Arsenal fans must remember Ramsey’s importance to team
- Credit: Archant
Not for the first time this season, Arsenal did it the hard way.
Just like the 3-2 home victory over Swansea in October, a red card for Granit Xhaka, issued again by Jon Moss, meant that the Gunners struggled over the line in a game they controlled until they were reduced to 10 men.
Only this time it was even closer to the bone. Arsenal were 1-0 up as seven minutes of stoppage time were announced. Soon afterwards, Francis Coquelin tripped Ashley Barnes in the box. It was a clear penalty. Andre Gray scored it, and the Emirates deflated.
But there were still three minutes to play and, when you have Alexis Sanchez in your team, that’s more than enough. His cross to the far post led to Ben Mee’s rash challenge on a possibly offside Laurent Koscielny. Sanchez scored from the spot, and in the 98th minute the stadium was back on its feet.
Arsenal got out of jail, but was it down to good spirit and a never-say-die attitude, or the luck of a decision? Vital late goals in four of the last six games have earned positive results. That shows a pattern emerging – whether it’s papering over the cracks or not.
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The pattern of this game was changed after the red card for Xhaka. There wasn’t a great deal of contact when the Swiss went in on Steven Defour but he gave the officials a decision to make.
It meant that for best part of 30 minutes Arsenal had to play a man down. And it meant that Xhaka’s midfield partner Aaron Ramsey could show some signs of getting back to his best.
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Ramsey is often the first player the crowd turns against when things aren’t going well. If he plays an overhit cross it’s usually followed by a collective groan – as happened on a couple of occasions against Burnley.
If for example Mesut Ozil does likewise, he’s afforded a bit more patience. Of course, a player like Ozil has earned that right, but Ramsey is still treated somewhat harshly.
Football supporters sometimes have short memories. Ramsey’s 16 goals, nine assists, and countless outstanding performances in the 2013/14 campaign meant he was voted the club’s player of the season.
The winner in that season’s FA Cup Final – Arsenal’s first trophy for nine years at the time – will go down in club folklore.
In the three seasons since then, Ramsey has had a series of niggling injuries, and has also needed to do his bit for the team by filling in on the wing. It’s not been easy for him to recover his best form without a run in his favoured position – alongside a sitting midfielder, with a licence to use all his dynamism in getting around the field.
But he never hides from responsibility, always looks for the ball, works extremely hard, and is starting to get his mojo back too – a perfectly executed ‘rabona’ cross in the first half showed his confidence is returning.
With Xhaka now banned for four games (assuming there’s no successful appeal), Ramsey’s industry and creativity is going to be crucial. It’s likely he’ll play alongside Coquelin, a partnership that will allow him to continue to bomb forward and hopefully add to his solitary goal this season against Preston.
Arsene Wenger has always shown faith in Ramsey. His first choice midfield, especially games where high levels of possession are expected, is Ramsey and one other player.
With Santi Cazorla, Mohamed Elneny, and now Xhaka all unavailable for the immediate future, it’s a great opportunity for the Welshman to firmly re-establish himself as a vital part of the team.
What Ramsey has done in the past proves he has what it takes to be one of the best midfielders in the league. A long run of games will do wonders for his fitness and confidence, and remind Arsenal fans how lucky they are to have him.
Follow me on Twitter @joejtyler