17 April 2013

Ramsey is running this show. Period.

Okay, I'm exaggerating, but it's in service of an important point. Simply put, Aaron Ramsey's emergence over the last month has to be one of the most-significant single factors in our recent run. Depending on whom you ask, he's earned two MOTM ratings in our last four games. Whoscored gives him the nod for the Everton match, as did
Footnotes indicate 1st or 2nd best on the team
voters at the official team site, and voters also gave him the honors after the Norwich match. The table to the right compiles Ramsey's numbers from our last four matches and show a model of consistency that goes a long way in explaining our recent successes. Of course, no one player deserves credit; the entire squad has shown deeper resiliency, determination, and aggressiveness in the last two months. It's just that, to me, Ramsey deserves a nod. After all, other players attract more notoriety through flashier skills or highlight-reel moments, but consistency, grit, and doggedness are keys to success that are just as essential.

We discussed his emergence in a previous post as I tabbed him for a MOTM performance against Norwich, which he claimed but not for the reasons I emphasized. It's a credit to him and to the Gunner family that a player can be recognized for contributions other than goals and assists (which are, after all, how games are won and lost). I won't begrudge Gervinho's MOTM for the Reading game, but it is worth pointing out that Ramsey's stats for that game are just as good, if not better, than they are for the Everton or Norwich games.

If we can use a child's toy as an example, the goals and assists are like the shiny lights and sound effects that the toy makes when you press the buttons. The hustling, tackling, tracking back, passing, and other less glamorous dirty work are similar to the batteries, then. We only notice the batteries when they start to run down or when we put them in wrong. We look at the discount batteries and wonder if we should spring for the fancier ones that come in a prettier package with a brighter color scheme. However, when we put the batteries in right, everything else works much, much better. Don't stretch the simile much further, however, or like all similes, it stops working ("our love is like a flower? Really? Does this mean I can dump you by spraying you with herbicide?").

I digress. You see my point, I'm sure. Ramsey has, at many times this season, been asked to play in unfamiliar positions, and he has, at previous points in his career, been pressured to play in the style of players we've asked or pressured him to replace. Instead, finally, it seems like he's established his role, that of relentless harrier and distributor. He's become a jack-of-all-trades, capable of doing whatever the team needs (short of scoring, unfortunately. Before we're too critical on that account, though, it's worth remembering that Mikel Arteta, playing in a very similar role, has notched five of his goals from the penalty spot). Those goals will come in due time.

Arsenal has had to put up with enough critics who mock us for playing an effete style that lacks the physicality of other teams. There's something to that, I'll admit. Other teams know that they can disrupt our game by playing rough. It levels the playing field. If they can't make a tackle or intercept a pass, a booking or two is worth it if it rattles us. It's therefore gratifying to see a lad like Ramsey come back so well from that kind of knuckle-dragger football and be able to be so instrumental in driving us towards the top of the table again. Like the Energizer bunny, he just keeps going...and going...and going...

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