It was the most fitting and appropriate end to the trophy drought at Arsenal. It was the perfect way to cap a season that has become a page turned for Aaron Ramsey after the difficulties of that injury at Stoke.
Who else could have won Arsenal the FA Cup and had the moment be any sweeter? Had it been Mesut Ozil, it would have been the ushering in of a new era, but one that isn’t really a clear depiction of Arsene Wenger and his values in football.
The German midfielder is the superstar that the club needed, but Wenger’s faith in youth, the steel-like conviction in what he was doing in building for the long-term, his absolute confidence in Ramsey over these past few seasons – two new contracts inside the last 18 months – made the end to the cup final at Wembley all the more fitting.
Money and imported, readymade superstars didn’t win Arsenal and Wenger the FA Cup – Ramsey, a player brought in for relative peanuts as a teenager, did. There can be no stronger vindication for Wenger’s long-held beliefs than that.
It’s fitting that a project has become this Arsenal team’s talisman. Players like Ozil are necessary, if nothing else than to properly equip and supplement those who are developed in-house. But Ramsey has gone full circle. He’s no longer that player who was the brunt of fans’ frustration. The Welshman has taken that step forward, ahead of his teammates lined up shoulder-to-shoulder, to become this team’s leader and poster boy.
Arsenal have long trumpeted the ideal that they make superstars rather than buying them. Bayern Munich’s reported interest in Ramsey acts as confirmation that they’re onto something big with the 23-year-old. Had he been fit all season, Ramsey may well have won the Player of the Year award. At the very least it would have been an extremely close call between him and Luis Suarez.
His long-term move to the sidelines on Boxing Day, still lamented by Arsenal supporters, coincided with the creeping in of a loss of form and loss of belief. Ozil has no doubt added ornamentation to Arsenal’s play; the German has brought intelligence, too. But there’s no safety net or backup for the loss of a genuine game-changer and willing leader in someone like Ramsey.
Ramsey is a player reborn. An apparently limitless supply of confidence now to go along with the talent that was always there. In years gone by, Arsenal have rarely had both – and that goes for individuals and the club as a whole. They’ve got a leader on the pitch – an armband isn’t always necessary or defining – as well as a trophy in the cabinet to really get the motors going. If Arsenal weren’t financially capable of adding further talent in the past, they’re more than able now.
Ramsey has scored the most important goal of his career – and what a stunning effort it was – while arguably scoring the goal that put Wenger’s future beyond all doubt. But the midfielder is 23. Let that sink in. Arsenal have lost out on star players in the past. Cesc Fabregas wanted to return home to Barcelona for a number of reasons, but primary was the opportunity to win silverware. Arsenal certainly lost out on much of Robin van Persie’s career due to the Dutchman’s injuries. He too jumped ship in the pursuit of tangible glory.
But the club don’t have that problem now. There are few, if any, insurmountable hurdles preventing this club from winning and giving players like Ramsey the incentive to stay.