Arsenal’s 3-0 loss at Everton on the weekend offered a small positive: it marked the return of Aaron Ramsey, who had been out of action since Boxing Day.
The relief at seeing Ramsey back on the pitch would have been muted considering everything else that was happening. But what should be said is that upon his introduction – alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Arsenal’s attack finally rediscovered this season’s vital component.
Goodison Park wasn’t really a time to pick up on any positives that may have been present. Mainly because it’s difficult to imagine anyone wanting to thrust small bright spots forward as beacons of hope.
The worry is that too much will be laid upon the shoulders of Ramsey. Arsenal are rock bottom in terms of confidence, something that has become a common theme in recent seasons. Ramsey, though, injected some aggression, however small, and vitally some interest and passion into Arsenal’s performance.
The Welshman has been without doubt Arsenal’s star player this season, even ahead of blockbuster signing Mesut Ozil. Ramsey had been instrumental in taking Arsene Wenger’s side to the top of the league, while his goals and assists were balanced out by often outstanding defensive work in the midfield.
What has become clear in these past few weeks is that Arsenal lack leaders and voices. Away from that, there has been no one outstanding player who always looked capable of changing a game. Ramsey has been out for three months and will need to get back into the rhythm of playing each week. What he doesn’t need is the rest of the squad leaning on him as the saviour of the club’s season.
It’s easy to forget that this time last year Ramsey was in the first stages of becoming the player he is now. It was a back-to-basics approach that saw him back in the centre of midfield alongside Mikel Arteta and focusing on recycling possession and leaving the burden of creativity to others.
A similar approach will be needed now. After so long out, it would be negligent to throw him back into the thick of things. What is problematic, though, is that with possibly seven games left in all competitions, there may not be much time to allow him to find match fitness in his own time.
Ramsey gives Wenger another option. He’s proven himself to be capable of producing out of nothing this season. Importantly, he gives the other players something to look out for on the pitch. At Goodison Park, he was one of the few looking to run into space and create scoring opportunities.
His inclusion in the squad for the FA Cup semi-final will undoubtedly give the supporters a lift. A responsibility will also fall to the rest of the squad to ensure Ramsey isn’t hampered during his comeback. He may prove vital and decisive in ending Arsenal’s wait for a trophy, as well as landing them fourth in the league table. But much more is needed from those around him. The regulars in the first-team must to raise their game now that there is a tangible boost to morale.