Arsenal expect to have world class players in their side and whilst it’s good to show quality in the position you play, to be versatile in a number of positions increases your chances of getting regularly played. At Arsenal, we face the rather ‘fortunate’ problem of perhaps having one too many midfielders in the middle of the park. So much so that we actually have five well established central midfielders currently in our ranks competing for two spots. The likes of Cazorla can be interchangeable on the pitch, with the little Spaniard having also played CAM and on the wing in the past. However players like Xhaka, Coquelin and Elneny are left restricted to largely defensive roles and this means they have to share a single spot dedicated to a more defensive midfielder. It’s vital that to be a regular on the pitch for the Gunners in midfield, you have to show your quality and your ability to adapt.
One player who has put that exact case forward is Arsenal’s Welshman Aaron Ramsey, who has recently made his return to the squad after a 13 match absence. Ramsey returned from the Euros this summer in great form and was probably nailed on for a starting spot in the team. However he has now returned from injury to a side full of competition for places and he’ll have to work well to keep down a place. One thing that is positive for Ramsey is that he has often been selected by Wenger to play on the wing and although he may not be entirely comfortable playing such a position, Ramsey is happy to just be getting minutes on the pitch.
Following on from the 3-2 win over Ludogorets on Match Day Five of the champions league group stages, Ramsey said: “I prefer to play in the middle of the park, I’ve said that many times. Playing against Ludogorets will put me in good shape going into the weekend, and hopefully I can stay fit now. It was great to be back out there starting again, and to get 70-odd minutes. I’m ready now.”
As Ramsey said, he made his return from injury with a big 70 minutes for the side on Tuesday night. With Elneny and Coquelin in the centre of the park, Ramsey was positioned on the wing, where although he has shown glimpses of hope at times, we can all tell he isn’t really cut out for the job.
The issue with playing Ramsey on the wing in my opinion, is the fact that he lacks pace and his ball control is at times a bit off. Too often we see Ramsey take a heavy touch or place the ball just a little further than he can reach with his speed. This means that Rambo often struggles to beat his man defending on the wing and as a result, many of Arsenal’s attacking chances don’t come from the right sided wing.
It’s positive to see that Ramsey is willing to put in the effort no matter where he is selected to play. He clearly just wants to do his bit for the team. However I think that playing Ramsey on the wing is really only a positive option for Arsene Wenger when we are running low on fully fit wingers. All the time that the Ox, Iwobi and Walcott remain fit, then Ramsey should probably stick to fighting for a place in midfield.
What Wenger said about Ramsey: I just consider the next game and try to find the balance with the players to be in a position where they can give their best for the team. Aaron Ramsey has come back from 11 weeks injury you know, he has to come back, you do not come back [and have that] magic. It takes time but he can bring us his strengths in every single position – wide or central. He prefers to play central, to be central, and I can understand that. But when he plays wide he has enough freedom to be central as well.
“Yes, of course I speak with all of the players about their performances, about their positions. Most of the time I think you want the players to be happy and to play in their best position.”
Where do you think Ramsey is most likely to get a game?