In old money, Aaron Ramsey earned himself a testimonial to top up his pension as he prepared for life as a publican or bog roll salesman. Now, he gets his ‘testimonial’ in the form of a free transfer. No matchday against Crystal Palace or Crotone; no Cardiff City XI or Carmarthen Town pitching up at the Emirates, just a signing-on fee from Juventus. Cold comfort, I’m sure…
Ramsey, with two FA Cup final winning goals, remains a marmite footballer for fans. It’s baffling
That alone ought to put him into the ‘cult hero’ category. Add in the goals against Hull City in 2014 and Chelsea in 2017, and it’s surely a case of signed, sealed and delivered into the pantheon which houses Charlie George, Anders Limpar, Santi Cazorla and Jon Sammels among others?
There was the obligatory injury, this time a shattered leg resulting from Ryan Shawcross’ thuggery. The Stoke defender became the victim and almost as inexplicably, nearly became an international colleague.
2013-14 was his defining year; 16 goals and his one season of double-figure returns – as opposed to double-fingered – in terms of goals. He hit ten or more twice more but was never as effective in front of goal again.
It’s one of those moments; go on and inspire or plateau. It was the latter; important in a team sense but bogged down the
That Was Then, This Is Now
There’s an admirable doggedness to his time at the Emirates. A sense of being willing to subsume himself into the team. Playing out of position on a regular basis and not to his individual strengths.
That’s not to make him out as ‘Saint Aaron’; others throughout football do similar but from an Arsenal perspective, Euro2016 provided a stark contrast. Wales played to his strength of a box-to-box midfielder in a way Arsene never did in his latter years.
And those strengths don’t fit in with Unai Emery’s vision of football. Any doubts about that – and it’s hard to believe there are any – come in the deal struck with Juventus. £140k per week; it’s not budget shattering when you consider the money we waste or at the very least don’t get value for.
It is a defining moment in the post-Wenger era. Laurent Koscielny is a stereotypical Wenger signing from the French leagues, Ramsey is the player who epitomises the second decade. A teasing glimpse of an outstanding midfielder but never fully delivered.
We, Arsenal, Ramsey, we all move on. His is a new chapter in Serie A, reminiscent of David Platt in Juventus terms although I’m sure John Charles comparisons – or as a benchmark – will appear. If he’s remembered half as fondly as Charles, Ramsey will have been a huge success.
Unai Emery wants something different. Denis Suarez is mentioned, Yannick Carrasco on the wing; a cultured passer and a pacey player. Both styles ignored Ramsey’s energetic strengths while the Belgian is quicker than Aaron can be.
All of which is basically saying that we all move on. I see no reason – nor have I ever – to abuse the player. I’ve never understood the animosity he endured; there was never a sensible reason for it but then is there ever?
Onwards and Upwards
At the other end of the scale, there are reports that Unai Emery continues his commitment to the younger players in the squad by blocking Joe Willock moving to Sunderland on loan. Reports suggest Aston Villa will be given short shrift if they come knocking for Eddie Nketiah. Emile Smith Rowe’s suitors suffered the same fate earlier in the season.
Loans are very much the talk of the moment, but keeping hold of players is out of necessity rather than a philosophical decision. There’s some element of wanting to develop young players, of having to due to budgetary constraints, but without new signings, there’s no gristle in the squad. Next season might be the right time, however, certainly for Nketiah, to experience first-team football on a regular basis.
As it is, Aaron Ramsey’s future is resolved. Now it’s time to sort Arsenal’s out.