So it happened again. Fire the writer because the ‘Arsenal Collapse’ script is starting to get boring.
‘Gooners’ naively hyped themselves up into a frenzy entering the new year as they do every year – and every year they look promising up to the point that they suddenly implode and lose.
Arsenal fans have a peculiar mental strategy for underlining why they are destined to succeed. As a collective, the hive-mind points towards a single figure in the squad that ‘will make all the difference this time around’; typically a different figure every year.
This year it’s Mesut Ozil, last year it was Alexis Sanchez, the year before that, Aaron Ramsey – Arsenal fans delude themselves every season into thinking that one or two players will carry them to glory.
Unfortunately, there’s far too much deadweight in the Arsenal ranks; too many average players masquerading as world beaters – and currently, no-one is more guilty of this trait than Aaron Ramsey.
The Rise of Aaron Ramsey
Everyone remembers Ramsey’s horrific leg-breaking injury at Stoke City in 2010, it significantly hindered the Welshman’s development within the squad, at a point where he was just starting to break into the first team.
The midfielders determination to return was admirable. He returned to football within the year and completed loan spells at Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City to boost his fitness levels.
After returning to the Gunners in 2011, Ramsey started to secure a starting spot in the Arsenal line-up. Between 2011-2012, Ramsey continuously frustrated Arsenal fans with his lacklustre performances (all forgotten now of course), famously drawing the wrath of passionate and particularly deluded fan, Piers Morgan:
What DOES Wenger see in Ramsey? A complete and utter liability. #Arsenal
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) December 4, 2012
How on earth did Ramsey just get given a new 5yr contract? Unbelievable. #Arsenal
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) January 1, 2013
Then, almost overnight, Aaron Ramsey evolved from a weak, untidy midfielder to an Arsenal Demi-god. The 2013-2014 season was Aaron Ramsey’s season. His form was sensational and his performances, particularly against the big teams were sublime.
He scored 16 goals, assisting many more and was influential in securing Arsenal’s first trophy in 9 years, scoring the winner in extra time against Hull City in the F.A Cup Final.
It looked like Ramsey had proved all of his critics wrong. He was on course to become an Arsenal great and a formidable midfield force that would be feared across Europe.
Everyone jumped on the Ramsey bandwagon and lauded praise on the Welsh international:
“A complete midfielder, I was a midfielder, and I would have loved to have had what he has. He can defend, he can attack, he can score goals. What more do you want?”
“The best attacking midfielder in the Premier League.”
Ramsey was even ranked alongside Yaya Toure as the best central midfielder in the Barclays Premier League.
Falling From Grace
By all accounts, the 2013-2014 season should have been Ramsey’s springboard to greatness but is now looking more and more like a flash in the pan.
Although Arsenal fans will never admit it, Ramsey has been treading water ever since he slotted the ball home against Hull City. He has been riding the wave of the 2013-2014 season for nearly two years and there comes a point where his performances need to be critically assessed – that time is now.
Buckle up Arsenal fans, you’re about to have your eyes opened…
Aaron Ramsey is an average midfielder.
With a fully-fit squad, Aaron Ramsey should find himself sitting in the Arsenal dugout – you could go so far as to argue that his current form doesn’t even merit a starting eleven spot for the Gunners right now.
Ramsey does not fulfil any role within the Arsenal side.
Ramsey’s distinct lack of pace is a major flaw in his game; not compensated for by any of his other attributes. Even at his peak in the 2013-2014 season, Ramsey would struggle to pull away from his man after utilising his skill to beat them.
For a counter attacking team like Arsenal this is greatly detrimental. Ramsey often looks like he is running through treacle.
This weakness is exploited most poignantly within defensive positions. With the arrival of Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla, Ramsey is not Arsenal’s playmaker – don’t be under the illusion that he is.
Ramsey is sinking deeper and deeper through the midfielder ranks and now commonly sits alongside Francis Coquelin in a holding role. Coquelin is strong, quick and courageous… Ramsey is failing to deliver on any of these fronts.
Midfielders breeze past Ramsey with ease as he lacks the pace to keep up, nor the strength to maneuver them off the ball.
Let’s be blunt with this category. Ramsey’s range of passing and choice of pass over the past two years has been consistently poor.
This is one of the few areas where Arsenal fan’s are finally starting to wake up and smell the coffee.
If i see Ramsey try one stupid flick, im going to the Emirates to murder him.
— Char (@Charr_T0) February 23, 2016
Dear Ramsey and Ox, please don’t turnover possession attempting stupid dribbles & turns… And misplacing simple 5 yd passes
— VT Gooner (@GoonerCity) February 23, 2016
Ramsey’s final ball often flatters to deceive and his passing through the midfield – undoubtedly the core of Arsenal’s game – is shaky and unassertive.
Having held on against Barcelona for almost 45 minutes, Ramsey, under no pressure proceeds to lazily conceed possession in an exposed position – before ambling towards his own goal; watching as his mistake unravels the defence:
Flicks where they are not needed, indecision on the ball – Aaron Ramsey is guilty of nearly every midfield cardinal sin at the moment.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is one of the most athletic players in the Arsenal side, yet he rarely finishes 90 minutes. Aaron Ramsey, starts lagging at around the 60 minute mark, yet he completes a full match on nearly every appearance.
He is a significant factor for why Arsenal struggle to win convincingly, even against smaller sides. Leads look under threat in the closing stages of matches because holes begin to appear and the game gets stretched.
This simply should not happen. In a professional environment, the game should be shut down with 15 minutes to go; no gaps, no mistakes, three points.
With Ramsey in the Arsenal Midfield, this is simply never the case. The Welshmen labours forwards with 10 minutes to go but does not have the energy to go back the other way.
Finishing and Goalscoring
Ramsey’s goalscoring form in 2014 was phenomenal. The same cannot be said for the year and a half that has followed.
Now when Ramsey finds the ball within the box, Arsenal fans do not feel confident that the Welshman will score.
What happened to the confidence of the Arsenal midfielder? It seems to have evaporated into the thin air Ramsey now swings at in goalscoring positions.
What now for Aaron Ramsey?
Truthfully, Aaron Ramsey will benefit from some time on the touchline. Mesut Ozil suffered a similar drop in form at the beginning of 2015 and after dropping out of the side, the German returned as a far more potent force and has been Arsenal’s best player this season.
Ramsey needs a break. He is not living up to all the hype that surrounds him following his sensational season and would benefit from some time to refocus and rediscover the form of 2013-2014.
If Ramsey doesn’t rediscover his form soon, it’s only a matter of time before Arsenal fan’s reach the end of their tether with the average midfielder he has become.