Ramsey’s best role Part 1 by JC
Before I begin the aim of this two part piece is not to claim that Arsenal don’t need another defensively minded midfielder in our squad, as I too, think we are a quality midfielder short. More to evaluate one of our extremely talented midfielders and how to properly utilise him.
There were two changes Wenger made in midfield that I believe to be the catalyst in our dramatic improvement in the second half of the season. We were turning the ball over far too much in our often patient build-up – which left us vulnerable to a quick transition in which we paid the price for too many times. Santi’s intelligence in dictating our play, ability to navigate in spaces an ant would feel claustrophobic, and masterful passing, had a huge impact on the way we structured our game both with the ball and without.
When it comes to defending I’m a strong believer that prevention is more important than the cure. Arteta was, and still is, subject to very heavy criticism by the majority of fans, myself included. People don’t picture him as a cog in our defensively organised team, it’s more the nightmarish flashbacks of accomplished, counter-attacking teams breaking on us with numbers and space, and opposition by-passing him with ease. The arguments for his deficiencies are based largely around the worst-case scenarios, which, at times have been an all too regular occurrence. Turnovers are inevitable and unavoidable but the cheap turnovers while left hopelessly outnumbered behind the ball are a different story. It was a common tactic that even weaker opposition used to deploy against us, to apply a hard midfield press as we’d always try to play through it. With the ball now we’ve started to show a lot more conscious responsibility. Large contributing factors are the orchestration, evasion and positional organisation of Santi. Even the most quality of opposition should be wary of the speed and incisiveness of our attack when the numbers are in our favour. Pressing with Santi is a very, very risky game due to the likelihood of him beating two, sometimes three would-be tacklers with ease and the space this creates.
The other big change was Coquelin’s seamless inclusion into the first-team. I’m a big believer that one of the reasons he was so successful was he was tasked with a much more simplified role of winning the ball back and recycling it to one of our play-makers. Nothing more, nothing less. Our much improved defensive shape, and defending as a unit, afforded him the opportunities to take risks in attempts to win the ball back, and though he was excellent in preventing the more promising of opposition moves he displayed as much, if not more, quality when it came to breaking up moves in the very early stages of their attack. His tackling is absolutely first-class and won balls, to quote Chamberlain, ‘he has no right to,’ but for me, the most impressive trait was his reading of the game and anticipation. But one question I’d like to put forward is is he a traditional or ‘pure DM’ as a lot of people suggest? Or is he more of a midfield destroyer or B2B enforcer? Personally, due to the pro-active nature of his role and the way Santi often occupies the deepest position I feel he blends between the two.
The big question for me is which role does Ramsey fit into more? After reading the JustArsenal comment sections for so long I don’t think there’s any cause for debate in him being best suited to a deeper role. But I do see a lot of suggestions, particularly when we are playing the top teams, of a combination of say Ramsey, Coquelin, and for arguments sake, Krychowiak. I’ll agree, without the ball that looks to be an insurmountable wall, though with the ball I have big, big question marks about the ability of any of the three to link defence and attack. Ramsey’s final ball has grown from strength to strength over the years, except I think vision for the final ball often gets confused with an ability keep the attack ticking and dictate the play. There’s a big difference between the two. What would certainly be an upgrade on our defensive personnel would be a significant downgrade on our attacking and midfield combinations. Heavily marking Ozil and pressing the deeper two would make it very, very hard work for us to put together promising moves through midfield which is usually our biggest strength.
I will continue in part two!