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Aaron Ramsey should attract attention from Europe’s best clubs

Aaron Ramsey

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Last Saturday, the Daily Mail reported that Arsenal were willing to sell Aaron Ramsey this summer. The midfielder was at the centre of the Gunners’ criticism during their pair of defeats to Manchester City last week and is now unlikely to sign a new deal at the Emirates Stadium.

Ramsey has appeared in 19 Premier League matches so far this season, including 17 starts. The Welshman started only 13 times in the league last season with 10 substitute appearances during a campaign limited by injuries.

His career has been impacted by spells on the sidelines all the way back to the horrific leg break he suffered against Stoke City in 2010. He is yet to start 30 league matches in a single season as a result. An example of reliability compared to his midfield rival/accomplice, Jack Wilshere, but Ramsey’s inconsistent availability has damaged his development and reputation.

 

Jack of All Trades

Being in and out of the side has seen the Welsh international moved into different roles. Used as an inside-forward, an attacking midfielder, and, primarily, a box-to-box. That is, perhaps, the greatest blight on Ramsey’s career thus far; a misunderstanding of what he is.

For so much of his development he was expected to become an all-action central midfield player. As effective in his own 18-yard area as in the opposition’s, and looked the most natural Premier League successor to Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

Had Arsenal opted to build around Ramsey in their midfield he might have turned out like that midfield dominator. There’s no question he has the engine and rounded game for it. Perhaps it was due to Arsenal’s disorganisation, perhaps a decision from Arsene Wenger, but Arsenal never did such a thing. Ramsey has – for the vast majority of his career – been a role player in this Arsenal side.

Then there’s a cause or effect question. Ramsey’s defensive weaknesses have seen his role become increasingly offensive. For Wales, he is basically a forward. This has limited his versatility, and it might be why he was never really become the box-to-box midfield general so many had expected. Or it might be a result of being shoehorned into attacking roles rather than taking time to develop his all-round midfield game.

 

Still Versatile

Even though putting Ramsey in a midfield two is a risk these days, the rewards are significant. His surging runs from deep and link-play with the forwards are as good as anyone in the game.

Although the presence of Mesut Ozil at the Emirates Stadium has meant we have seldom seen it, Ramsey is tailormade for a three-man midfield. Put the Welshman with a disciplined, deep-lying midfielder and a box-to-box and you get the best of both worlds. The freedom to attack from deep, but accompanied by the extra defensive cover.

None of that is to say Ramsey in a two could not work. It depends very much on the players around him. Alongside Granit Xhaka it’s been rocky at best, but that’s as much down to Arsenal and Xhaka as it is Ramsey. Put him in a pair with Ngolo Kante or Sergio Busquets and things might be a bit different.

If Arsenal are willing to let another of their prized assets go, they should not be short of suitors. Ramsey – like so many – grew at Arsenal like he would not have done at so many other clubs, but – in exactly the same way as those others – there’s a feeling he has gone as far as he can at the Gunners. A rebuild beckons in north London, and maybe a split now, a decade after Ramsey was signed, would be beneficial to both parties.

 

Ideal time for divorce

Players of Ramsey’s ilk are rare. A midfielder capable of playing just like a forward, comfortable interchanging with Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, who could – with a bit of guidance in the right system – yet develop into one of the most complete midfielders in the world.

We are always pushed towards ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ of a specific transfer or an entire window. It makes great headlines, sure, but often the transfer market works just right for everyone. Ramsey is a perfect case in point.

It just about makes sense for Arsenal to wave goodbye to one of their best players given the balance of their team and Ozil’s new contract. Ramsey gets a needed fresh start and a move most likely to a club where he can play without the baggage of Arsenal.

 

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