Are Arsenal making a mistake with Aaron Ramsey?


During an otherwise positive stage of the season, the news that Aaron Ramsey may be leaving Arsenal at the end of the current campaign is a surprising development.

The Gunners have been flying since a tough start to the season, winning nine consecutive matches between the end of August and the start of October, just before the international break. With form like that, it’s no surprise that the club are being discussed as a potential contender for the Premier League title.

Everything, it seems, is going smoothly under new coach Unai Emery. Early days though it is, Arsenal are right in the running for the title, just a step behind pacesetters Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool – a decent outside bet to win the Premier League, perhaps.

So, the Ramsey revelations definitely feel like a bit of a blip in the road. The midfielder was expected to stay at the club and it was assumed he’d be signing the new contract. In fact, as Ramsey told the Guardian, he thought he’d reached an agreement, too. “We thought we were in a position where we had agreed a deal but that’s no longer the case,” he said. “So, I just have to carry on playing my football and do my best for Arsenal this season and I’ll leave the rest with the club.”

It’s a big development, and an unexpected one at that. Ramsey has been part of the Arsenal squad for the past ten years, since signing as a teenager from Cardiff in 2008. He’s the club’s youngest-ever first team player, having made his debut at 17, and has been involved in some of Arsenal’s key successes in recent years.

He’ll be fondly remembered for scoring the winning goals in the 2014 and 2017 FA Cup Final. At his best, injury free and in form, he gives Arsenal an attacking drive from the centre of midfield. And, even though the club have entered a new era under Emery, Ramsey seems an integral part of first team plans still.He featured in all eight of Arsenal’s Premier League matches from the start of the season until the October international break, starting six and coming on as a substitute in two games.

He’s no fringe player and, not yet 28 until December, he still has plenty of football left in him. Why have the powers that be at Arsenal changed their minds and withdrawn the contract offer? And is it a mistake to allow Ramsey to leave, potentially on a free transfer, in the summer?

There’s a suggestion – unconfirmed, of course – that Ramsey might have been looking for a deal that puts him on parity with Mesut Ozil; the German midfielder’s new contract was widely reported to be worth £350,000 a week. That’s a staggering amount and the club might be forgiven for analysing that decision and questioning whether it was the right thing to do.

It’s a common scenario at other top clubs, too. When one established star signs a contract extension with a salary at a certain level, it sets the bar for others to follow. Ramsey could well consider himself as valuable to the Gunners at Ozil – he’s a different type of player but makes just as strong a contribution. Therein lies the potential problem. Arsenal may not see Ramsey as a marquee player in the Ozil bracket.

In fact, Ozil may be a problem for Ramsey in more than just monetary ways. As Emery continues to build and shape his team, finding the best role for the Welshman isn’t that straightforward.

With Emery tending to favour a 4-2-3-1 formation, where does Ramsey exactly fit? He doesn’t have the defensive quality, really, to serve as one of the two holding midfielders – especially given the emergence of Matteo Guendouzi.Lucas Torreira has also been quietly impressive when played there, too, while Granit Xhaka has also featured regularly. Xhaka has divided opinion during his time at the club but seems to have stepped up a level under Emery.

There have also been reports of Arsenal’s transfer interest in Porto midfielder Hector Herrera.

That leads to discussion over the more attacking three positions, and here Ramsey faces competition from a host of other players – not least Ozil. He’s also competing with Alex Iwobi, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alexandre Lacazette for those roles; players who are probably more mobile, quicker and creative.

Given that Ramsey might not be considered a guaranteed first team starter soon, it’s perhaps not too surprising that the club have backtracked on what would surely have been a lucrative contract offer. Arsenal’s next key decision is whether to sell Ramsey in the January transfer window, at least recouping some money, or keep him in the squad for the rest of the season as a playing asset.

Ultimately, there’s also a risk of who Ramsey might sign for. Arsenal would presumably prefer his next destination to be a club overseas, but there’s always the chance he’ll end up at a Premier League rival, as Alexis Sanchez did last season.

It will be an interesting situation to monitor.

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