A blog on Arsenal and Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey and his value for club and country.
The pre-match focus surrounded record-signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as Arsenal prepared to take on Everton in the Premier League last weekend, but while Aubameyang scored on his debut in the resounding 5-1 victory, it was Aaron Ramsey who took home with the matchball following a superb hat-trick.
A key figure for Wales since making his international debut ten years ago, Ramsey will have an important role to play under new manager Ryan Giggs, starting when the team head to China next month in a tournament that will offer the first indication of the changes Giggs intends to implement since taking over from Chris Coleman.
Ramsey joined Arsenal a decade ago, but serious injuries have curtailed his appearances, and he has regularly been singled out for criticism by the eternally frustrated fans at the Emirates Stadium. Now 27, Ramsey is considered to be at the peak of his footballing powers, and he remains a player that students of the game have a special admiration and appreciation for.
Arsene Wenger saw the potential in Ramsey as the midfielder emerged through the ranks of Cardiff City as a teenager, and while Manchester United took an interest, it was Wenger who sold him a vision of the future and the important part that Ramsey would play in it. Wenger’s belief in the midfielder was justified as he returned from serious injury to become Arsenal’s FA Cup hero in 2014 and 2017.
Last weekend we saw just what Ramsey can offer, but it came as no surprise for supporters of Wales. Ramsey has always been a hugely influential figure with the national team, and like Wenger, it was the late Gary Speed that saw the potential qualities in Ramsey as he made him captain.
Although the additional responsibility and status had a negative impact on Ramsey at the time, he accepted Coleman’s decision to make Ashley Williams captain as the manager began doing things his own way with professional maturity, and his real value to Wales was never more apparent then when he wasn’t available.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) February 4, 2018
Ramsey and Ben Davies cut two frustrated figures back in the summer of 2016 as suspensions ruled both players out of the UEFA EURO semi-final against Portugal in Lyon. For Ramsey, it was a painful watch, as the pockets of space that he impresses in were clearly apparent, and the lack of creativity that eventually cost Wales the game was a direct result of Ramsey’s suspension.
But for all his creative play, Ramsey also contributes to the defensive duties of the team, and without him playing in his favoured central position against Portugal it was left for Gareth Bale to drop back and compensate, leaving Wales lacking in attack.
Coleman left Wales on the back of a failed World Cup qualifying campaign. Injuries and suspensions to key players proved too difficult, despite his side losing just once, but too many dropped points from leading positions would eventually prevent Wales from building of the success of EURO 2016.
One of the key players missing was Ramsey, and it was clear from Coleman’s press conferences during the campaign that the Arsenal midfielder was a pivotal loss to the side. A player to bring the best out of Bale, it can be argued that Ramsey has became more important for Wales in his midfield role than the Real Madrid star, and it is certainly an opinion suggested by Coleman as he continued to rue Ramsey’s injury problems.
But when he was available, Ramsey was superb, and his performance in the 1-1 draw against Serbia last June showed just why he is rated so highly. With Bale suspended, the responsibility was on Ramsey to be the talisman in a difficult away match, and took charge of matters with the leadership qualities that Speed had seen in him years before.
Wales has been a welcome distraction from Arsenal for Ramsey in recent years, but as he becomes a senior figure in Wenger’s plans, he is clearly playing with a new-found confidence and belief boosted by the quality attacking talent he now surrounds himself with. His absence from the derby defeat to Spurs on Saturday again emphasising his value.
Opinion remains divided on Giggs and his appointment as Wales manager, and he will be desperate to make a positive impression in the China Cup. Ramsey will be an important figure in Giggs’ success, and the new manager will be delighted with the current form of his influential midfielder as he prepares to name his first squad in a few weeks time.