Saturday, September 21, 2013

Will the Ramsey recovery reach a symbolic peak?

Apart from the signing of Mesut Ozil and the scoring form of Olivier Giroud, one of the biggest boosts for Arsenal fans this season has been the form of Aaron Ramsey. He’s not a man that comes across as a player that is looking for the limelight, but when he had Manchester United and Arsenal chasing his signature as a teenager, there was always likely to be some focus on his progression.
The early signs were good, and after a season and a half at the club, Ramsey was finding form during the 2009/10 season. What happened next against Stoke City has been well documented, and brings painful memories for Arsenal fans. Coming relatively soon after Eduardo had suffered his horrific injury at Birmingham, to see a bright young player lying on the turf in such agony was tough. The one thing that sticks out in my memory from that moment was the reaction of Sol Campbell. There was a man who had seen a lot in his football career and he was apoplectic with rage and horror at the injury.
Whilst too much of the media coverage focussed on the Ryan Shawcross’ reaction to breaking Ramsey’s leg, the reality was that Aaron Ramsey’s career was going to take a huge amount of time to begin to fulfil the potential that had been so apparent before that tackle.
This weekend, Stoke City come to the Emirates Stadium with Aaron Ramsey in the form of his life. Since the Potters returned to the Premier League, Arsenal and Stoke have rarely seen eye-to-eye. It’s an understatement to say Arsene Wenger and Tony Pulis have differing football ideologies, and the tension between the two clubs was only increased with the Ramsey injury. The subsequent booing from Stoke fans of Ramsey is as baffling as it is stupid.
With Ramsey playing so well, even though Stoke are trying to expand their footballing horizons without Tony Pulis in charge, Arsenal fans are hoping for some poetic justice with the Welshman continuing his scoring form this weekend. Whilst he has played plenty of games since returning from the injury, the last six months have really felt like the time that Ramsey has truly returned from the problem. Any psychological issues with going in for tackles, or the huge hit his confidence took from that incident, have disappeared from his game. It was a tragedy that Eduardo never found his form at Arsenal after his injury, and whilst it’s taken Ramsey a long time, it is superb to see him finally escape the shackles placed on him by that tackle.
He is likely to line up in midfield alongside Mathieu Flamini, Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil again this weekend, even though Mikel Arteta will potentially being available again. It will be Ozil’s home debut, and despite Tony Pulis not being the manager of Stoke, they still have players that have a history of being physical in their style of play. It could be an eye opener for the German, so hopefully he’ll be quick enough to escape any tackles should Stoke attempt to give him their welcome to the Premier League.
I understand that Stoke are trying to change their style of play, but they’ve still got a manager that hasn’t always played a flowing game. It’s worth remembering that Mark Hughes once had an argument with Cesc Fabregas about how Hughes couldn’t have played for Barcelona with his style of football when managing Blackburn. He might be trying to improve the aesthetics of Stoke’s football, but I’ll only believe when I see it. Hopefully they will play some more expansive stuff as that could play into Arsenal’s hands on Sunday.
If Aaron Ramsey has another good game on Sunday and can find the net, it would feel immensely symbolic. Ramsey would probably play the moment down, but for Arsenal fans, it would mean a lot. Stoke will forever be a club that could bring out negative thoughts in the mind of Aaron Ramsey, but this weekend those thoughts can be laid to rest as he’s reached the end of his long road to recovery.