Seeing Aaron Ramsey come on with the armband in the loss to Crystal Palace might have been a source of laughter for some, but it also opened up the debate around the Welsh midfielder: What he has achieved for Arsenal and what the future holds for the number eight.
At the club since 2008, he has had a bit of a rollercoaster, having had moments of all kinds, like Ryan Shawcross’ killer tackle and scoring the FA Cup final winning goal to end the trophy drought.
Certainly, there is no denying that he was top class in 2014 and at the UEFA Euro in France, so the real question is: Why can’t he emulate this form for Arsenal on a consistent basis?
There are 3 main reasons for that: The first is himself; having been Arsenal’s main man in 2013/2014, he forces his game to unlock the situation on his own too often, making everything a bit too complicated and losing the ball.
The second reason is the injuries. He suffers at least two hamstring strains a season and cannot start four games in a couple weeks, forcing Arsenal to shuffle the pack sometimes, therefore leading him to lose his spot.
The last reasons is his teammates. Ramsey is a box-to-box midfielder, capable of being a threat in the opposition box and the one making the last-ditch tackle at the other end, though, the problem is, he needs a ball-player next to him, that’s what helped him flourish with Mikel Arteta in 2014 and he has shown shades of his former self next to Granit Xhaka before his suspension. Aaron can’t be that deep playmaker as he is asked to be when he has played with Francis Coquelin or Mathieu Flamini.
It is often claimed that Ramsey wants the number ten role at Arsenal, like with Wales. However, those are two totally different setups and two different teams. In Arsenal’s setup, whether it’s in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3, he is best suited in a midfield two or three.
Nevertheless, even at a time where he is one of the most criticised players in the squad – also due to the permanent comparisons with his friend Jack Wilshere – Ramsey still possesses the potential that made him one, if not the Premier League’s best box-to-box midfielders back in 2014.
Arsène Wenger rates him very highly, and will probably offer him some gametime for him to prove his worth next to a partner that will put him in better conditions to perform.
The blueprints to build on for Ramsey are the fixtures against Burnley at the Emirates Stadium before Xhaka’s red card and Bayern Munich before Laurent Koscielny’s controversial red card (which killed the tie). Those were two very good performances that showed how complementary Xhaka and Ramsey can be to each other.
Even statistically, with 289 appearances for 46 goals and 42 assists, he has a very decent record considering his position on the pitch. Again, his runs in the box and his movement off the ball are second to none – he is right up there with Arturo Vidal, Sami Khedira or Ivan Rakitic, at least on paper.
All in all, what he needs the most at the moment is a run in the side to get his confidence back. With more playing time, the confidence will come back, so will the goals.
Under contract until 2019, his future at Arsenal might be in doubt, but if his body lets him, he has got everything in his hands to become an integral part of Arsenal’s setup once again, as he is the perfect partner for Granit Xhaka in midfield and vice versa.