Feature

Aaron Ramsey

From Every Angle - Aaron Ramsey

This story first appeared in the May 2016 edition of the Arsenal Magazine. 

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PROFILE Name: Aaron Ramsey Position: Midfielder Squad number: 16 Nationality: Welsh Born: Caerphilly, Wales, December 26, 1990 Joined Arsenal: from Cardiff City on June 13, 2008 Previous clubs: Cardiff City, Nottingham Forest (loan), Cardiff City (loan) Arsenal debut: V FC Twente (a) UEFA Champions League, August 13, 2008 (won 2-0) First Arsenal goal: v Fenerbahce (a) UEFA Champions League, October 21, 2008 (won 5-2) Arsenal honours: FA Cup winner 2014, 2015, Community Shield winner 2014 Wales caps: 38 (10 goals) Twitter: @aaronramsey

Look back at the Arsenal starting line-up from the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s and you’d invariably find the name of PAUL DAVIS. A technically gifted central midfielder equipped with particularly strong passing ability, Paul was born in Dulwich in 1961 and joined Arsenal 16 years later.

He made his debut in a north London derby win at Tottenham Hotspur in 1980 and would go on to represent the club 447 times between 1980 and 1995, winning two First Division titles, two League Cups, the FA Cup and the Cup Winners’ Cup.

So Paul – who now works at the FA as a national coach educator – is in a better place than most to assess how Aaron Ramsey has developed since arriving from Cardiff City in 2008.

“He’s done really well to come back from that injury,” Paul begins. “It was about six years ago now and he was out for a long time. He came back and it took him a while to get his game together, but then he started scoring goals.

“A couple of seasons ago he was going really well, scoring goals and it looked like he was going to finish the season as our top scorer. He got injured towards the end of that season. This season it’s also been difficult because of a couple of injuries. It’s frustrating for a player to get injured after you get yourself onto a good run of scoring goals.

 

Paul Davis

Paul Davis

 

“It disrupts your rhythm and your time, and I think that’s happened to Aaron. He’s shown a lot of character though and he’s always come back with his great determination. I don’t know him personally, but from just watching him it seems like he’s got a good character and good mental strength.

“He’s scored some great goals. The goal against Galatasaray last season was unbelievable. He’s very, very attacking minded and a good player to have in the squad, no doubt about it. His mental strength and his determination are also real key aspects of his personality that I like.”

So how similar is Aaron to Paul? “There are some similarities, although I can also see there are quite a few differences in the way that we’ve been asked to play,”Paul explains.

“When I played in midfield for Arsenal, my role was slightly different and I would have loved to have been able to get forward a bit more. Aaron seems to have been encouraged to get forward whenever possible to help create chances, get into the opposition box and get on the scoresheet.

“He’s doing that most of the time that he plays, whereas my role was more of a holding role with the focus more on defending. I know Aaron has played in that role on a few occasions, but Arsène Wenger mainly wants him to attack. There is a big difference there.

“I actually had quite a big disagreement with George Graham, who was manager at the time, about my role in the team because I did want to attack a bit more. He wanted me to sit back and protect the defenders in central midfield. That’s what I did. As for our respective energy levels, that’s a similarity. I used to get around the pitch well and we are also both comfortable tackling, so we both had a good all-round game in the middle of the park. He’s comfortable passing long and short, can tackle and also has an eye for goal, which unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to show.”

Paul spent almost his entire career at Arsenal and feels the game “has changed immensely” since he retired in the mid-1990s. “I would have really enjoyed the way football is played in the modern day, particularly how Arsène Wenger’s teams approach games,” he says.

“That’s the way I see football, it’s how I wanted to play. I would have enjoyed playing more of that style. I think my game would have been suited to a passing style because I could pass short and pass long.

“Our style of play was a lot less adventurous than the team that’s playing now. We were solid as a team who were based on good, solid defensive displays. Our main aim when we played was to make sure that we kept a clean sheet and then we would be happy if we won the game 1-0. The team now doesn’t play that way.

 

Ramsey celebrates

Ramsey celebrates

 

“They want to be out there winning games by two or three, scoring lots of goals. The way the team is set up has changed with time. I can’t remember us ever playing three in midfield. Our system was always four at the back, four in midfield and two up front. We rarely ever changed that, apart from one or two occasions. Nowadays it’s 4-3-3 and there are variations of that. The systems and style of play has changed, and that’s made a difference to the way that players have been asked to play.

“I was comfortable when it came to tackling and I felt that my game was quite technical and tactical. Maybe it would have been suited to this era more than it was when I played. Back then it was more defensive-minded, so I definitely feel I would have enjoyed this type of football. It’s more exciting for players now. There are structures within a team but you can see that players are also given freedom to express themselves a bit more than when I played in the 1980s and 90s.”

