Thursday, 24 January 2013

Square Peg in a Square Hole

Sometimes in football you can make things as complicated or as straightforward as you like. Managers on occasions seem to convince themselves that their decisions are right by persistently playing players out of position. Sometimes this can happen through injury, which was the case when Arshavin moved to centre forward or when you try to complaint things, such as when Nasri played at defensive midfield in a Champions League Semi Final. You may initially strike gold but in the long run players need to play in the position of expertise. Which brings me onto a topical subject - Aaron Ramsey.

The Wing Man

Now I'm not going to say that Ramsey is ready to hold down a first team place on a regular basis, but he can at least offer depth and variation in an area of the field that we struggle with at times. Let's digress a moment though, Aaron has been featuring a lot but out of position. If my memory serves me right then this became a feature because we won a game against Everton at Goodison Park in March and Aaron had quite a decent game. He offered cover and was genuinely impressive going forward on a night where we should have notched three or four. Sadly, this move wasn't to be an isolated incident, ten days later we went to Loftus Road and Aaron had an absolute nightmare and the boo boys came steaming in. He was the first to be substituted and he was replaced by Gervinho (no wonder we lost that game). This then became a re-occurring theme and it was summed up with Wenger's tactical naivety to play Aaron on the wing against Manchester United at Old Trafford in November,which is argueably the toughest away game in the league. It was one of our darkest days of the season hidden by a 'close' 2-1 scoreline. Ramsey offered nothing that day (as illustrated above) but then he was playing against a fine full back in Patrice Evra.

The Issues

This often goes unmentioned that despite playing out of position, we put Ramsey up against quality full backs or at least full backs that play full back,. I'd fancy my chances if I got to mark the likes of Michael Carrick or Frank Lampard if they were deployed to right/left wing for the day. Does Ramsey have the characteristics of a wing man? No. He doesn't have great pace or any form of acceleration, he doesn't have an array of tricks or the ability to know where to be to make a run. It has been a grim period for Ramsey and at times I'm sure we've all been frustrated by his performances because it has been annoying but he is still a top level footballer and things like his control and vision should still play a part but he just lost confidence with every passing minute. You could see the fear in his eyes as the ball makes it's way to his feet. That's not a good place to be in as a player and it's hard to show for the ball when 60,000 are all about to simultaneously groan and embark on abusing you. Of course this doesn't mean to say we have to parent him through his days at the club but at least allow him to flourish in his position.

The Centre Midfielder

Less than two weeks ago we played against Man City and with the game seemingly out of reach and a bit of a damage limitation exercise Wenger gave Ramsey a run out in centre midfield. Now Ramsey didn't rip up any trees but he pressed and he drove us on, which culminated in him carving open City's defence for Walcott to shoot straight at Joe Hart. It is sometimes forgotten that Ramsey and Walcott do have quite a good understanding on the pitch and with both tied down to new deals, the signs could be promising. However, on this day was a minor positive. Then we moved to the Chelsea game, which in all honesty I was little surprised to see him not get the start as Wenger preferred to play both Diaby and Coquelin. Diaby played poorly (understatement) and he was replaced with only 15 minutes to go. In which time Ramsey achieved half of what Diaby had been trying to do. Ramsey was 5/8 for attacking third passed whilst Diaby was 12/16 for the game. These aren't earth shattering numbers but for Ramsey, it's a step in the right direction. This all built up to Aaron getting the start against West Ham but as our deep lying midfielder,a role which Arteta has played for most of this season. As the game grew fans started to realise that Ramsey was having a pretty good game and the stats don't half back that up. He also won every tackle (admittedly he only made three), he cleared Carlton Cole's shot off the line line and he only committed one foul. If it wasn't for the explosive perform of of Lukas Podolski he'd have been up there for man of the match. His doubters will probably point to the fact it was only West Ham but Rome wasn't built in a day and if Ramsey's performance last night is anything to go by then maybe Arteta has some genuine competition and at no point last night did I think "ooh, we missed Diaby". Ramsey is a centre midfielder, nothing else. If we stick with him then I'm pretty sure he'll continue to develop and who knows what heights he'd reach if we bought a defensive midfielder.

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