I’m sorry to do this after such a splendid weekend of Arsenal wonderfulness, but I would like you to cast your mind back to late August 2011.
We had entered the new season in rocky shape.
Cesc Fabregas had failed his DNA test and returned to Catalunia. Samir Nasri had got fed up of hauling his arse round the pitch at The Emirates and went in search of a bench to rest it on.
We started our campaign with an unimpressive 0-0 draw away at Newcastle and followed it up with a 0-2 defeat at home to Liverpool (of all people).
We were also blighted with injuries to key players.
Then, as August prepared to hang up its boots and hand over the baton to September, we went away to Manchester United.
You all know what happened.
A weakened, disrupted side was trounced 8-2, a result not helped by some bizarre substitutions from our embattled manager.
The anti-Arsenal media (which means pretty much all of the beggars) fell over themselves to write our obituary and Arsene’s too.
And quite a few journalists also focused on a very specific piece of transfer business that had happened a couple of summers earlier.
In 2008 Aaron Ramsey signed for Arsenal despite already having been announced on the Manchester United website. The young Cardiff starlet had talked to Alex Ferguson on the phone and, from Fungus’s perspective, it was clearly “deal done.”
But Old Purple Proboscis had reckoned without the charms and wiles of a certain Monsieur Arsene Wenger, who flew young Aaron and his parents out to Switzerland, where he was doing a bit of footy commentary.
Who knows what blandishments Le Boss used on the impressionable young Welshman (a year’s supply of leeks? a box set of Max Boyce videos? a subscription to Hot Sheep Monthly?) but it was enough to make Aaron turn his back on the soulless wastelands of Mancunia and head, instead, for the bright lights of London.
Between then and that awful 8-2 thrashing he had a bit of a rollercoaster ride. His early performances for Arsenal showed tons of promise. Then he had his leg snapped in half by a humungous twunt from Stoke. Then there was a loan spell at Notts Forest, followed by a return to The Home of Football.
When the 2011/12 season started we had high – but qualified – hopes for him. Qualified because we knew he was young and was still recovering from that awful maiming by Ryan Shawcross.
You can only imagine how his head must have been in those early season games. Cesc and Nasri gone. No new arrivals of substance. Turmoil and dissent in and around the club. And him battling his own demons as he strived to recover from that shattering injury.
Then he finds himself on the wrong end of a record-breaking drubbing from the very club he snubbed a couple of years earlier.
As one journalist said at the time: “Surely if Aaron Ramsey had a time machine he would go back now and sign for United instead of Arsenal.”
It would be easy to mock that thought now, but at the time it didn’t seem so unreasonable. Many Arsenal supporters felt that the gulf between us and the Mancs was becoming almost unbridgeable.
But I am delighted to say that now, two years on, the idea that Ramsey would be better positioned at United than at Arsenal is laughable beyond belief.
Aaron is a gifted technical midfield player. As such there would be no place for him in the current Manchester United set-up. And that’s not just because of David Moyes. It is generally accepted among the footballing community that despite winning the Premier League comfortably last year, Alex Ferguson’s United team were as a poor a set of champions as we have seen in a very long time.
Indeed it speaks to the genius of Ferguson that he got them to grind out unimpressive win after unimpressive win all season long (all helped, of course, by the goals we sold them from the boots of Brave Sir Robin).
But, despite being champions, United looked like a team out of time – playing 1990s football at a time when the rest of Europe was embracing new approaches and styles.
It explains why the Mancs performed so dismally in the Champions League, where their dinosaur version of the game – which worked for stomping over low and mid table teams in England – quickly came unstuck when faced with more sophisticated opponents.
Now United seem destined for a period of relative decline (I happen to doubt they’ll make top four this year, but even if they do I can’t see them competing for the Title).
Arsenal on the other hand… well, we all know about the new Arsenal in which Aaron Ramsey is playing the best football of his life, surrounded by like-minded, technical players who want to produce beautiful moves and create goals of sexual intensity (at some point yesterday Rasp asked who provided the assists for our goals against Norwich: I was tempted to answer “heaven”).
If Ramsey was in the United team now his flicks and one-twos would be wasted, his runs would be in vain, his box-to-box effort futile.
The reigning champs are playing a version of the long ball game (with extra use of wingers) in which David Moyes clearly feels there is no place for a creative midfielder (hence Kagawa’s season ticket on the bench).
So, back in 2011, perhaps the journalist should have said: “if Aaron Ramsey had a time machine, he should go two years into the future to check on the relative fortunes of Arsenal and Man Utd.”
In which case – no contest. Aaron knows he made the right choice. He is in a team with a cadre of gifted young Brits (Gibbs, Theo, Jack, Oxo, Jenks, Pingpong etc) and a smattering of top world talent.
Not a single player from United’s midfield would get into our midfield, but any one of Ramsey, Wilshere, Arteta, Flamini, Ozil and Rosicky would walk into the Man Utd team.
Like us supporters, Aaron Ramsey has been through the grinder for a couple of years.
It’s understandable why so many fans despaired. But the more positive among us always felt there was an end in sight: a corner to be turned; a Rubicon to be crossed.
I would like to think that Aaron also retained his positivity, even when some of those who should have been backing him turned against him.
His performances in the last third of last season were crucial to us getting fourth spot in the table. If we had not achieved that, there would have been no Ozil.
Now Aaron has started the new season full of confidence and skill. He really is better than any other player in the EPL right now, including our own lovely Mesut.
Could you imagine the current Man Utd team scoring a goal like our first against Norwich at the weekend?
No, neither could I. That’s why Aaron is in exactly the right place. His decision in June 2008 is looking better with every passing day.