Five moments which defined Aaron's Arsenal career

Signing for Arsenal June 13, 2006

On June 3, 2008, Manchester United announced on their club website that they had agreed a fee with Cardiff City for 17 year old midfielder Aaron Ramsey. The deal, they stated, was 'subject to contract terms being agreed'. Ten days later he completed a transfer to Arsenal. A timely intervention from Arsène Wenger, it seems, was enough to persuade the teenage prodigy to move to London instead.

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The best of Rambo!

"He was a big factor in my decision to join Arsenal," Aaron said. "I'm so happy to have signed for Arsenal." "Arsène talked to me for a long time about the club and the plans for the future, which really excites me.

"Arsenal is a club which always gives young players an opportunity at the highest level of the game and I am going to work my hardest to be part of future successes here."

His last game for hometown club Cardiff City had been the FA Cup final, and after a stellar breakthrough season with the Welsh club, he was hot property among the country's biggest clubs. Arsenal had been aware of his talents since he netted in Cardiff's FA Youth Cup quarter-final defeat to Arsenal in February 2007. Just over 12 months later, they had their man.

"He is still only 17, but has already shown that he is a very intelligent and mature player with great quality, Arsène said upon completing the deal, adding: "Although he mainly plays in midfield, Aaron is a versatile player and can also play across the defence."

Making his debut August 13, 2008

The pressure was very much on for Aaron's first appearance in Arsenal colours. The season kicked off with a crucial Champions league qualifier first leg, away to highly fancied Dutch side FC Twente, then managed by former England boss Steve McLaren. With Cesc Fabregas unavailable, Arsène Wenger turned to Aaron and 20-year-old Brazilian Denilson to form a youthful central midfield partnership.

It did the trick. Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners, to ease the pressure ahead of the home leg, and extend the side's proud record of qualifying for the Champions League proper.

"We were so young in the middle of the park for a game of that level and you could be worried but I have confidence in them." Arsène Wenger said at the final whistle. After showing he wasn't overawed by the occasion, Aaron marked his next European outing with his first goal for the club, after coming on as a sub away to Fenerbahce.

The long-range effort in off the post made him the fifth youngest goalscorer in Champions League history The midfield maestro's Arsenal career was truly off and running.

A goalscoring return to Emirates Stadium May 1, 2011

Aaron Ramsey's career was firmly on an upwards trajectory, until a shocking challenge by Stoke's Ryan Shawcross caused a double fracture of his lower right leg. It came on February 27, 2010 and Aaron was immediately ruled out for the rest of the season, and beyond, with a long period of rehabilitation now ahead of him.

"When we signed him I thought he was a real box-to-box player. He had the potential to develop as a goalscorer as well"

Arsene Wenger

Nine months later he made his comeback for Arsenal reserves in a 2-1 win over Wolves at London Colney, and after suffering no ill effects, he was loaned to Nottingham Forest, then former club Cardiff City to build up his fitness in the hurly-burly environment of the Championship.

Arsenal reserve team coach Neil Banfield said: "It’s always extremely pleasing when someone comes back after such a horrific injury. Breaking your leg is obviously one of the worst ones you can get. To see him running around freely is a testament to the medical staff at the club and his attitude to getting fit. It’s fantastic to see him playing again."

His Arsenal first-team debut comeback followed on March 12, 2011 as a sub in the FA Cup defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford, and the same team provided the opposition when Aaron ran out at Emirates Stadium for the first time in 14 months. It proved an occasion to remember for the Welshman, his second-half goal was the difference between the two sides, and kept alive Arsenal's faint title hopes with three games remaining. Aaron's goalscoring return came just in time for the following weekend's fixture - away to Stoke City.

FA Cup final goal May 17, 2014

"I had a few rash shots but I think I made up for it in the end!" Aaron Ramsey said with a smile after scoring the goal which ended Arsenal's nine-year wait for a trophy. It was the perfect way for Aaron to round off an unforgettable season, in which he was voted Arsenal's player of the season by a landslide, after scoring 16 goals in all competitions.

The goal itself capped a superb comeback in a dramatic 2014 FA Cup final against Hull City, after the Gunners had been two goals down in the opening 10 minutes. Four minutes into the second period of extra-time, the teams were locked together at 2-2, when Aaron burst into the box, latched onto Olivier Giroud's flick and stabbed the ball home first time.

