Arsenal: The Progression of Aaron Ramsey

There’s a lot of admirable characteristics that Aaron Ramsey possesses, but there’s one that I admire more than any other and that’s his mentality. Its extraordinary as to how far the Welshman has progressed to the point he is at now.

He’s suffered a career threatening leg break whilst wearing the Arsenal crest. He’s stayed professional whilst suffering abuse not only from rival fans, but from his very own. He’s lost his mentor, the man who had so much faith in him to succeed on the international level by giving him the captaincy in his early 20′s. He’s fought back from all these setbacks at such a young age that I can’t help but admire how strong he has been mentally as it’s not all sweet and glorious being a footballer.

Until recently, Ramsey has been showing individuals who had faith in him why they had that faith, why they believed he is good enough for Arsenal. As football fans we tend to forget having faith in players blinds you from seeing that they currently aren’t good enough, we tend to pick faith over reason instead of reason over faith. However Ramsey is giving the fans who had faith in him the reasons as to why they backed him and supported him through the dark days and the days he was used as a scapegoat, which has hopefully vanished..

I was there the day Wales beat Norway 4-1, the day Ramsey was captain of his national team whilst his mentor Gary Speed was on the sidelines. The man who had installed confidence and faith in a 20 year old Ramsey who was still recovering from a career threatening injury. I stood and watched the elegance and class he oozed whilst caressing the ball with his right foot. It was a clear indication that he was still talented and capable of individually controlling the game from midfield.

This was in 2011 and he was playing for Wales, where he seemed to flourish and play with less pressure which instantly relaxed him and his thought process. If you play in a stadium were you are expected to play a simple pass quick or a simple through ball then there is pressure, even if it is the slightest, there is still pressure, which makes you consider each little pass. Sometimes the simple thing is the most difficult thing, after all simplicity is brilliance.

This was a weak point for Ramsey when he was playing for Arsenal back in 2011 and 2012. He didn’t have the freedom of dictating the play how he intended to, instead he was expected to play it simple and not take too many touches which would labour the teams movement and rhythm. Whilst for Wales he was mechanical at times, like clockwork keeping the team ticking.

It’s no illusion to see how far Ramsey has progressed, he’s much stronger on the ball than he was at the start of the season. His anticipation has increased and he’s also more tactically aware compared to Wilshere for example.

When Ramsey accelerates forward, he holds his position when defending, knowing he has cover, whilst when Wilshere goes forward he leaves space in behind that the opposition exploits. It’s not a fluke that Arsenal have won the last 4 games in a row since Wilshere’s absence. We concede less and look more solid as a team.

At the start of the season for example when, Arsenal were getting rave reviews for their defensive displays. To be a top class midfielder you need two types of intelligence: one is creative intelligence and the other is analytical intelligence. Intelligence gains you a couple of yards. Creative is like an artist whilst analytical is in the brackets of lawyers and doctors etc.

Imagine a patient entering the hospital in critical condition, what would you do? You wouldn’t know what to do because you haven’t studied and analysed what needs to be done. Whilst the doctor who has textbook knowledge and understands the situation would know what to do.

This personally is what I feel Ramsey has improved on since reverting back to midfield – his analytical intelligence, the ability to observe his surroundings and find the necessary solution to counter act whatever the problem is. If the doctor picks the wrong solution, the patient could end up dying.

Using this analogy in football, if the player positions himself in the wrong place or area then the team could concede the goal that decides the outcome of the game. An example of this analytical intelligence is that Ramsey had more interceptions than any other player against Reading (6) He also, in the same game, showed his creativity, making 4 key passes. Throughout the season he’s made 11 successful through balls which is among the top 5 in the Premier League.

Under Arsène’s wing he will flourish, after all it was Wenger’s choice to play him in a range of positions, most notably out wide as a winger. Phillipe Auclair of ‘France Football’ has stated numerous times that if Arsène positions a player out wide, he thinks they have a future in the centre.

Obviously this doesn’t apply to all players, but for Ramsey that’s what Wenger thought was necessary if it was going to enhance his development, which it did. Stats show that Ramsey has a better % of successful tackles, interceptions and pass accuracy than Wilshere last season.

Playing him out wide is reaping its rewards as effectively the pitch is split into two. You have less time on the ball, your decision making has to become quicker and you learn how to use your pace more effectively out wide in short tight areas. This meant that, when Arsène reverted Ramsey back to the middle, he was sharper, quicker and no longer dwelling on the ball like he used to. Your breathing becomes lighter and this relaxes your thought process which in effect makes you play better.

Ramsey’s passing is more precise and less sloppy than it was at the start of the season, evidence of this is that he has average the 90% mark in his pass accuracy. Bastian Schweinsteiger is a good example of a player who started out as a winger and then converted to a more central role, he is now seen as the heartbeat of a great Bayern Munich team and one of the best midfielders in the world.

The British love a trier, it’s a culture thing that has become the norm over time. If you leave the pitch giving 110% then the fans will appreciate you, even if you aren’t the most talented like a novice gambler placing a massive bet on a top 5 betting site. This is another part of Ramsey’s game I admire. His fight for lost causes and he never hides away from the ball, team ethos over individual glory. A quick example of this could be at White Hart lane, his run down the line, chasing a lost cause led to a free kick which therefore led to the goal.

Like Cruyff stated ‘helping’ another teammate has different interpretations in football: Ramsey covers them all. A run to make space or an overlap or showing for the ball which gives the opposition another thought is a way of ‘helping’ your teammate. Another way is pressing the opposition into making a mistake, hunting the ball down like a predator ready to catch its prey.

Legendary Italian coach Arrigo Sacchi, who managed the great AC Milan team of the late 80′s and early 90′s, states that pressing should be like one movement, like the player is one. It should be mechanical and at high intensity, if the players take this on board then stealing the ball higher up the pitch will reap its rewards and is likely to lead to a goalscoring opportunity.

At 22, Ramsey has his whole career ahead of him, patience is key and some Arsenal fans tend to forget he is only 22 and has the potential to be a key-player for us in a 4-2-3-1 formation. I personally no longer see Ramsey as a squad player or a ‘fill in’ player, he’s much much more than that. Arsène clearly sees him as the successor to Arteta and the future linchpin in the team, the conductor of electricity.

Wenger’s philosophy is similar to the Chinese, military tactician Sun Tzu. To those of you who haven’t heard of this guy, I’d suggest you search him up.. Scolari in 2002 advised the Brazil national team to read Sun Tzu’s book on the Art of War, as a way of understanding tactics and of course, they went on to win the World Cup. Anyway Sun Tzu says you should make your opponent think you are close, when you are far away and when you are far away, you are close.

I think with players like Ramsey and Wilshere in the team, future opposition players will truly believe that when the ball is at the feet of these two, it means they are close. There aren’t many players capable of splitting defences with one pass and both Ramsey and Wilshere can execute that.

If this philosophy is to work, you need the right players to implement it at the heart of the team. In recent weeks Ramsey looks like he’s returning to his old self, playing with confidence, looking to make things happen. At Arsenal he will excel and under Arsène he will flourish.

I’m supremely confident Ramsey and the British core will be successful here at Arsenal for a number of reasons. He may divide opinion but have faith in the Welshman as he will give you the reasons as to why you backed him.


Written by Mohseen Chowdhury

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