Tag Archives: ramsey

Our New British Core

The British core remains only as a memory of the image of the group sat at a desk, resplendent in club gear, simultaneously signing their contracts. Overshadowed by Arsene Wenger who had masterminded their presence in the first team, it was meant to represent a new, homegrown dawn for Arsenal.

One by one they fell by the wayside, leaving probably the least likely to remain as the sole representative of this golden generation. Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson could have potentially formed the spine of Arsenal for years to come, but thanks to varying reasons – some unlucky and some simply because they lacked the minerals to fight at the very top – they were sold from Arsenal.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the first to go, expressing an interest to shake off the comfort zone that saw him make 25-30 appearances but never quite hold down a regular spot. His flexibility was one of the reasons that ‘The Ox’ never quite put his stamp on our eleven, and another was his maddening inconsistency. With one game he would slalom past a handful of challenges and succeed with a netbuster. The next game he would lose the ball like it was a personal hobby. He moved to Liverpool to progress but thanks to injury – another frequent blight on his time here – he currently stands in the same spot he had as a Gunner – bit-part utility man.

Jack Wilshere carried perhaps the most expectation as a player. His virtuoso display as a teenager against the best midfield in the world, Barcelona, exhibited the ceiling his talents had, but the diminutive baller never scaled those heights again. Injuries curtailed his ambitions and his time as an Arsenal man, and he is now a Hammer.

The rest, aside from Aaron Ramsey, were ousted from the squad as we found superior replacements. Time had seen us move on but these players didn’t match the step count, and they lagged behind.

Fast forward to the present day and we now have another batch of homegrown players. The majority of these kids have been schooled by the Academy and are steeped in ‘The Arsenal Way.’ There is a big difference between the two groups of players though.

The original gaggle of players had already had a number of seasons under their belt before their talent had shone through to lead people to declare them our core.

The current group? They are just starting on their journey – and they are making waves in the first team ahead of some truly established international stars.

Wilshere, Gibbs etc of course had some truly special players in their midst, but they had their first team spot more or less made theirs whenever they were fit for the most part.

Whereas Jo Willock, Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson, Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers, Emile Smith-Rowe, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Eddie Nketiah have had some imposing figures in front of them, and have still established themselves as contenders for their respective spots.

British Core

Well, to varying degrees anyway. Jo Willock and Rob Holding are probably the closest to having their spots tied down, and both have serious competition in their way – which makes their progress even more spectacular.

What is evident is that these kids really DO have the chance to become the rigid spine that Arsenal have needed for some time. Time though, is the only true yardstick for this group. It is only as matches and a few seasons go by that we will see if these special talents really are as good as they appear to be – and if they can go on to forge themselves as homegrown Arsenal legends – something that we haven’t had for quite some time.

Over to you boys.

Skipper On Our Shopping List

The summer transfer window may cure some ills for Arsenal, but at least one of our failings may well be carried over into next season.

It will require targeting from our recruitment team to rectify the situation, otherwise our next campaign we will still be bereft of a true captain.

Unai Emery changed much in his first season, and one of the myriad of variants he brought in to dispel the old era was to appoint five nominated skippers. All five brought a little something different to the table and perhaps combined, they made one true leader.

Mesut Ozil brought a true example to look up to for the younger players, and his ice-cool temperament is a skill that many could need.

Petr Cech is a born winner and has been victorious in every club competition he has entered.

Granit Xhaka is a motivator, rallying the troops vocally and attempting to rouse the warrior within them all.

Aaron Ramsey is the consummate professional and is the prime example of where hard work can take a young prospect as the Welshman is the purest evidence of this.

Then there is Laurent Koscielny. The Frenchman has been at Arsenal for eight years and has put his injury-ravaged body on the line every time he has put on the shirt. He is still probably our best defender at a tender 33 years of age and the squad look to him for a mixture of all of the above.

Next season is a different story though. At times we have missed a captain of the ilk of our previous luminaries. Players who can grab their teammates and the match itself by the scruff of the neck and change things.

Koscielny deserves the armband, but is he vocal enough? Does he have the right mixture of fear, adulation and respect?

Only the squad can answer that, but at times last season we looked a little rudderless, games slipping from our grasp because of our sloppiness, mistakes that could have been weeded out by a captain who makes sure everyone is accountable.

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When was the last time we had a skipper who gave the team that 5% that lifted them above the ignominy of another poor show?

Previously, we awarded the armband to our stars as a makeweight of sorts, another thing to add to the plate that is offered to a star that is looking at pastures new; “Instead of leaving, please stay, you can be the captain of the team.”

Patrick Vieira then, was probably the last time we had someone who was the embodiment of a captain, someone who naturally has an air that lends itself to turning heads, opening ears, inspiring performances.

