(Just so you know, there’s no pun intended with the title of this post)
I’m a massive fan of Aaron Ramsey’s, ever since his Cardiff City days, but of late Arsenal’s young midfielder has been under some heavy criticism concerning his performances for the Gunners, all of which I feel are uncalled for.
I remember back in 2008, when Ramsey was linked with my team, Manchester United, as well as Everton and Arsenal. At one point we’d even confirmed the deal on our website, so you can imagine how disappointed I was when it turned out he’d signed for the North London side.
I’m not one to suddenly dislike a player even if he chooses one of our rivals ahead of us, and I fully understand and respect his decision to join Arsenal.
I’ve followed his career closely since and as a fan of Ramsey’s I was obviously devastated like many other football fans on that evening in late February two years ago.
I felt sick even, when I saw the results of Ryan Shawcross’ challenge at the Britannia that night. I’d seen injuries like that occur before, but not to a player I was such a fan of. It was even worse considering this happened to a nineteen year old lad, making real progress in the Premier League at the time.
Ramsey showed great mental strength and determination to get over such a horrific injury at such an important time in his career, something I don’t feel he gets enough credit for. It’s quite amazing to think that Ramsey was playing competitive football just nine months later.
Fast forward two years and here you see Ramsey playing regularly at one of England’s largest clubs, too regularly for my liking, playing in the world’s biggest competitions too. Somehow he’s been the victim of a fair bit of criticism from Arsenal fans. I’m not quite sure why.
I agree with many an Arsenal fan that of late Ramsey has been playing quite poor, but I don’t think some of them realise how much pressure he’s been under the last year or so.
It’s only just over twelve months since the Welshman made his return in an Arsenal shirt in the Premier League. In that time he’s had to deal with a hell
of a lot, and you can’t blame the player for struggling a bit towards the end of his first full season back since the injury.
Aaron Ramsey has played 41 times this season so far, and that’s not including games for his country. That’s the highest appearance tally for a season of his career to date. The highest total before that was 29 in 2009/10, but obviously his season was cut short then.
But 41 games is a lot for any player, not just one making his return from a career threatening injury. I don’t think Arsene Wenger had any intentions whatsoever of playing Ramsey so frequently this term, however injury to Jack Wilshere this season has meant there was little other alternative but for Ramsey to play.
Wenger has really chucked Ramsey in the deep end as far as I’m concerned. I also imagine that Cesc Fabregas was a huge influence to the Welshman in the years before, and the months after his injury, but with him being sold as well, even more weight was put upon his shoulders.
That’s just the weight from Arsenal. No more than a fortnight after his return to Arsenal’s team, Ramsey was handed the captain’s armband by Wales national team manager Gary Speed, this when he was still only 20 years old.
I thought it was an incorrect decision at the time, however since becoming skipper he’s managed to help lead Wales from a Fifa ranking of 116th in the world to 41st today. Ramsey’s also scored three goals in the last year for his country too, all in victories.
Though with the positives of the pressures of being Wales captain, came the negatives, with the news that Speed, a man and manager who I can assume was another huge influence on Ramsey, had committed suicide.
Ramsey was no doubt close to Speed so the shock revelation must have been very difficult to take, especially mid-season with Arsenal. Even now Ramsey’s profile picture on Twitter, a site he uses much less these days probably due to continued criticism, is of himself and Speed together on the training pitch.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose someone so close to you, who you’ve had a close relationship with, and so suddenly like that, yet Ramsey’s dusted himself down and got on with things at Arsenal, whilst retaining the Wales captaincy under new boss Chris Coleman.
To add to all of that, if you’re a believer in these things (I’m not), there’s also the fear that another goal for the Caerphilly born midfielder will lead to another death of a celebrity. He’s taken Bin Laden, Jobs, Gaddafi and Whitney so far, whoever’s next?
Joking aside, after the last three years Ramsey’s had, who can blame him that in mid-April of his busiest season yet he’s struggling for form? I imagine all the stick he’s received, including some from one of his own supporters commenting on a particular performance saying “No wonder Gary Speed hung himself”, hasn’t helped him in the slightest. If anything it’s knocked his confidence no end.
The lad needs a break. I still have faith that Ramsey can become a fantastic midfielder for both Arsenal and Wales. His injury and its timing wasn’t ideal of course but you’ve got to give him credit in overcoming that as quickly as it did. He’s missed nearly a year of his career because of it and that’s such a long time in football development at that age.
Ramsey will no doubt have a hectic 2012/13 season too, most likely beginning with the Olympic Games in late July. He’ll have the same pressures, of running Arsenal’s midfield, and helping Wales in their attempt to qualify for the 2014 Wold Cup, but he’ll have learnt from this season.
I write this two days after Ramsey made his 100th competitive appearance for Arsenal. Phenomenal to think he’s clocked up that many games already,especially with the injury lay-off. And he’s still only 21.
With Wilshere back hopefully next year, a lot more impetus will be on him, and who knows what Wenger may do in the summer transfer window. maybe Ramsey will have much more competition for places in the side.
He’s still young and he’s had a difficult last couple of years. I really do hope fans stop giving him so much stick. I still envy that he’s an Arsenal player and not at United and I still believe one day Aaron Ramsey’ll become the player we all hoped and expected he’d would.