Morning all, and welcome to installment number three of my ‘Stepping Up’ blog theme. But unlike those ridiculous movies about street dancing which are so unrealistic and pointless it makes me want to pour burning hot lava over my face, this ‘stepping up’ will hopefully provide a little more entertainment. Hopefully.
My third player I’m running through the ‘Step-Up-O-Meter’ is our midfield Welshman Aaron Ramsey. As with my other choices so far this week, this rating is based on this season, and purely on his ability, his potential, and his current performance so far. There have been so many people that have aimed their venom and vitriol at Ramsey through various social media sites that it could be quite easy to assume that I’m going to spend the next couple of paragraphs explaining why the young Welshman has to be shipped out of the club ASAP in the summer. I’m not. There are so many reasons why saying and thinking that is pointless. Firstly, he’s only 22 and is still learning his trade. Secondly, this is the first full season he’s had without any major interruptions (i.e. injury), and thirdly, I’ve seen flashes of a world class player in there – he may be buried underneath an outer layer of ‘unconfidence’, but he is most certainly in there.
Equally, whilst I am not going to ‘Ramsey-bash’ for the rest of the blog, I’m also not going to swing in the other direction and heap praise after praise on the lad. That seems to often be the score, particularly on Twitter; you are either one thing or the other, nothing in between. You either hate Ramsey or love him. I hope my analysis can show that I am at no polar opposites, just balanced in the middle.
He joined us as another teenage prodigy from Cardiff for £5million having helped guide the Welsh team to the FA Cup final. Choosing Arsenal over United, Ramsey was instantly embraced by the Arsenal fans. His ability on the ball at such a young age, coupled with his penchant for getting the odd goal excited many of us gooners for our future prospects. I particularly remember the FA Cup goal against West Ham that he leathered home and thought “we had a player here”. Unfortunately for Aaron, he didn’t bank on a wet and cold night in Stoke-on-Trent where a Neanderthal by the name of Shawcross was going to snap his leg in two like a slightly frayed toothpick. As fans we responded, voicing our support at the Emirates and placing banners around the stadium wishing Ramsey a speedy recovery.
And so it was that the Welshman would spend about nine months going through rehabilitation before finally re-joining the first team last season. It was a welcome boost for us, albeit slowly, as the form of Jack Wilshere meant Aaron’s playing time (probably quite rightly) was intermittent.
This season began with no Cesc, no Na$ri and no Wilshere, so Aaron was charged with driving the midfield as best he could. And to my mind he started ok, putting in a few good shifts for the team. However, one area that has been lacking this season has been his goalscoring touch. He has just three goals in all competitions this season. Yes, he has only ever really managed a maximum of four goals in a season, but those four goals were scored in the season he broke his leg, where he made just 12 starts. Compare that to this season, where he has made 35 starts, and it shows you that Ramsey has not been as efficient in front of goal as in previous years. And I think all of us that watch Arsenal regularly can tell that. His miss against Norwich in the second half clearly showed a player devoid of confidence.
But to me, confidence is something that can be got back with goals – especially in Ramsey’s case. Unlike our little Russian who looked like he was barely ever trying, Ramsey has never hidden, never shirked responsibility, and can not be accused of a lack of effort. He is trying to recapture his form the only way he can – hard graft. I applaud his efforts in that respect.
Understanding when to release the ball is another element of his game that needs improving. Quite often he is guilty of conceding possession by not finding a simple pass and holding on to the ball too long. I think that Diaby does that too, but the only difference between the two players is that Diaby has more ability to glide past players. Aaron tends to slow the play down when he retains the ball for too long.
Personally, I think the reason we are seeing Aaron playing so poorly of late is that he is trying to force the form back too much. He needs to trust his body, and his vision, and learn to understand when the ball needs to be released. And in terms of finishing? Nothing a few extra hours on the training ground with Robin won’t fix.
What doesn’t help is the fan frustration. I am guilty of it too and venting. Sometimes we can’t help voice our frustrations, but I can’t help but think that if there was some way we could all tone down the natural instinct to grimace and groan when a pass is misplaced, it would go a long way to helping our young Welsh captain.
So where is Aaron on the ‘Step-Up-O-Meter’? Well for me, I place him in at a seven. Again, I stress that this is purely based on my thoughts that underneath the current exterior, a world class midfielder lurks. This weekend he needs to show the travelling gooners that too against West Brom. For all our sakes.
Until tomorrow goons.