Having been out since Boxing Day and not expected back until January 29th, we all hope that Ramsey will be firing on all cylinders once again. A ridiculous total of eight league goals so far helped us greatly in the title race in tight games where Giroud was denied space or when usual goal threats Walcott and Podolski were unavailable.
Ramsey has some of the best fitness levels and numbers in the league, covering an average of around 11km a game. After playing sometimes 3 games a week its no surprise that Ramsey ended up injured covering that much ground every game. The return of Ramsey’s tireless presence could be the key to us performing better in the 1st half of games where we have struggled to breakthrough recently (Newcastle, Cardiff and Fulham the prime examples). This could be absolutely vital given our upcoming opponents and tight schedule across 3 competitions. Scoring early or 1st in a game is crucial, it changes the entire dynamic of the game and forces opponents to change their approach. With the likes of Liverpool, Man United and Bayern coming up soon, a player that makes runs from deep and creates those tiny spaces where big games can be influenced is vital and Ramsey is that player.
Not only will Ramsey bring back insane energy levels, his goal threat is his biggest weapon this season with regards to both scoring and assisting. Ramsey has always had the ability to pull off amazing passes and shoot from distance but as he says, all he lacked was maybe some composure or a bit of luck. He definitely has the composure/luck this season; he now dominates games and caps it off with a lovely goal or 2 these days. But perhaps more importantly, when he has a bad game he keeps going and now has the belief to still try match winning passes or shots such as his pass to Giroud against Chelsea. The lack of similarity in Ramsey’s goals make him an all round threat as well, this season he has scored headers, volleys, side footed shots and power shots. Defenders are unable to completely negate his threat because he can simply go down another avenue to goal or play a pass that someone else can score from. Ramsey’s blend of different qualities sum up what we are about this season, threats from everywhere on the pitch and different players scoring at different times.
However, a Silver lining has emerged in Ramsey’s injury. That is the fantastic midfield partnership of Flamini and Wilshere, a partnership that possesses the type of physicality we have been accused of lacking in previous years. My original opinion was that Flamini and Ramsey is our best midfield partnership, but there are lots of factors that influence who to play in midfield. I originally said that Flamini should be played in home games because he raises the tempo, offers more energy than Arteta and protects against counter attacks better. I then said Arteta is better for away games because he has more composure in a hostile atmosphere, controls the game better and rarely gets booked which puts less pressure on himself and the team. After seeing Flamini perform outstandingly away to Aston Villa and Newcastle, it must be said that perhaps my theory wrong because Arteta was also outstanding against Cardiff and Tottenham at home.
Once this selection is settled you then have to chose between Ramsey and Wilshere, which based on Jack’s recent form, is no longer an easy choice. Wilshere is the riskier option with his preference to dribble past players, which can be costly if he has an off day (Man City), while Ramsey prefers to run into space and puts in a better shift defensively. Many fans feel Arteta-Wilshere isn’t stable enough defensively and that Flamini-Ramsey puts too much attacking responsibility on Ramsey (something you can afford when you have Ozil and Cazorla to help out). At the end of the day the Arteta/Flamini debate comes down to opinion, Wenger has called it right every time so far except for Man City where we needed Arteta to help retain what little possession we were going to get. Other than that, times when I would have played Arteta he played Flamini it worked and vice versa. In terms of Ramsey or Wilshere, I feel it has to be Ramsey once he’s back fit because of the balance, goal threat and energy he provides as well as Wilshere’s direct approach being very effective from the bench late on in a game or when we need to score a goal.
Assuming we avoid another cup exit to a lower league team, Ramsey should return to the bench for the Southampton game to a happy dressing room and no pressure on him to get back to his early season form. It will be a tough game but the ideal situation would be to bring him on for the last 25 against Southampton and Palace the following game before deciding whether to start him away to Liverpool or save him for United at home a few das after.
Photo by Ronnie Macdonald