This is the first instalment in Football FanCast’s Legacies series, which pays tribute to those players and managers leaving a compelling story behind as they move on to pastures new.
In the opening piece of Football FanCast’s Legacies series, we take a look at Juventus-bound Aaron Ramsey, who has left north London on a free transfer after 11 stellar years of service at the club.
The Welshman’s departure has been met with scepticism and doubt from most fans, as Arsenal’s number eight departs on the back of some of his best performances at the Emirates despite over a decade of service.
Leaving with many fond memories for fans to cherish, we analyse the midfielder’s legacy at the Emirates Stadium.
Ramsey arrived at Arsenal from Cardiff as a promising young midfielder, beginning his love affair with the FA Cup in a final defeat against Portsmouth. His substitute appearance in the final was just the beginning of his journey in the competition, where he’d go on to write his own cup history in the following decade.
Before any trophy was lifted, Ramsey suffered a major set-back. In February 2010, the midfielder was stretchered off after Ryan Shawcross’ horror challenge left the Gunner nursing a broken leg – one considered too graphic for many media outlets to broadcast – for the next 12 months before an eagerly awaited return in another FA Cup appearance, this time at Old Trafford. While that particular tie ended in defeat, the Gunners later got their revenge at the Emirates in a 1-0 Premier League win thanks to Ramsey’s sweeping finish.
The Welshman’s best season came in 2013-2014 in which he scored 16 goals in all competitions, including the winner against Hull in a wonderful FA Cup 3-2 come-back victory, delivering Arsenal their first trophy in nine years. Ramsey returned to Wembley to play in two more finals and win a total of three FA Cups, two Community Shields, and even had his final bow with the England ground as he scored a tremendous goal in a 1-1 draw against arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Injuries have plagued Ramsey’s development and availability.
262 appearances in 11 seasons equates to an average of about 24 per season, which aren’t particularly low numbers, though the Welshman has missed his fair share of matches with short-term muscle injuries he’s never been able to truly recover from. Despite his fitness problems, he’s remained an integral part of the squad under both Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery thereafter.
A grand total of 40 goals and 46 assists in the league are excellent numbers, especially considering he’s often been used as a central midfielder with key defensive responsibilities, lining up alongside a more creative influence like Mesut Ozil or Santi Cazorla.
Ramsey’s reputation as a goal scoring midfielder blew up after his 2013/14 campaign, and he remained a steady goalscorer after that, registering 37 more goals in all competitions in the following seasons. In those years he remained a creative influence as well, bagging himself 38 assists.
Two moments in particular will undoubtedly stand out when fans look back at Ramsey’s Arsenal legacy: the FA Cup winners against Hull and Chelsea.
From 2-0 down, Arsenal pulled off a remarkable come-back to beat Hull 3-2 with Ramsey’s extra-time winner earning the Gunners their first FA Cup and major trophy since 2005. As the Gunners probed for a winner, Olivier Giroud showed great composure and awareness to back-heel the ball into the path of the on-running midfielder, who used the outside of his boot to drive the ball into the bottom near corner of the goal and claim the trophy for his side.
Ramsey went on to start in two more finals, beating Aston Villa 4-0 and Chelsea 2-1, the latter being a particularly glowing moment in the Gunners’ recent history.
Antonio Conte’s men were newly crowned Premier League champions heading into the final and the odds were stacked enormously in the Blues’ favour, especially after Arsenal’s dismal campaign which saw Wenger’s side finish outside the top four for the first time in his tenure. But Ramsey and the rest in Arsenal pulled off a wonderful performance despite the surrounding negativity and injury problems.
Having led 1-0 for most of the game, Arsenal conceded to Diego Costa who pulled his side level, but moments later Ramsey was on the score board as his piercing run into the box was found by Giroud, who chipped the ball into the penalty area for Ramsey to head into the back of the net and secure a 13th FA Cup trophy for the North Londoner’s, making them the outright best FA Cup team of all time.
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The Welshman’s legacy is a culmination of inspiring moments.
He arrived as a youngster from a lower league, proved his quality and repaid Wenger’s faith in making bargain signings and promoting youth, recovered from a near career-ending injury, having to play through moments of bad form and serious criticism, before becoming one of Arsenal’s most important leadership figures.
His legacy lies within his commendable attitude, exceptional talent, and exemplary work ethic, but more importantly, in his journey to getting where he is today.
The midfielder has certainly had moments that some Arsenal’s legends would be proud of themselves. Compliment this with his sheer passion and love for the club, his unwavering commitment and professionalism and you’ve got a player who’s leaving with real love from the Arsenal faithful.
However, when it comes down to it, his ability and achievements don’t quite match some of the Gunners’ greatest of all time.
Legendary status is a bridge too far for the much-loved midfielder.