It would be near impossible to argue that Arsenal’s current squad is balanced, but then what’s new? Arsene Wenger has seen Alexis Sanchez leave in January but in Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang his two new arrivals have vastly bolstered the club’s attack.
We have seen just one outing of the new look Gunners and it came at the Emirates Stadium against Sam Allardyce’s beleaguered Everton, the Toffees were 3-0 down after just 19 minutes.
Aaron Ramsey scored a hat-trick and it’s clear that Arsenal’s attacking line may well bring out the best of the Welshman once again.
One of the issues the French coach has had in recent years has been, firstly, getting Ramsey fit, and secondly positioning him on the pitch correctly.
He is at his best as an attacking midfielder who can arrive in the penalty area and convert chances, a holding midfielder he is not.
Granit Xhaka’s arrival was supposed to satisfy that role yet the Swiss international has struggled so much that Ramsey has often been forced to play alongside him in a deeper.
Jack Wilshere’s return from injury has been a blessing; he is undoubtedly the club’s best midfield player and can fulfil any role you ask him to competently.
His presence has allowed Ramsey certain freedom to roam forward and whilst this doesn’t contribute to the balance of the team at all, it makes all the difference in forward moves.
Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang will roam freely across the forward line; they will interchange positions and do so at such a speed, opposing defences will have a hard time coping with it, just as Everton found out.
Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund in the 2015/16 season were phenomenal, largely because of the partnership between the Armenian and Aubameyang, two of the main beneficiaries of this were Shinji Kagawa and Gonzalo Castro.
Kagawa scored 10 goals in all competitions whilst Castro netted seven, both from midfield. This is a goal return that you can seriously expect Ramsey to come close to in the second half of the campaign.
Defences will have so much to focus on with the movement of the front two that Ramsey will find space on the edge of the penalty area, just as he did against Everton, although that was an exceptionally sloppy performance from the Merseyside club.
The Welsh midfielder’s best return came in the 2013/14 season when he netted 10 goals in all competitions; once again he was ably supported by a new arrival in Mesut Ozil.
His performances for the Welsh national team have shown just how naturally talented the former Cardiff City midfielder is, yet there has been a sense that his career at the Emirates Stadium has stalled.
As a result there has been little conjecture over the fact his contract with Arsenal ends in June 2019, which means that he would be in the very same position as Sanchez by the time the summer comes.
Of course, there will not be the demand there was for the Chilean, however he now has six months to vastly increase the offer he will receive from the North London club.
If Arsenal are to truly challenge for the Premier League title then it may well be the case that there isn’t room for a player of Ramsey’s ilk in the regular starting line-up, however it’s clear at this point Arsene Wenger won’t change his style, so it’s vitally important that Ramsey makes best use of the chances that will be created for him.
For Arsenal there is still the opportunity to repeat Manchester United’s achievement from last season and win the Europa League, thus granting them entry into next season’s Champions League.
It certainly seems the more attainable route back into Europe’s premier club competition than finishing inside the top four, simply due to the quality within the teams above the Gunners at this moment in time.
Winning a knockout tournament relies on moments and a certain amount of good fortune, for Jose Mourinho’s United it was John Guidetti missing a golden chance with the last kick of their semi-final tie, for Arsenal it could well come with an Aaron Ramsey chance from just inside the penalty area created by Mkhitaryan.
For a player who hasn’t been able to contribute in as significant a way as he would like, Ramsey now has the players around him to support his style. Whilst there will still be issues at the other end, Arsenal will be a potent attacking force for the remainder of the season at least.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn
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