"It was a great lay-off," Aaron added. "I shouted for it and he back-heeled it. The goalkeeper has a lot less time to react when you finish it first time. "It was the most important goal of my time here. I've been really pleased with my form this year. I wouldn't have been able to do it without my team-mates but I'm just a bit gutted that I got injured. "I'm just delighted to come back, make a big impact in a game and win the FA Cup." Cue wild celebrations, and Aaron's first honour of his career was secured, his place in Arsenal folklore assured forever.

Goal v Galatasaray December 9, 2014

The 2013/14 season showed how prolific Aaron Ramsey was becoming, but it wasn't just the quantity of goals that was attracting attention. He scored stunning volleys against Liverpool at home in November 2012 and away to Norwich in May 2014, but both of those spectacular strikes were put into the shade by his goal against Galatasaray in December 2014.

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Close Up: Ramsey

A corner was cleared to him some ten yards outside the box and the midfielder returned it first time, with a low controlled volley which arrowed through the crowded box right into the top corner. Unstoppable. "At the time I thought I was a lot closer, just outside the box," Aaron said late last season. "It’s definitely the best goal I’ve scored though. As soon as the ball was coming towards me I saw one of their players closing me down.

In those sorts of situations, if you give the ball away then they can counter-attack, so I was just thinking, ‘I’m just going to hit this. If it goes over, it goes over, then we can get back in and defend the goal kick’. "If you take a touch and they’re coming out as a team with our players out of position, they’re on for a counter-attack if they dispossess you, so it made sense to shoot first time." It was duly voted Goal of the Season by Arsenal fans.

Arsene Wenger on… Aaron Ramsey

His first impressions... The first time I saw him play was in the Youth Cup with Cardiff, and I also watched him playing for Cardiff in the Championship. What I liked straight away was the level of his activity on the pitch and his workrate. He was never scared to take the ball – he always wanted the ball, even as a very young boy.

The quality and depth of his vision impressed me too, and he could play some good long passes. Above all though his work rate was absolutely magnificent – you could see there was something in there. He was brave and could deal with the pressure. I knew there was something there to develop. He was 16 at the time.

How he signed him...I spoke to Terry Burton, who was the assistant coach at Cardiff, and after that I met Aaron with his parents during the European Championships in Switzerland, to convince him to join us. I remember it well – that was in Zurich and I think that made the difference because Manchester United were also after him.

His strengths... When we signed him I thought he was a real box-to-box player. He had the potential to develop as a goalscorer as well. We know he had the big injury in his career, but he recovered very well. Again that showed great bravery to recover from that because you do not see any signs of that injury today. He remains brave and he’s a guy I have a big respect for. He has gone through some difficult periods but every time he has come back and that demands special qualities.

The verdict from… TERRY BURTON

Terry was the captain of Arsenal's FA Youth Cup team in 1971, and later had two spells at the club as a youth coach. In between those spells he was assistant manager to Dave Jones at Cardiff when Aaron Ramsey made his senior debut there in 2007. He told us about Aaron's early days at Cardiff.

"I told him that Arsenal was a great club with great people and that if I was helping him to make the decision, they would be my recommendation. It was only one casual five-minute conversation at the Cardiff training ground"

Terry Burton

"He joined the first-team training group straight from school. We trained at the same site and he came in and trained more or less every session with the first team. He was so young but he never hid if he made a mistake. He would always look for the ball and tried to play game-changing passes, not just playing it safe. He had an excellent work rate too and I remember him training with us throughout the 2007/08 season. By that time, he’d already made his debut, as a sub at Hull City.

"He became Cardiff’s youngest ever player that day. We knew what a talent he was and Dave Jones wanted to promote the young players that Cardiff had at the time. We’d always tried to give youth a chance and it was a great opportunity to introduce him to the atmosphere of first-team football. We needed permission from his school for him to play, but we knew we had a special talent on our hands and wanted to expose him at the right levels and at the right time.

"There was a really good crop of talented young Welsh players. They all had a lot of technical ability and were willing to learn. In that situation, you also have to be able to deal with the atmosphere of playing in the first team, which they were all more or less able to do.

"I started having regular conversations about Aaron with Steve Rowley, Arsenal's chief scout. I’d been on to Steve because I had a good contact with him and had told him we had a special player he should be looking at. I remember sitting down with Aaron just after the FA Cup final in 2008. There was speculation about different clubs and I told him that I thought he’d get the right education if he went to Arsenal.

"I told him that Arsenal was a great club with great people and that if I was helping him to make the decision, they would be my recommendation. It was only one casual five-minute conversation at the Cardiff training ground. I’m sure he had many other conversations with people recommending Manchester United, Liverpool or whoever else. I don’t think it was purely down to me. Aaron is well documented as saying that Arsène Wenger showed a real conviction in wanting to sign him."

 

Aaron Ramsey celebrates scoring at White Hart Lane

 

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