Aaron Ramsey has had a turbulent 12 months. Again.
Having been a sensation in Wales’ dramatic run to the European Championship semi-finals last summer, the midfielder has suffered another indifferent campaign with Arsenal. Injuries and poor form have claimed 2016/17 as one to forget for the former Cardiff man as he enters another summer wondering where his career might be heading.
His place in the Arsenal squad has seldom been doubted even in his darkest times at the club. A long recovery from his horrific leg break set back his development, but at his best he has looked like one of the world’s best midfielders. Driving from box to box, popping up with goals and linking play through the middle third, Ramsey has shown glimmers of the player have dreamt he would develop into. It has been a rare sight, though.
With Arsenal favouring a 4-2-3-1 system, Ramsey should ideally slot into the pivot alongside Granit Xhaka. His defensive responsibilities are seldom carried out, however. Xhaka’s lack of mobility means a player of Ramsey’s engine is perfect, but only if he is in the right positions. Ramsey does not do that. The Welshman wants to be operating in the final third, creating chances and taking pot shots. This is how he was at his best for Wales.
A third central midfielder role would fit him nicely. Acting like Frank Lampard at his best at Chelsea with the freedom to join attacks and shoot on sight, Ramsey could dominate games and find himself in pockets of space that are harder to pick up when your team is constantly wary of counters. A more advanced role might be favourable, but it is different when having to pick the ball up on the half turn rather than running onto it. The number 10 role at Arsenal is filled by Ozil, making a 4-3-3 particularly unlikely for now.
The other option has been a shuttling role on the right flank. This, though, cripples Arsenal. Ramsey still plays as another midfielder and leaves even more onus on Hector Bellerin to provide the width. He has been tried there in the past, but Arsenal’s other options there – Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – are far more effective.
For all of his talents, Ramsey’s inconsistency has held him back. He has no valid claim to a regular starting berth in the current Arsenal line-up and may well not get that spot back.
Arsenal are in need of investment this summer once again. The midfield will be added to and Ramsey could be as good as replaced. Whether it is Wenger or another manager at the helm come August, Ramsey should carefully consider his own future for the good of his career.