Aaron Ramsey: Versatile, Integral & Vital To Arsenal's Progression

He's received a lot of stick this season, but Ramsey hasn't let the critics affect him. Now back in the middle of the park, the Arsenal man is finally showcasing his talent that saw us buy him in the first place.
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He's received a lot of stick this season, but Ramsey hasn't let the critics affect him. Now back in the middle of the park, the Arsenal man is finally showcasing his talent that saw us buy him in the first place.

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When Arsenal take on West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, their midfield will most likely consist of Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla, depending on whether Arsene Wenger chooses Tomas Rosicky or Lukas Podolski. The last time the two sides met, Mikel Arteta was the main man, scoring two penalties in a 2-0 win at the Emirates. In Arsenal's last game, Santi Cazorla elegantly pulled the strings, bagging a goal and an assist.

The one whose role is more understated of the likely trio is Aaron Ramsey - while Cazorla orchestrates play, and Arteta keeps things ticking and scores penalties, Ramsey's work goes somewhat more unnoticed. The Welshman struggled earlier in the season, his confidence knocked by an unsuccessful spell out of position on the wing, but last weekend seemed back to his best.

In a more familiar central midfield role, Ramsey has been returning to the player he was before his horrific injury against Stoke - in the match against Reading, his passing was slick and his movement intelligent. The Gunners' passing in the second half was sumptuous at times, and Ramsey was almost always involved in their attacking moves. He looked at home alongside the metronomic Spaniards, Cazorla and Arteta, as they stroked the ball around Reading with ease.

His struggles on the wing won him few, if any fans amongst Arsenal's support - he was on the receiving end of a lot of his stick for his performances, but in fairness to him, he kept running and didn't make a fuss. His football may have been inconsistent, but his effort never was. He consistently got his head down and toiled away out of position. He has even filled in at both full back positions this season.

It's probably fair to say Ramsey is Arsenal's Mr Versatile. More often than not, when they temporarily go down to ten men, it's Ramsey who shifts position, and that says a lot for his all-round ability. He is a strong passer and dribber, and posseses a fantastic engine. Perhaps most importantly, he has a superb mentality, as demonstrated by the way he has worked his way back from the injury and battled just as diligently wherever he is placed on the pitch.

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One of the things that Ramsey has brought to the Arsenal side in his recent spell in the starting XI is positional discipline. While Jack Wilshere is obviously a fantastic talent, his positioning left a little to desire at times - rather than keeping a line with his midfielders, he'd often press the ball too high and charge too far forward, leaving huge gaps in behind which would be regularly exploited by oppositions.

Ramsey, meanwhile, has executed his manager's instructions perfectly, and Arsenal have conceded once in three games (admittedly Diaby started centrally against Swansea - although Ramsey came on to provide an assist). While Wilshere is superb, it seems to benefit Arsenal more to have two midfielders in the deep role who are properly suited to playing in front of the defence.

Midfield is probably West Brom's strongest area of the pitch - in addition to James Morrison and Chris Brunt, two consistent performers on either wing, they usually have the energetic Yousuf Mulumbu and precise Claudio Yacob in the centre, although Mulumbu is banned after his comical sending off last weekend.

In some ways, Ramsey's recent performances have embodied the best of the West Brom duo - relentless energy in midfield combined with patient and penetrating passing. There was fear at the Emirates that he wouldn't fulfil his potential after his lay-off, and it seemed for a while that he had stagnated.

However, he seems to have fully recovered and is playing an integral part in Arsenal's surge towards the Champions League positions. Last season he struggled to fill the gaping hole left by Cesc Fabregas in the hole, while now Santi Cazorla has assumed the role of the main playmaker, leaving Ramsey able to be his own player in a more natural deep role.

With his confidence back, Ramsey is getting back to doing what he does best - orchestrating play in midfield, playing decisive passes and always offering an option to the player on the ball. Long may it continue.