Koscielny is the nearest we have to that in our squad. He never lets the side down, he gives his all. Those are mandatory for the captain, they need to show the level that is expected.

We may need to look for a player in the window that has the DNA strand that is true leadership though. With Koscielny on his last legs and Rambo no longer a Gooner, we are in more need than ever of a player to take the armband.

Our rivals have players of that ilk, or at least captains who can scream a player into playing a little better. Cesar Azpilicueta and Vincent Kompany especially are true leaders and give their sides that little extra when they struggle.

Now Raul Sanllehi and Emery must put someone on their shopping list that isn’t weighed down by the armband. Instead, they see it as an honour and use it to eke everything than can out of themselves and their comrades.

What’s Your Favourite Goal?

Goals are the currency of football.

Never mind the abhorrent amount of money that flows through the veins of the game, it is goals that keep the heart pumping, the turnstiles rotating and the clubs breathing.

When the ball hits the back of the net, for scorer and fan alike there is no greater feeling. They make the difference between glory and failure, ignominy and memories made. They encapsulate entire era’s, they symbolise icons and halcyon times.

They are also entirely subjective.

Just look at any Goal of the Month poll. Whether it be long-range screamer, thumping header or intricate team move, there are advocates for all. There are always football hipsters who will vocalise the attributes involved in a 6 yard finish, and the purists will always vouch for a twisting, turning solo goal, seeing opposition defenders sprawled on the turf with twisted blood.

Goals are enjoyed by all, but ask anyone what their favourite goal is and no matter their allegiance, they will always give a different answer.

It can be a long range, top-corner botherer, it could be a 20 pass manoeuvre that exhibits the finest one-touch passing before a slick finish bewilders the goalkeeper. More often than not though, it will be the occasion that elevates a goal from crowd pleaser to unique moment forever captured by all minds.

Look at Michael Thomas and his last minute heroics at Anfield in 1989. His run was astute, yep, but there was a bobble and a touch of luck before he put the ball over the lunging grasp of Bruce Grobbelaar.

michael-thomas Anfield

Pure it wasn’t, but you ask Gooners what their favourite goal was, and a large swathe of us will plump for it.

Thierry Henry’s effort against Liverpool in 2004. Champions League and FA Cup exits had left us raw, and we were on the rack against an inferior Liverpool team. Step forward Thierry Henry, at the time probably the greatest player in the world.

He picked up the ball about thirty five yards out and began to lead a merry dance, so fleet of foot and rapid that two, three, four Liverpool players attempted and ultimately failed to grab possession or even to stop Henry in his tracks.

Jamie Carragher left in a broken heap on the turf. The roar of the crowd as belief seeped in once again. The goal this time was beautiful, but much more than that, it was when we stayed on track during our greatest test in the Invincibles season.

The point here, is that as long as the net is rippled, we will greedily lap up all and sundry in terms of style of goal. We always appreciate a stylish effort, and if it grades high in technical skill then we will fondly remember it.

But should we progress to the Europa League final and one of our players knocks in the ball with his left butt-cheek? It will be held in the highest regard.

Aaron Ramsey’s winner Vs Hull City in the 2014 FA Cup Final. Andy Linighan, 1993. Charlie Nicholas, 1987, Eddie Kelly, 1971. Some goals were far more aesthetically pleasing than others, but each share a parallel – they won us something. They etched our name on silverware – and for that, they are also etched into our minds in indelible ink.

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My personal favourite? Sylvain Wiltord’s effort against United at Old Trafford, 2002. His finish was snaffling up a loose ball after Ljungberg’s effort was saved. But it was everything else that makes it unforgettable. The stadium, the opposition, the fact that we had gone ahead and then won in a ground that gave precious few points away – the fact that it won us the title on enemy ground.

Not the prettiest, but it was pretty effective!

What about you – what’s your favourite goal?

Replacing Rambo

Aaron Ramsey has shown his hand.

The discussion surrounding the Welshman and his long-running contract saga centres on the alleged contract offer being rescinded by the club. There are scant details available, other than David Ornstein declaring this via Twitter.

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All we are left with is knowing that Aaron Ramsey will almost definitely be in another jersey in the summer. Possibly even in December if our club want a transfer fee.

So, where does that leave us? Much depends on where Ramsey is best utilised.

The Welshman is most often listed as a central midfielder, but it is quite obvious that Unai Emery doesn’t see him that way. Every selection has seen Rambo slotting into the attacking three behind our sole striker.

Ramsey’s main strength is probably his late runs into the box to snaffle goals. To maximise this, he is better utilised further up the field. Sure, he can tackle and track runners, but Ramsey gets goals, so attack is his best option.

