The Arsenal Column

Arsenal Analysis and Tactics. All views expressed are those of Pat Rice. (Disclaimer: they are actually not his words).

Aaron Ramsey can look back at a solid season

It can be hard to deconstruct the impact that Aaron Ramsey has made this season because it came at a time when Arsenal were at their worst. But when the team began to improve, Ramsey was central to it in an unheralded manner. His drive was crucial at an aesthetically bleak period in Arsenal’s season, especially when they lacked full backs and everything was forced to come from the middle. Thus his role was hard to define, because it flitted in between a playmaker and a box-to-box midfielder (and at times, a second-striker because he was often asked to press with Robin van Persie). He passed the ball neatly and before falling out of the team midway through the season, Ramsey was in the top 6 for chances created in open play in the league. But Arsenal found their best – and most fluid form – when he went out of the side and Tomáš Rosický came in. Suddenly, the dynamics of the midfield changed. Arsenal played at a higher tempo and displayed a ruthlessness that was unrecognisable in the first-half of the season.

Yet, that’s not to say Aaron Ramsey doesn’t quite fit. He does. Although, in his first full season, he’s still learning about his own game as much as we’re finding out how best to utilise him. In the recent 0-0 against Chelsea, Ramsey ended up with a 97% passing accuracy which indicates that he had little trouble replicating Mikel Arteta’s role just to the side of Alex Song –  but he did, especially in the first-half. His passing, while accurate, was slow thus failing to implant the same tempo Arteta does. And while he managed to find a team-mate with the majority of his passing, it tells a wider story of Ramsey’s style; he’s methodical – almost excruciatingly so – weighing up all potential options so much so that he often eschews the simple pass and by the time he’s decided, the risky pass passes him by. That sometimes leads him to cede possession sloppily – against Chelsea, Ramsey lost the ball five times through being tackled or by bad control. As a result, he can seem cumbersome on the ball but there is far more talent in his noggin than he’s been given credit for.

Arsène Wenger has been able to get the best out of him through a bit of guidance. In a few matches earlier this season, Ramsey made an immediate impact after being given his half-time instructions (Bolton, Tottenham, Aston Villa FA Cup and off the bench against Marseille) while at the start of matches, Wenger always looked to push him up the pitch in order to profit from his energy.

Rosický now assumes the position behind van Persie and since his recall to the starting line-up, Arsenal haven’t played better. But it also shows how Arsenal’s style has subtly changed over the season. Because for half a season, shorn of key creative figures, Arsenal played more vertically, more through the wings but what pervaded their play was an overriding sense of cautiousness dictated by the bad start they made. (They pressed deep in their half, while looking back at their run of eight games unbeaten from October to mid-December, it’s notable Arsenal almost exclusively dealt in low scores). Since their path became clearer – essentially just gunning for third place – Arsenal have been able to re-adjust their game back to the way they want to play. The tempo is higher as is their pressing while the use of a “half-winger” on the left-side has given the team more balance. “Since then [defeats to Fulham/Swansea],” Wenger said, “we have more options and a bit better plan. That has allowed the team to feel more confident.”

Thus the role of Rosický is different to the one Ramsey played because while Ramsey was once the instigator, primarily used highest up the pitch for his energy, Rosický is the natural playmaker. His passing has given Arsenal greater impetus and often, it’s him they build attacks round. Certainly, chance creation is still plural but whereas once the midfield was noted for it’s rotation, Rosický is overwhelmingly now the spearhead. The Czech captain expands: “I am in the advanced position of the three, looking to get in between the opposition’s midfield and defence,” says Rosický. “When we have the ball I am starting quite close to Robin [van Persie] up front, and after that I can come a bit deeper and stretch the pitch out. I can’t say for sure whether this has made the whole difference, but I would certainly agree that what the boss is asking [of me] at the moment suits me nicely.”

As the season draws to a close, Ramsey has flitted in and out of the squad and that may mean taking a back seat and learning from the little master, Tomáš Rosický. Certainly, the recent deployment of Ramsey on the left-side indicates so which Arsène Wenger says is for “the education of the player”, to help his movement and ability to get ”into little pockets”. But even if Ramsey doesn’t end the campaign as the central starter, he can nevertheless be satisfied with his involvement this season and can look back proudly at the contribution he has made to help get Arsenal to where they are right now.

