We're delighted to unveil the Arsenal.com Player of the Season, as voted by the fans - and it should come as no surprise that it's Aaron Ramsey!
The Wales midfielder had a magnificent campaign, scoring 16 goals in all competitions, and was the overwhelming winner with 58 per cent of the votes.
Arsenal reporter Rob Kelly gives his verdict on the 23-year-old.
“It's a massive year for him. He's had his injury problems but I think this season is definitely going to be Aaron's. Definitely."
When, last August, Theo Walcott was asked who the team’s star player might be during the upcoming campaign, no one quite realised just how prescient he would be. But his certainty, coupled with Aaron Ramsey’s prodigious pre-season form, indicated there was more to it than the mere backing of a close friend.
"Questions remained: chiefly, could he ever be the player his talents suggested? Thirty-four appearances later, any doubts had been dispelled in the afterglow of a sensational season"
Nine months, 16 goals, nine assists, four player of the month awards, one FA Cup winners’ medal and countless outstanding performances later and we now know it for sure: the season has been his. Definitely.
The story of Ramsey’s Arsenal career prior to this year is well known. Promising start, career-threatening injury, lengthy rehabilitation. Despite his encouraging end to the previous campaign, questions remained: chiefly, could he ever be the player his talents suggested? Thirty-four appearances later, any doubts had been dispelled in the afterglow of a sensational season.
“This year I've proven a lot of people wrong,” Ramsey said in March. “There was a tough time in the period after my injury but I've got through that and I feel really confident and feel like I'm improving with every game. I've been a lot more composed in front of goal and taking my chances.
"I think [to get to the next level] I need to go into the big games and really show my authority. Grab the game by the scruff of the neck and show everybody I can do it in the big matches on a consistent basis.”
He certainly did that at Wembley when Arsenal found themselves 2-0 down after just nine minutes of the FA Cup final. Santi Cazorla’s fabulous free-kick may have got them back into the game, but it was Ramsey’s energy, drive and intense will to win that helped shift momentum inexorably in the Gunners’ favour.
Those in the know say the 23-year-old’s GPS figures are “off the chart” and, as Hull City’s legs and minds started to tire on a warm day at Wembley, Ramsey took over.
Then, when his opportunity arrived, he showed no hesitation. One controlled swish of his right boot later and Arsenal were in pole position to win the FA Cup. It was a goal that encapsulated the new-found confidence and decisiveness that has marked a stellar season.
“I think you make more right decisions when you play with confidence,” Ramsey said earlier in the campaign. “If I think something is on and I can hit a 40-yard pass over the top for someone to run on to, I will still do that, but the decision-making is better.
“You feel sharper in your mind when you are confident. Things just seem to happen quicker. You understand things more clearly and things just seem to happen more naturally.”
A quiet, self-contained character by nature, Ramsey prefers to express himself where it really counts: on the pitch. Norwich City perhaps bore the brunt of the Wales international’s composure more than most: in October he scored a fine, twisting individual effort against them at the Emirates, in May he topped it with a sublime first-time volley that helped confirm their relegation.
"He has no limitations in his improvement and he can be a complete midfielder, efficient defensively, efficient offensively. That's what real players are"
But those were far from the only entries on a packed highlights reel. A volley at Sunderland, a long-range effort against Liverpool, a controlled header at Cardiff City: Ramsey did it all. And he did it with the smile of a man who had arrived at a place he was destined to inhabit.
Throughout the tough times, one man had always stood behind him, never faltering in his belief that Ramsey would come good. Arsene Wenger always kept faith, and that faith has been rewarded.
“Let’s not forget that one year ago people were saying to me, ‘It’s difficult to play him at the Emirates’,” he said of his protégé. “You could see there was an impatience with him. As a manager you think, ‘Do I push him through and he can go more down or do you give him a breather to get him a fresh start?’ That’s always difficult to assess because it is linked to their mental state. When their own confidence is down, of course they are in trouble. But he is a confident boy.
“But you have to give him credit for that transformation - the credit goes to him because he could deal with that. He could come back, never give up and convince everybody that he has the needed quality.”
Now Wenger is convinced Ramsey can go to an even better level next season.
“He can defend, he can attack, he can score goals - what more do you want? And he's young. That shows you that he can develop more when you look at his improvement in the last two years, why should he stop now? He has no limitations in his improvement and he can be a complete midfielder, efficient defensively, efficient offensively. That's what real football players are.”
Ramsey is a "real football player". And he is deservedly the Arsenal Player of the Season.