When Arsenal signed Aaron Ramsey back in 2008 it was widely accepted that they had secured the signature of one of the most talented British midfielders in the country. Combine that with the emergence of Jack Wilshere from the club’s academy and Arsenal fans had plenty of reasons to be excited. Unfortunately both have suffered from injuries and the worst was the horrific leg break that Ramsey suffered following a challenge from Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross. Since his return from injury Ramsey has come under a great deal of criticism from all quarters but this season I think we really are starting to see the best of Aaron Ramsey again.
I shall attempt to show this by first comparing Ramsey’s performances this season with those from last season and then by examining how Ramsey fares when his stats are compared against his Arsenal teammates. Let’s start by comparing Ramsey with his own stats from last season. Most Arsenal fans will accept that last season was far from productive for the Welsh captain and this was down to a combination of factors. He made 27 starts in the league with a further 7 from the bench racking up a total of 2465 minutes. This season he has appeared in 30 matches but split them evenly between starts and substitute appearances and he has clocked 1558 minutes. If we first look at his defensive stats then we see that bar a couple Ramsey has improved on every single aspect of his game and the statistic that really shines out for me is his astonishing 90.74% tackle success rate although this is something we’ll touch on later. He’s winning more 50-50’s both on the ground and in the air and he is making more interceptions which show that he’s getting more involved in the defensive side of Arsenal’s game. This will also be because he is being played more and more in the centre of midfield rather than out wide.
If we move on to passing there are more encouraging signs as Ramsey has increased his pass completion rate from 87% to 89% and given how many minutes he featured in both seasons it is also obvious that he is playing more passes. Whilst the percentage of passes he makes going forward has decreased the ratio going backwards has remained the same with an increase in his wide passes. This shows that whilst Ramsey isn’t going forward with his passes to the same extent he is still aiding Arsenal’s play. I believe this can also be put down to the fact that he is more of a central figure with more responsibility. Finally if we look at creativity then Ramsey shows even greater progression. Given has played for almost 1000 less minutes this season than last it is remarkable that Ramsey has made only three fewer dribbles and one less cross. He has also created the same number of clear-cut chances which gives him a far more favourable minutes per clear-cut chance reading. If you look at the statistics then there can be no argument that Ramsey has certainly raised him game from last season and is becoming a more integral part of Arsène Wenger’s side.
How then, does he compare with his team mates? In my opinion the three players he should be in direct comparison with are Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla. The roles of these four are not always the same but they are, in my opinion Arsenal’s best four central midfield players. In terms of defensive work Ramsey comes off far worse in terms of aerial and ground 50-50’s with the other three all ahead of him in both categories. However only Arteta has a better minutes per tackle figure (28) than Ramsey (29) with Cazorla (50) and Wilshere (52) lagging behind. None of them can compete with Ramsey’s astonishing successful tackle rate (90.74%) with Wilshere (86.68%) the closest and Arteta (67.78%) extremely disappointing. In fact it is worth pointing out that of all the players across the Premier League to make over 50 tackles no one has a higher success rate than Ramsey. In terms of passing all three play more of their passes forward than Ramsey and equally all three play fewer of their passes backwards.
Nevertheless Ramsey has a higher pass success ratio (89%) than Wilshere (87%) and Cazorla (87%) with Arteta marginally ahead (92%). In terms of chances created and assists Ramsey still comes a very respectable second and it is the more attack minded Cazorla who takes centre stage. Ramsey has created the same number of chances as Wilshere (32) and more than Arteta (14). It is easy to argue that it isn’t Arteta’s job to create chances in the role he plays but Ramsey’s defensive statistics suggest he is playing a bigger role in Arsenal’s matches than the Spaniard. The Welshman has created more clear-cut chances (5) than Arteta (4) and Wilshere (3) and has a better minutes per clear-cut chances created ratio than both of them. Cazorla may dominate this section but the former Malaga man’s lack of defensive involvement in comparison to Ramsey demonstrates Ramsey’s all-round capabilities.
Apart from his tackle success rate Ramsey doesn’t really stand out in the stats tables but his overall contribution to Arsenal and their play is shown by his consistency. Aside from his disappointing defensive errors figure (4) Ramsey scores extremely well in most categories. Not only has he improved measurably from last season he is equal to Arsenal’s other three central midfielders. Wilshere may steal the hype because of his future as a star of England’s national set up and Cazorla’s technical ability may attract the admiring comments but in my opinion Ramsey has been one of Arsenal’s most important players over the last few months. He put in a fantastic performance in the 3-1 victory over Norwich and he could hold the key to Arsenal’s quest for third place.
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Student and aspiring football journalist. Keen interest in the global game across all leagues and levels. Chelsea fan. Twitter: @psharland55
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