Aaron Ramsey 21 Midfielder Arsenal
The 2011/12 Premier League season was Aaron Ramsey's most prolific yet in terms of Arsenal appearances, and should really have been the making of him. The former Cardiff City midfielder has been tipped for the very top for a number of years, quite justifiably; after the Gunners had won the battle with Manchester United for his signature at the age of 17, Ramsey's initial brief appearances at the Emirates demonstrated the composed, accomplished heartbeat upon which the Arsenal team would soon be able to rely. Injury then took its toll.
The idea of Ramsey is an exciting one. He has the makings of the best kind of modern British central midfielder: intelligent movement, unfailing desire for the ball and a cultured eye for the right pass, not just the ones that make the highlight reels. There is no doubting that the quality is there, and yet there are growing frustrations with Ramsey's progress. Though few would argue that he is not growing into a very assured Premier League player, the odd frustrating trait is beginning to creep in.
For all that, Ramsey's Opta stats make for interesting reading. His passing accuracy between the beginning of January and the start of November was 88%, remaining as high as 80% in the final third. 26 of those were classed as 'Key Passes', a worthy contribution. But Ramsey's chance conversion rate was just 3%, which points to a rather obvious area for improvement.
Already firmly established at international level - the late Gary Speed made Ramsey his Wales captain - Ramsey's impressive return from the horrifying injury he suffered against Stoke City in 2010 and the departures of key members of the Arsenal midfield have afforded him more first team opportunities than ever. Unfortunately, for some Arsenal supporters the Ramsey ideal and the Ramsey reality are beginning to diverge.
At his best, the young Welshman does everything expected of him, operating as a useful midfield link man for one of the best possession teams in Europe, but his occasionally tardy speed of thought and profligacy in possession are not going unnoticed. A tendency to dwell on the ball was particularly noticeable in some of Great Britain's poorer performances at the 2012 Olympic Games, and has been identified by observers at club level too. Some argued that he was Arsenal's worst performer last season, a harsh but damning assessment.
The Olympics under his belt, Ramsey's 2012/13 season began with an increasingly familiar routine. As Arsenal pursued success with Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby acting as the basis for new signing Santi Cazorla to work from, Ramsey was confined to the substitutes' bench, though he did frequently feature in matches and has now started to regain his place in Diaby's absence.
In addition to further establishing himself in the Arsenal team, in 2012 Ramsey has added a Great Britain feather to his international cap. Ramsey's stock has begun to rise again again this season, with Arsenal starting well before falling away, and the Wales skipper playing his part. Cazorla's creative input requires a steady presence nearby, and Ramsey is beginning to look the part in a role that could well see him competing with Jack Wilshere as the latter's return from long-term injury continues.
Like all young players at big Champions League clubs, Ramsey perhaps doesn't feature as much, or as often, as he would like. He should arguably have made a more forceful impression by now, but injury problems have had an impact. Ramsey has been forced out of action for a large part of his young career, returning to Cardiff in order to get back up to speed. If he retains his fitness in the coming six months he will rightly be expected to make another step up, but one gets the feeling that not all Arsenal supporters remain confident of his ability to do so.
"Last season, there were suspicions that the post-injury Ramsey had been exposed as not quite good enough, or that the shattering of his right leg had diminished his powers. However, that might have been down to too much creative pressure upon him without Cesc Fabregas or Jack Wilshere. His lightness of touch seems to be reappearing, and hopefully he'll be the player we thought he might be." - Nick Miller (Football365)
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