For extra reading, here’s my piece on Ramsey for Arsenal Insider.

Ramsey’s passing v Chelsea

Using this video here, I attempted to work out how long Ramsey takes to pass the ball after he receives it (implored by this comment here). The stopwatch starts as the ball is passed to him (as this helps gauge his ability to survey the situation) and stops as it’s released. Most passes are received in midfield but the ones which involve a different activity, are described.

First-half Average: 2.27 seconds

Passes: 2.7 secs, 3.4, 2.8, 1.5, 4.5 (dispossessed), 0.5, 6.0 (attack down right and cross cleared), 4.0, 2.0, 6.0, 1.5, 2.3, 3.8, 3.8 (wins tackle and release), 3.5, 1.7, 1.8, 1.5 (collects loose ball), 2.8 (dispossessed), 1.5, 3.2, 1.5, 1.4, 2.8 (dispossessed), 1.9 (wins possession and release), 1.3, 1.2 (give and go in attack), 3.0 (wins possession and releases), 0.6 (start of counter-attack), 1.9, 0.8 (receives throw), 1.2 (pass from wide).

Second-half Average 2.0 seconds

Passes: 1.7 secs, 1.5, 1.2, 0.4, 0.3, 1.3, 3.6 (build up wide leading to Gervinho run in box) , 0.7 (bad touch/loss of possession), 0.9, 3.4 (pass from wide), 2.36 (chance created – long pass to van Persie), 4.5 (pass back to ‘keeper), 1.4, 1.1 (switch play to release full-back), 2.8, 2.7 (pass from wide under pressure), 0.7 (start of counter) – 4.5 (release Gervinho down touchline – end of counter), 2.14 (switch play to release full-back), 1.4 (pass to van Persie), 2.7 (switch play to release full-back), 1.8 (loss of possession in tight area), 3.1, 1.6, 2.8, 2.7 (switch play to release full-back), 0.4 (miscontrol), 2.5, 1.3, 2.5 (dribble and counter), 1.6 (switch play to release full-back), 2.7 (ball falls to feet after clearance outside opposition box).

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14 Responses to “Aaron Ramsey can look back at a solid season”

  1. silentstan says:

    “Aaron Ramsey can look back at a solid season”
    totally disagre
    had a very mediocre season. has lost pace. losses possession. doesnt stay focused

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 27

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  2. callygooner says:

    Yes, mediocre sums it up overall. Undoubtedly he can do better as he showed away at Chelsea, but overall there is no convincing case to say he will be a mainstay of our future midfield. He’s now got to prove himself on a consistent basis and my worry is that whilst he’ll make it in the premiership it will be at a lower level than Arsenal

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 12

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  3. Finbarr says:

    Cant believe what I am reading here. Ramsey has been an absolute shadow all season. Since his assault at Stoke he cant tackle (Not that Wenger bothers to teach it). He shows poor vision and little urgency when needed, week in week out. He is not good enough for Arsenal. The amount of times he was dispossessed against Chelski was a joke. Arteta sorely missed now!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 13

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  4. kaneprior says:

    Good article, I must admit Im not sure what his best position is, he could probably play in any position of the midfield. He played well at the start of the season in AM with his energy and directness and actually played some good killer balls. But I do think his best position will be in deep midfield, his passing can be fantastic and he just needs to learn how to set the tempo (like you said with arteta) and learn how to position himself.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

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  5. Hassan says:

    I think he was solid up until January where he just ran out of steam. He scored only 5 goals where it should be 10 but the bloke is 21, cesc was sweet FA at that age too. Eventually I can see him being a player fitting in and out of the CAM position because he provides a ridiculous amount of energy, a monster shot and when confident, a top passer too. Leave the boy to it, he’ll get there I’m sure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

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    Rig Reply:

    @Hassan,

    “cesc was sweet FA at that age too”

    Are you fucking kidding? Cesc was absolutely amazing at 21, that was the year he won the young Player of the Year award!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

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  6. Interesting article.

