Thrust into the spotlight following the departures of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas, and burdened with even more pressure to perform following Jack Wilshere's ankle injury, Aaron Ramsey has unfortunately not been able to quite live up to all the hype.
To be fair to him though, its almost impossible to live up to it when many fans are hoping desperately that you'll be able to produce the kind of magic Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere, all players significantly more skilled than Ramsey, produced on a regular basis for Arsenal.
Still, even by the regular standards set for a starting Arsenal midfielder, Aaron Ramsey's performances have not been impressive, and have seen him replaced by Tomas Rosicky of all people. Surprisingly, the Czech international's performances in place of Ramsey have actually not been too bad.
Yet, despite his current displacement from the starting lineup, an interesting trend has emerged: When Aaron Ramsey plays well, so do Arsenal.
To provide an empirical measure of this, we'll take a look at Goal.com's Player Ratings for the matches in which Aaron Ramsey has played in this season.
(Just as a note, I'm not endorsing Goal.com's Player Ratings as the end-all be all determination of a player's performance in a particular game; they are just the most convenient and consistent player ratings accessible to me. Any other football website's player ratings would probably work fine as well.)
Is Aaron Ramsey Key to Arsenal's Success This Season?
In Arsenal's league losses and draws this season, Aaron Ramsey has garnered the following player ratings: 6.0 (in the draw with Newcastle), 5.5 (in the loss to Liverpool), 6.0* (in the loss to Manchester United), 7.0 (in the loss to Blackburn), 6.5 (in the loss to Tottenham).
In Arsenal's league wins this season however, Ramsey has earned the following player ratings: 7.0 (in the win over Swansea) and 7.5 (in the win over Bolton).
A couple of notes about the data first: First, Goal.com's ratings of players tends to be a bit harsher when they lose and easier when they win. Secondly, in the game marked with an asterisk, Aaron Ramsey was actually the highest rated Arsenal player, so his rating may be a bit misleading here.
Nevertheless, even with these points in mind, it appears that there is at least some correlation here. When Ramsey plays well, more often than not, so do Arsenal.
In Arsenal's 3-0 win over Bolton, Ramsey probably put in his best performance of the season, and thus it comes as no surprise that that was not only Arsenal's best performance of the season but also their only victory thus far by greater than a one-goal margin.
Ramsey's performance against Swansea was also fairly solid, helping Arsenal pick up their first league win of the season.
On the other hand, in the loss against Liverpool, Ramsey was poor and a very frustrating individual to watch. His inadequate performance culminated with his own goal which allowed Liverpool to finally get on the score sheet after controlling play.
Similarly, in the loss against Tottenham, despite his goal, Ramsey was unable to really create or even control play, and this cost his team dearly, despite his equalizing goal.
As of now, the sample size is too small to definitely conclude that Ramsey's performances are strongly tied to Arsenal's success. If Rosicky stays fit and in the starting lineup, Ramsey may not be needed and find himself limited in Arsenal's push to success this season.
But if yesterday's performance against Marseille is anything to go by, I expect that Ramsey will be given plenty of opportunities to improve and stake his claim to be in Arsenal's starting lineup, especially while Jack Wilshere continues to recover from injury and Abou Diaby tries to regain match fitness.
And as he does so, I am confident that the correlation between Ramsey's performances and Arsenal's success will become stronger and stronger.