Now that he is departing the club though, do we need to recruit again? Will the Rambo-shaped hole we have derail any progress that Emery is forging? Does the Spaniard need to get on the phone to Sven Mislintat to find a suitable replacement?

No. Our squad is stronger than we think – and Ramsey leaving doesn’t have to impact us at all.

Since Emery has taken over, we have seen very little of the Ramsey we have adored. The attacking midfielder has been sorely lacking in the end product department, but someone has stepped forward and can plug the gap left by Ramsey. How do we know?

Because he has been doing it this season already.

Alex Iwobi has seemingly found his feet again after a shaky season in Wenger’s last campaign. The Nigerian has been fleet of foot, but crucially, his decision-making has not let his other talents down. He has been quite excellent, and would easily deserve  a starting spot ahead of Ramsey.

With Henrikh Mkhitaryan already waiting for an attacking spot to call his own, we have a fair amount of depth. Plus, Emery is known to chop and change his tactics, so we may opt for three central men – in that case, bargain find Matteo Guendouzi has shown that even inexperience can’t dim blazing hot talent on the pitch.

Ramsey will always hold a special place in our memories. His heroic fightback from his horror injury, his epic season of 2013/14, his two winning FA Cup goals – Ramsey has given ten years service.

Yes, it is mystifying what Ramsey must be demanding, but we must concentrate on the surface view, and how Rambo will be leaving us – and whether we will suffer.

It seems like we are well covered. If Emery has the faith in both Iwobi and Guendouzi, then the game time accrued will push them both on leaps and bounds.

Thanks for the memories Rambo.

Emery’s Best Eleven?

Plenty of changes are afoot under the new Unai Emery regime.

The refreshing winds of variance are rushing through The Emirates, as the Spaniard implements the struts that will support the foundation of his tenure.

New coaching methods, new coaching staff and most importantly – new tactics.

By and large, he has the same squad that limped to an underwhelming 6th place finish last season. The five new signings are a transfusion of sorts, breathing vitality into the body of the squad, hopefully treating the rust that was beginning to set in at the tail-end of Wenger’s long reign.

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Still, it will be what he does with the players who underperformed last year that will define his era. Will the new boys buy into the ethos? More importantly, will the other players adapt in the face of such sweeping changes, especially because of the stark contrast of what they were used to?

Simply put, they have to, but even if they do, the next step is a pretty big one – fine-tuning the tactics and formation to suit the players we have.

One of the big hurdles to this has already become apparent – fitting in Lacazette and Aubameyang into the same side.

We are blessed with two strikers that have a deep relationship with the back of the net. Both have proven they can score goals for fun, and the bond they have created between each other in training seems to be a strong one.

If this happens, we will have a very strong attack, but Emery is known to adapt his side in the face of varying opposition. So if we have a trip to Old Trafford, that would probably suit just one striker, with an extra midfielder to stifle the home side.

When we have a game where we can dictate play, then Laca and Auba will be called for. But that means we need a sacrificial lamb – and each candidate has a certain quality we could really do with to unlock defences.

Mesut Ozil is chief playmaker and the one who can craft a passage of play that goes against the grain. He may have lacked consistency in the past, but we are better off with him in the team than without.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is capable of much. The Armenian scored and assisted 20 plus in the same season in his best season at Dortmund – and there is nothing to suggest that he can’t replicate that at Arsenal. He had promising signs last season, and his link-up play with Aubameyang borders on intuitive.

Then there is Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman’s late runs into the box are unreadable, and often come late in the game where tired defenders are even less capable of stymying him. Ramsey is also a better defensive player than the above two, and can add solidity.

One of these will have to be put on the bench to incorporate the deadly duo of Auba and Laca. The pair could rip defences apart, but we will have to be bereft of one of our most creative lights to make it happen.

Unless we adopt another formation change. We play Ramsey alongside Torreira in the centre of the park, with Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang playing behind Lacazette. It is an extroverted eleven, but it includes our best players, something that could make the difference in the tight games.

Perhaps it could be a plan B? Say we are a goal down with twenty minutes to go, chuck Laca on and switch the formation up – and let rip.

Either way, Emery has some tinkering to do – and this will take time. We may not see our best eleven under Emery for months, but rest assured when it is finally found, we will soar up the table.

Ramsey Stay Or Go?

We’ve had a great recruitment drive to welcome in the Unai Emery era, with Bernd Leno, Stephane Lichtsteiner, Matteo Guendouzi, Sokratis and Lucas Torreira whizzing through the checkout to bolster our lines.

They add depth and in some cases a vast improvement over what we had previously, but there is one signing that some see as the lynchpin to a successful side.