    At just 21 and returning from a serious injury, for me Ramsey has had a solid enough season.

    The position on the left drifting in is not one that I think suits him nor will it be a position he adopts in the longer term but the current form of Rosicky prevents him gaining the central position in the attacking trident right now.

    I don’t see any rush to determine if he should play at the base or the top of midfield. His true position will become more apparent as he develops and progresses over the next season or so. There is no need to categorise him presently.

    The time on the ball before psasing does not concern me either. There is nothing inherently wrong with a “pause” before playing the ball providing it comes at an appropriate stage. If some other players paused before playing a pass e.g. Steven Gerrard, perhaps they would have developed into even better players. The game does not always have to be played at a high tempo nor does the next pass have to be the “killer” pass. All too often the spectacular pass is favoured over the 5 yard pass which retains possession and opens up new angles and opportunities.

    http://www.chalkontheboots.wordpress.com

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

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  7. Anon says:

    Here are the facts:

    Aaron Ramsey
    41 appearances (one-third of his total career appearances in his life)
    Only 26 months since getting his leg broken
    21-years-old
    Regularly played out of preferred position
    Once touted by Manchester United to be the replacement of Scholes

    And Arsenal fans are never happy with youngsters that are overplayed, get fatigued and underperform.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

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    ArsenalColumn Reply:

    @Anon,

    What is his preferred position? It’s an interesting one because you’d think playing in the Arteta position should suit him but that’s the thing; it’s a role. Which is not quite his strength – keeping the ball moving thus creating pressure through his passing and not to mention his positioning – but his performance against Stoke was strong.

    Initially, he looked brilliant in a 4-4-2 alongside a holder (in this case, it started with Randall in the League Cup) because it gives him a degree of freedom and abandon to do what you like – he was a box-to-box midfielder. I think that position would be available to him at Manchester United even now.

    Right now, I think he’s best in a 4-3-3 – mainly, he’s played at the tip of a 4-2-3-1 which he still brings his own quality. But the template was the one we beat United 1-0 at Emirates last season and in pre-season, that’s the set-up that was pushed. We started with that formation this season but quickly changed it when Arteta came: Wenger has always looked for such a player but our bad start made it necessary. Assuming Wilshere-Song-Ramsey is our preferred choice then I can see a fluid middle, alternating between two formations.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

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  8. Eurazian says:

    When many fans say Ramsey is not good enough, what standard are they judging him by?

    - Is he good enough to be running things in Arsenal’s midfield right now? Probably not. But it’s not his fault that he’s been placed in the role of doing so.
    - Is he about as good as we should expect from a young player coming back after injury? Probably.

    Ideally, Wilshere would have been fit this season, or we would have signed/retained a top-class playmaker, and Ramsey would have played about half as much, and continued in his development towards becoming one of the best young British players. That didn’t happen; instead he was thrown in the deep end and has not done quite as well as hoped. It will take time. Not every young player is Messi or Fabregas.
    Whether he can ever fulfill his pre-Shawcross potential remains to be seen. But to decide he’s already worth giving up on is very premature.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

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  9. Panenka says:

    If this season for Ramsey can be called a “solid” season, I cannot dare to think what a bad season would look like.

    He is still very much work in progress, but he was clearly quite far from having a “solid” season.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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  10. tayo says:

    he can’t run, tackle. He’s a lazy young man. Very selfish and undecisive. If i get my boots, i will walk straight into that team and get a starting 11. It’s a shame anyone can play for arsenal these days. Walcott, Ramsey, Diaby, Chamakh, Yung. All inconsistent bros. As per djorou, and squilacci, time to go home and learn afresh. Mediocre players. I wonder when these guys will mature. Podolski, a step in the right direction. Shame to that board, money spenders.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

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    William Reply:

    @tayo,
    “Yung”. Incorrect in so many ways.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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    Arjen Reply:

    @tayo, Do you even see the CL games and PL games prior to Jan you may have noticed Ramsey started almost every game and played very well too,don’t talk unless you watch them play a full game nota highlight reel.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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