A guest post by Kelly Woods @kmwoods02
Aaron Ramsey had his worst game in 12 months against Everton. He tried too hard. He forced things. Yes, he scored a goal, but don’t miss the fact that his performance was poor. And speaking of goals, I’m worried that he’s publicly admitted that he set himself a target of 20 goals this season. Whoa, there, son. Remember, it’s not about you. I know you want to start taking games by the scruff of the neck, but remember to just play your game.
These are all things that have come across my Twitter timeline since Saturday’s game. And I follow positive, considered people, who really do support our players. I know they do. And I respect and value all of them and their opinions – at least I do since I cleaned up who I follow. I cannot imagine what the rest of Twitter is saying, and I really don’t want to try. But if you will, let me articulate how I disagree with almost everything in that first paragraph. And to ask that we consider what it is that we really want from players.
First let me get this out of the way – Aaron was not at his effervescent best against Everton. I support, but I’m not blind. The whole team was out of sorts, and most of what he tried didn’t come off. Also true of other players as well. But let me point out a few things, courtesy of the stats-tastic 7amKickoff and his By the Numbers column for Arseblog:
Out of 69 passes attempted (the most for the team), 12 were misplaced. All but 2 of those misplaced were attacking passes, trying to create a chance. 5 of them were in prime areas, where goal conversion rates are high. One of the aforementioned 2 was just horrible – it went straight to an Everton player and almost gave me a heart attack. Only 4 tackles attempted, 2 of which were successful, and no dribbles. And no chances created. Also, there was that goal.
Ok, so what do stats show? Not the whole story, I’m well aware of that. Aaron’s defensive game was a bit weak and his attacking game was ineffectual on the whole. I think that had a lot to do with not having Arteta next to him, and trying to compete with Jack and Alex for space in the middle. But the question remains – what was he supposed to be doing in this game, and did he do it?
I think we should all come to grips with this fact: Aaron is a flair player. He will always try the Hollywood pass. Some seem to think that he’s changed somehow, that he doesn’t do that anymore. And they see yesterday’s performance as a reversion to a previous flawed way of playing. Nonsense. He has always been this player. By all accounts it’s been so since he was 8 years old. Stories of him demanding the ball from older teammates abound. “Let me do it” has always been his way. His off-pitch personality belies this fact, perhaps, as some don’t expect shy, quiet, introverts to behave this way. But it’s been said of him forever that he “expresses himself on the pitch”.
But, Kelly, I hear you say. Arsene said he told him to simplify his game. To go back to basics. True. But Aaron said this in an interview when asked about that:
“It was a difficult period for me where things weren’t happening the way I would like them to, and he called me in and just told me to simplify my game and get my confidence back that way…I did that for a few games, and then obviously you get more confident as every game goes on, and, yeah, I’m thankful for that.” (emphasis added)
That says to me that simplifying his game was not intended to be a permanent change. At least he didn’t interpret it that way. And Arsene had this to say Saturday:
“He has the engine and he gambles on getting in the box a lot and he has that timing to get where you need to be. He got rewarded like these kind of players do.”
“Gambles.” He gambles. He takes risks. He gets rewarded. He has a “can’t win if you don’t enter” mentality. He has said that he wants to improve his ability to take big games by the scruff of the neck and change them. He has goal targets that he has set for himself. But somehow, all that is now being seen as a potential liability, some sort of indication that he is putting himself above the team. Don’t we want a player that is ambitious? That tries to change games? That wants to score? What do we want, if not that? One of the biggest complaints I hear in games like yesterday is “Somebody DO something! Move, or something!” Yet Aaron tries to do just that, and he has a “poor” game, because it doesn’t come off.
I know I am really preaching to the choir here. This is a supporting group of people, many of whom told me yesterday not to worry, that he just had an off day. But here’s the thing. I’m not worried about him. I’m worried about us. This is exactly what I was afraid would happen. His miraculous exploits last season were a joy to watch. But they won’t continue – at least not like that. He is a marked man now. Teams have found out he is good, he will be given much less room to operate. And he is, by his own admission, still trying to improve his game. I’m confident he will continue scoring us goals. But all this means mistakes will happen. Do we really want to start down the road about how badly he’s played, how he’s struggling for form? Why do we do this? “Uh oh, the old Ramsey is rearing his head. Hope this doesn’t mean last season was a fluke.” It’s like we are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the bad thing to happen to us. Optimism reigns, until it doesn’t.
Here’s my fear. Suppose it doesn’t change? Suppose the next game is the same as Everton – he does a few things brilliantly, but at the same time lots of things don’t come off? What will we say then? Because the haters and naysayers will start in – they’ve already started I would imagine. Despair that we thought we had a “world-class” player, but of course we can’t have nice things, so look, he’s being shit again. I’m steeling myself for that, and I’m ready to defend him. I hope you are, too.