I, like most Gooners, can remember smashing my face into the palms of my hands on numerous occasions in recent years; the cause was the familiar sight of Aaron Ramsey needlessly giving away possession. He was constantly running into a crowd, putting the wrong amount of weight on a through-ball or just scuffing his shot wide of the post. Whatever the circumstances, his play lacked confidence. Good players make it look easy and Rambo always looked like a man who had to try that little bit harder to keep up. It is, however, this tenacity and determination which is now serving him well. When Cesc left he tweeted that he wasn’t worried about leaving a hole in the Arsenal midfield because we have quality players like Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey. Unfortunately, it all went a bit ‘Pete Tong’ for our Cardiff boy and he spent a year looking on from the stands.
I remember being at the Emirates for the 2-1 defeat to Wigan during the 12/13 season, and within 30 seconds I heard “Come on Rambo!” swiftly followed by “FFS Aaron…”; suffice to say, opinion was mixed. I do believe though that, as Gooners, we have been mostly positive towards AR. We were nothing but supportive of him through his injury and it can never be said that we didn’t always want him to do well, even if we were critical at times.
I have found myself wondering how this transformation has occurred, and more pertinently: why now? The obvious point to make is that he is merely at the end of a gradual rehabilitation from his long injury, but there is more to it than that. This was very talented young man – with the key word being young. I think the most important part of his recent turn-around has nothing to do with his football technique and more with what’s sitting on his shoulders. He has matured immeasurably over the last six months, which is not only improving his decision making on the pitch but is also helping him become more self-aware of his talents, and has given him the confidence to go out week after week, and finally start to ‘make it look easy’.
I watched as much of the Asia tour as I could, and even then you could tell there had been a drastic change. The Man City friendly was a master class in box-to-box midfield play and he hasn’t let up since. He is starting to remind me of Freddie Ljungberg. Not positionally as such, but you always felt like Freddie had a goal in him – out of nowhere. He always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. This is a priceless quality which we haven’t really had since, but a skill that Rambo is demonstrating at the moment: confidence to get in spaces, get forward, get involved and still have the legs to recover quickly. He is quite simply a monster right now; a monster we need. He timed his renaissance with the same skill he is timing his runs. Injuries blighting the squad, Jack Wilshere not quite firing on all cylinders and a dodgy first game defeat to Aston Villa, have all created the stage for a superstar and Aaron Ramsey has stepped firmly into the spotlight.
Like everybody else, I am massively excited about our Champions’ League group this year and I genuinely believe that Rambo will play a key part if we are to break out of the group stages. He is going to be the first name on the team sheet, and rightly so. Another Arsenal player to captain their country (and people still say we lack leadership …) which he is doing with distinction. For the first time in several years I find myself discussing with other fans what our best midfield is. What a wonderful pleasure to be talking about 10 quality players (Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky, Cazorla, Özil, Podolski, Arteta and Flamini) who fit into five places on the pitch. For seasons now our starting 11 has been fairly obvious. This year, providing our injury problems ease, we have such wonderful backup in what is a key area of the pitch. Any combination of those five players would make a fearsome midfield, and it’s Aaron Ramsey, a young British talent who cost us less than five million pounds who’s leading the charge! I am in no doubt that the chants from the North Bank will be exclusively “Come on Rambo!” from now on.
Photo by Wonker