Aaron Ramsey is yet to sign an extension on his current deal, which is entering the final year. From December, the midfielder can enter into talks with interested parties – of which there will be a smorgasbord.

Ramsey has come on leaps and bounds, and even in a malfunctioning midfield, has offered attacking excellence and a huge desire in the side – something we have been bereft of recently. The Welshman is truly growing into an excellent box-to-box role, and now entering his peak years, the next few seasons could see Ramsey make a huge impact on the league.

Emery’s fresh tactics and training methods are apt to get a few extra percent from the existing players, pushing them harder than previously. It means we will have a tighter unit, and with more competition for places, our eleven will be hungry to impress on the pitch.

Ramsey and new coach Emery

Ramsey is understandably patient when it comes to signing a new deal. This next one will be his biggest, but it will be downhill after this deal, as he enters his thirties and the nadir of his career. His style of play relies on his engine, and no matter how superhuman you are, players can’t maintain those levels for as long.

So, he wants assurances that if he gives his best years, then he will get something back. That he will be able to leave as big an indelible mark on football as his talent allows. Can Arsenal match his ambition? Or will his peak years go to waste?

Plus, finances come into play too. Ramsey and his negotiating party will know that the demands they put in can be high, as Arsenal will know that if they don’t meet them, another club won’t hesitate.

Ramsey could benefit hugely from the sentinel-like presence of Lucas Torreira behind him. Another feather in the cap of a proposed extended deal would be a possible switch to a 3-man midfield, giving him the long-range passing of Xhaka to feed from.

The midfielder’s late runs in the box are a nightmare to mark for opposing teams, and it is no coincidence that he scores late goals – his stamina levels combined with tired legs of defenders mean Rambo normally hits when it matters – but could he be doing it in another shirt?

2018/19 is his tenth year at Arsenal – and three FA Cups is a good haul for most clubs – but Ramsey wants more – and deservedly so. For us to call ourselves a big club means we must view this trophy haul as underachievement.

Ramsey has a big call to make – the biggest of his career. If he stays with us he could go on to become one of our biggest names amongst a litany of shining stars.

If he decides that he’s better off elsewhere, then he’ll become another name that belongs to the ‘what if’ brigade – when we look at former players and wish that they had stayed, knowing they could have given us much more.

Who should be our Captain?

There has been plenty of talk surrounding our club of late – and for good reason.

The winds of change are sweeping around The Emirates, and Unai Emery’s appointment has sent the media into a froth over the inevitable variances that will occur after over two decades under one man’s stewardship.

One thing that hasn’t really come into focus is who will lead our men on the pitch.

The subject of our next skipper is an important one. The person who wears the armband next season will be the link between Emery in the dugout and the enacting of his demands.Not only this, but when it comes time to dig our heels in, the captain is the man who leads from the front.

Jack, Xhaka and Ramsey - who is our next captain?

Many think that Aaron Ramsey is the perfect candidate. The model professional who leads from the front, there is no denying he is the perfect example for our youth for triumph in the face of adversity, and never giving up.

Does the Welshman have the chops though? Many say that vocality is a dying trait when it comes to wearing the armband, and all that is needed is someone to lead from the front with their talents.

I would have to disagree. We have had those types of leaders before, back during the time when we dished out the armband as a lure to wantaway players – it didn’t work.

Captains need to have the ability to pick players up when they’re either having an abysmal game or if they’re making errors. They need to have that extra clout to be able to say what needs to be said, without recrimination. The players will listen because he is the leader, without fail.

If it isn’t Rambo though, who should it be? It isn’t as if we are stocked to the rafters with leaders – many people would say this is one of the many reasons we have struggled over previous seasons.

We have had a decent skipper recently though, but Mertesacker’s lack of minutes on the pitch undermined his strength. We need a player who will play the majority of our games.

Perhaps Granit Xhaka? Yes, his displays were erratic last campaign, but his will to win and his place in the team are strong. He seems to have the respect of his comrades and with a new man in charge, Xhaka could actually be played to his strengths rather than made to fit.

Other than these two players, we don’t have anyone who should shoulder this immense responsibility. Laurent Koscielny is a fantastic servant for the club, but leader he certainly isn’t. Plus, he is set to miss the first half of the season through injury. Nacho Monreal is the embodiment of consistency, but does he have what it takes to lead the team in difficult circumstances?

Then there is Jack Wilshere. His love for the club is undeniable, and we know he is certainly not lacking in making himself heard, but his future is uncertain – as well as his place in the team. If Jack stayed and picked up his game a little, then he would be a viable choice.

It would seem right now though, that it is a choice of two – and after last season and with a danger of Ramsey not signing a new deal, the Captains’ armband could well be the sweetener Rambo needs to commit his future.