Aaron Ramsey did a lot right when put into his natural position in the centre of the midfield this season. After many frustrating experiments to get the player back on track after his injury problems of the past, Arsene Wenger finally opted to offer Ramsey a role that suited his limited (for now) creative contributions. It can never be said that the player shies away from a fight or fails to apply the necessary work rate. But this remains a road to recovery, and some Arsenal fans are quick to use this run of good form as something else.
But that’s all it is for now, a run of form good. And even then, Ramsey was not always at his best. The limitations or poor performances may have been disguised in his natural position because he didn’t look so out at sea as he did while on the flanks, but there are still aspects that are wrong with his game.
At this stage, it’s still very difficult to completely trust Ramsey in a game. As mentioned, his creativity is limited and he doesn’t always make the best decisions in or around the opposition penalty area. It’s not that he rushes decisions, but rather this is just where his game is now. He’s not a dribbler of the ball, nor does he possess the pace to get away from opponents. Again, the work rate is there, but he is currently at his best when his game is kept simple and alongside someone with a far more confident grasp of the game.
The issue with Ramsey is that he is used as a device among Arsenal supporters for those with an agenda. For starters, why shouldn’t fans criticise when they feel he’s underperforming? And a point to make about that, criticism is not the same as vile insults. For a long time, Ramsey was not good enough to play in the Arsenal starting XI. Nothing against him as a person, but he just wasn’t good enough and proved to be too much of a risk. So credit naturally goes to him for turning his game around, and a lot of that should also go to his strength of mind to move on from some of the hideous things said about him following a poor performance.
But there are fans who will stand by players no matter what. There’s nothing wrong with. The problem arises when a good performance from the player is used to beat other fans over the head and question their allegiance to the team. It’s beyond ridiculous. It’s one thing to do all of that and think it’s ok, and yet it’s a completely different thing if certain fans choose not to see something that is quite clearly not there. If Ramsey is playing well now, it doesn’t mean that he was excellent at the start of the season or on the flanks and fans just used him as a scapegoat. Rather it’s because he has managed to turn around his game – and that is something completely normal in sports.
Even now and following the praise Ramsey has received towards the end of the season, much of it deserving, he is still far from cementing a place in the regular starting XI. Why should he be placed in ahead of Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta or an incoming midfielder? Wenger made a smart choice in using Ramsey’s best qualities when he needed cover and a partner for Arteta. It worked. It’s great. But so did the gamble on the goalkeeping situation with Wojciech Szczesny and Lukas Fabianski. It doesn’t mean it’s time to sit back and accept what’s currently on the table.
As recently as this past January there would have been enough of an argument to suggest that Ramsey should be sent out on loan for an entire season, offering him the regular first-team football he needs and an environment away from the demanding nature of the Emirates crowd. That still might not be such a bad idea. After all, is this current player the product Wenger bought in 2008? Once again, Ramsey’s creativity is lacking over a consistent period of time, either in a game or through a stretch of games, and yet we know there is more to him than just a utility player/work horse.
Ramsey is a good player and there is more to him than what we’ve seen in the latter stages of this season. But that will come in time and naturally there will be dips and disappointments. The bigger issue here, however, is the manner in which the player is used in the internal war between the club’s supporters.