22 August 2013

Admiral Aaron Ramsey leads the British invasion

In the aftermath of yesterday's brilliant performance, proper recognition is due to the man who spearheaded it. Much as we have lamented our lack of activity in the transfer-window, we've overlooked one, large factor that we may have to count on unless a few
much-needed signings do arrive: in-squad improvement. Among others, Aaron Ramsey simply sparkled in a commanding performance, leading the squad through what is becoming his customary style, burnished this time by a goal and a second-assist.

While we clearly need new signings, it's well-worth remembering that the reasons for hope do abound: the returns to full fitness of Sagna, Wilshere, and Podolski, the second-year adjustments of Cazorla, Podolski, and Giroud, and the continued maturation of Wilshere, Jenkinson, Walcott, and Szczęsny. This may not be enough to see us climb the table, but it might just be enough to stay in the top four. However, pursuing that in more detail will have to wait. For now, let's content ourselves with enjoying what we do have in front of us: a squad that pounded a team into submission and is capable of some rather exciting football from time to time. After all, this isn't the first time that this bunch has thrashed an opponent, and it won't be the last.

At its core, strange as it may sound to those who have followed the club under Arsène, is a core of young Britons that is as exciting, dogged, and skilled as any we've seen in some time. I don't follow the English national team from over here (America), so I should be careful how far I push the history, but Arsenal boasts some of the finest British footballers playing at the moment. At its center, perhaps literally, is Aaron Ramsey. In addition to his goal and uncredited second-assist, he led the team in touches (99) without being dispossessed a single time, tackles (5), interceptions (3), passes (79), accurate through-balls (one), had the second-most accurate long-balls, and tied with four teammates for most long-balls attempted (all stats thanks to whoscored.com). Speaking of whoscored.com, his 8.9 rating was the highest on the team, earning him their MotM award—sure to be one of many. Particularly gratifying to this writer is that Ramsey, in addition to his tirelessness, his everywhere-ness, and his tenacity, scored. As a former defensive-minded midfielder, I always enjoy it a little more when the lunch-bucket guys get the goal. Ramsey bossed that game at both ends; perhaps he was extra-mindful of defensive responsibilities once Koscielny had to leave. Whatever the proximate cause, his performance was impressive, to put it mildly.

Let's not give short-shrift to the rest of the squad, however. Ramsey didn't win the game on his own. Of particular note is that four of the top five players in whoscored.com's player-ratings were British: Ramsey (8.9), Wilshere (8.8), Walcott (7.96), and Gibbs (7.73). Only Cazorla (7.81) was rude enough to crash the party. Jenksinson, thrown on on short notice for the injured Koscielny, managed a none-too-shabby 6.91. While I've flirted with joining the Wenger-whingers, it is a testament to the man that these young Britons joined the club in their teens (Wilshere and Gibbs having come up through the academy). The oldest of them is Gibbs at 23. It's anyone's guess how good they'll become this year and in years to come. This youth-movement, one I've discussed in this post, could be the sort that propels the club back towards its lofty, historic heights. I've talked up Gibbs, Wilshere, Walcott, Jenkinson, and Ramsey each in turn (click the links to view those posts). As they continue to grow into themselves and their roles with this club, the future looks exceedingly bright.

None of this, of course, is meant to imply that all is well and dandy and we can continue to twiddle our thumbs until September 2nd is crossed off the calendar. The downside to "young, exciting, and full of potential" is inexperience and inconsistency. Having rained on the parade, I'll close by reminding you that we've all but qualified for the Champions League, served notice that we can still be a force, and we go to Craven Cottage to face a Fulham squad that boasts of having "snapped up" Scott Parker. I'm hardly shaking in my boots. Let's do this.