Pre Ryan Shawcross, Aaron Ramsey was an incredibly exciting prospect for Arsenal fans. Stolen from under the noses of Manchester United for a very reasonable £5m, Ramsey went from strength to strength in Arsenal’s team. He displayed a pleasing level of ability in almost every aspect of the central midfielder’s role – a quite remarkable feat for such a young player.
Then, one game against Stoke changed that. The Welsh captain was left with such an horrific broken leg that his attacker was left in tears and the Arsenal team was left in shock. Arsenal fans had seen this sort of incident before with both Eduardo and Abou Diaby but there was something quite sickening about such a young, promising player coming so close to ending his career before it had even begun.
Ramsey did eventually return to football, with mixed success. He made his comeback with a month to go in the 2010/11 season. Some reasonable performances were capped of with some pleasing link-up play with Jack Wilshere and the winning goal in the home game against Manchester United. Since then, however, his fortunes have been somewhat tempestuous.
The added pressure of being the creative midfielder to replace Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Jack Wilshere last season was something that a veteran would struggle to deal with, let alone a 21 year old starting his inaugural season as a first team regular.
Nevertheless, his form at the beginning of the 2011/12 season was reasonably impressive with goals against Spurs and Marseille and some decent passing in the 5-3 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Eventually though, the pressure seemed to take over. Gary Speed’s death and the pressure of being national captain was a considerable burden for a player who was also charged with being the creative spark in an Arsenal midfield that was lacking any real dynamism.
Whether it was a loss of confidence or a remarkable bout of over confidence is unclear but what is obvious is that Ramsey lost his form. Perhaps he was simply exhausted after playing so much football after such a long absence from the season before. Whatever the case, inconsistency and mistakes found their way in to most of his performances.
The crowd got on his back and, on occasion, so did his team mates. His wastefulness in possession became common practice and penchant for elaborate flicks only exasperated the situation.
Ramsey may not have deserved all of the abuse he suffered last season but he will undoubtedly need to improve in the coming campaign. Arsenal fans will hope that Wilshere will return to share the burden, but they cannot count on it.
Whilst Wenger has commented on how well the two young midfielders have linked up in the past it is important to stress that Arsenal need Ramsey to be a valuable player in his own right.
He has the potential to be a brilliant player but Arsenal are not short of central midfielders. He will be competing with Arteta, Song, Wilshere, Coquelin, Rosicky, Diaby, and Frimpong this season. He is at a stage in his career where he needs to be playing regularly. His development has already suffered as a result of his year on the sidelines, he lost his place at the end of last season, and he cannot afford to do so again.
Gary Speed believed in Ramsey, enough to make him one of the youngest national captains in the world. Wenger believed in Ramsey, enough to spend £5m on him. This season Ramsey needs to start repaying that faith. Arsenal have an oversized squad as it is, there’s no space for players who can’t deliver.