, but also tackling. Although Ramsey’s goals inevitably grabbed the headlines, he was also emerging as a regular provider. At the time of his injury, only Wayne Rooney and Mesut Ozil could better Ramsey’s tally of six assists. 

All in all, he missed 20 Arsenal matches with injury. Given that, in the games he did play he had a stunning win rate of 70.6 percent; one wonders what more Arsenal could have accomplished with Ramsey consistently in their ranks.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 17:  Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal celebrates victory after the FA Cup with Budweiser Final match between Arsenal and Hull City at Wembley Stadium on May 17, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

As it is, he still made the most telling contribution to Arsenal’s season. It was Ramsey’s strike that won them the FA Cup Final, thus ending a nine-year wait for silverware. Big players deliver on big stages. Ramsey’s Wembley winner was the final confirmation that Arsenal have a bona fide star on their hands. High stakes don’t intimidate him, they inspire him.

When the going gets tough, Ramsey gets going. His struggles against serious injury and poor form have imbued him with enormous reserves of mental strength.

Ramsey has already dragged his own career back from the precipice. Now he will attempt to lead his club to their first Premier League title in more than a decade. Arsenal will be praying he stays fit: Their season rests at his magical feet.

 

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2014/15 season. Follow him on Twitter here.

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