Aaron Ramsey is a curious player. He turns right where other players would turn left. He turns left where others would turn right, and he turns again where other players would release the ball. Arsenal’s most unorthodox player (even more so than the deceivingly orthodox Per Mertesacker) has had a fantastic tournament at Euro 2016. His unusual style has produced mixed results in the Premier League over the last few years. So, is he just in one of those purple patches of form this summer? Or is he flourishing because Wales play with more structure and discipline than the North London giants?
First of all, let’s take a moment to appreciate Ramsey’s strange approach to the beautiful game. He twists and turns, then twists and turns some more. He showboats under pressure, he showboats when there is no pressure. The more straightforward an opportunity, the more erratic his shooting becomes. The more difficult the angle, the more outstanding his finishes are. I think the most unusual thing about Aaron Ramsey is the fact that he simply expresses himself. Expressing yourself is usually coached out of you in Britain, and is very much frowned upon in our footballing culture. Maybe it’s because he’s Welsh rather than English, but nonetheless the hit and miss midfielder is undoubtedly an entertaining breath of fresh air.
So back to the question, is Ramsey better off in a team with more structure? Arsene Wenger is known for trusting his players, allowing them to flourish in the freedom of his philosophy. He has been patient with Ramsey, allowing him to recover his confidence following the horrific injury he suffered in 2010. At the same time, Wenger’s trusting approach means that players are seemingly sent out with a far looser game plan than many of their Premier League rivals. When this un-pragmatic approach falls short, so too do players like Ramsey, Walcott and Oxlade chamberlain (coincidentally all British). While we can only speculate, it sometimes feels like these players footballing education has been self-taught, to their detriment. Ramsey is perhaps the least affected of the three thanks to his superior talent and temperament.
Wales on the other hand are undoubtedly a team with a plan. In order for this plan to work, both Ramsey and Gareth Bale have to play their role. The team isn’t set up to accommodate its stars; the stars accommodate the team. Ramsey’s performances have undoubtedly been far less unorthodox than normal. In a 3-5-2 formation his passing options are far more fixed and pre-determined. Everything he does, seems to be executed with a sense of purpose. Of course there are moments where he breaks out into an unexpected dribble, but they somehow seem far more effective and at times necessary.
Ramsey’s aggressive approach to defending is complimented by his equally aggressive teammates (Joe Ledley and Joe Allen in particular) at Wales, whereas at Arsenal he sometimes seems to be the only one pressing in this fashion. Football is a team game, and it appears although the Welsh approach brings out the best in the Arsenal player. It makes me wonder, whether he would be more consistent in a team like Tottenham or Liverpool. Would Klopp, Pochettino or even Mourihno be able to channel his talents in the way that Coleman has this summer? It’s just a thought, but one I think would be worth considering if I were one of the other Arsenal players whose careers have never quite reached the heights they would’ve hoped for. Theo Walcott I’m looking at you!