Aaron Ramsey’s cameo appearance in our “class versus cash” victory over Abu Dhabi Oil Inc was not his greatest moment in an Arsenal shirt.
He had slotted in pretty well after coming on in the 78th minute to replace Yossi “Busy Bee” Benayoun.
But what we will all remember is the moment at the death where he was through on goal with a chance to make it 2-0 and with Oxlade-Chamberlain and van Persie waiting in the middle to side foot the ball into an empty net.
Young Aaron chose not to pass. He also chose not to stroke the ball low and hard into the bottom right hand corner (from Joe Hart’s perspective) of the goal – which would have been the best option for scoring.
Instead he went for a “Bergkamp” – an ambitious shot curled with the inside of the right boot towards the opposite top corner of the goal.
Unfortunately the execution owed more to Jonny Wilkinson than Dennis Bergkamp – the ball flying high and wide into the crowd. Robin’s reaction – an incredulous gesture questioning why Ramsey had not passed – will probably stay with the Welshman for quite some time.
In the end it didn’t really matter. The game was won anyway. But I have been wondering why Ramsey did what he did.
He has acquired a lot of critics among the fan base during this, his first full season with Arsenal. He has been accused of slowing the game down, of taking too many touches, of trying too many flicks and backheels, of getting in the way of our other midfielders.
At various times he has been guilty of all of the above – especially in his more recent outings.
To me his problems really date from the period when Tomas Rosicky rediscovered his form and became one of the automatic starters in a midfield that also included Song and Arteta.
In away games, most recently at QPR, Arsene Wenger has started Ramsey in addition to the MF three of Rosicky/Arteta/Song, presumably to give us a more solid starting line-up.
Although he has ostensibly taken the place of either Gervinho or Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey is not naturally a wide player and tends to come in field, leading to overcrowding and confusion in our MF.
It hasn’t all been terrible. The same formation played some glorious football for the first 25 minutes away at Everton (with Ramsey taking a key role), but the system faded after that and never recovered – certainly not against QPR.
The other problem with Ramsey’s game is that he has lost his scoring boots.
He has always seemed like a player with the ability to make late runs into the box and pick up goals from midfield. Recently, however, he has missed a bunch of sitters – like the last minute effort against Man City.
So what is the Ramsey problem?
Is it positional?
Is it that he is as limited as his critics allege?
Is it a hangover from his horrendous leg break (Dudu Mark II, if you like)?
Is it confidence?
Before attempting to answer that, I thought it would be good to take a look at some of the ratings and reviews he received in Arsenal Arsenal match reports (from various authors) earlier in the season. Here are a few, all from the November/December period:
Versus Manchester City
Ramsey: brilliant game. Fought like a dragon and worked his socks off for the team. He was everywhere and made so many positive runs into the box. Sooner or later, he will start scoring goals on a regular basis and, ideally, we would have had somebody in Ramsey’s position yesterday, who can do what he did plus score (more) goals. But Ramsey gives absolutely everything and is learning and growing very fast: 8 (Total Arsenal)
Ramsey: works and doesn’t hide, makes the odd mistake, but works hard to make up for that. Needs a goal and deserves a goal. I read on one website, Ramsey was deemed the worse player on the pitch, complete pony; he was very good and close to MotM for me. How anyone can berate him is completely beyond me. 8 (Harry)
Versus Borussia Dortmund
Ramsey: excellent second half when more space was available. Playing well at the moment and appreciated by his team mates 7.5 (FatGingerGooner)
Versus West Brom
Ramsey: had a good game, probes and drives team forward. His pass for Walcott to get him free for starting the move for the opener was quite simply brilliant. Presses well and breaks play up. 7.5 (Harry)
Ramsey: amazing game from young Ramsey. Cesc-like passes (especially the assist to Gerv), great work rate and dangerous shooting. He is going to be an Arsenal legend no doubt about it. Glad Shawcross has not ruined the great career he will have. 7.5 (Oz Gunner)
Ramsey: super Welsh Wizard, truly a special player who gave his all today, his range of passing was fantastic, he has a great engine and never doubts himself. 9 (Harry)
Not bad, right?
It seems people forget very quickly how good a player is once they start having a difficult patch.
Which brings me to the answer to my own question – what is the Ramsey problem?
For me it’s all about a shortfall in confidence caused by the lack of support our young Welshman received from a minority of Arsenal supporters when things were going badly for the team as a whole.
So when we had that terrible run in January (which was entirely down to the fact that we had no orthodox fullbacks available), the critterati decided it was all Ramsey’s fault.
The vitriol that was directed at him by some of the hate blogs was quite appalling and quite out of proportion. Other people picked up on it and spread it. If you hear something often enough you start to give it some credence, so even decent fans began to have doubts about Aaron’s abilities.
And we can be sure that in this age of instant communication, the hatred and bile did not go unnoticed by Ramsey.
The result is that, lately, he has been trying too hard; trying to create moments of magic when all he needs to do is play the simple game and let things happen naturally.
It completely explains his desperation, in the dying minutes against Manchester City, to score a glorious goal that would have fans and pundits alike drooling with delight. That would answer his critics.
The Ramsey of earlier in the season would almost certainly have passed to Robin or the Ox.
So what is the Ramsey problem?
It’s the poisonous, negative minority that have plagued the Arsenal fan base for the last year or two and have done their best to destroy a young man’s career before it’s hardly started.
I dread to think what they would have said about a 21-year-old Tony Adams, who showed flashes of brilliance but was also accident prone at that stage of his career. At least when TA6 was labeled a “donkey” it was NOT by Arsenal fans.
The haters are already having to eat humble pie over Arsene Wenger, over Song, Arteta and Koscielny. Even over Robin van Persie (the “constant crock” who should have been “offloaded post haste”). Next season they will eat a portion more when Aaron Ramsey emerges as one of the players of the season.