Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are players coming into their prime footballing years, who have been with the club since their teens. They’re two multi-talented central midfielders whom Arsenal fans have been talking up for years and now it’s coming towards that time where our fantasy should be becoming their reality.
Jack, at 23, is the youngest of the pair and joined the club as a 9-year-old; Aaron, 24, was 17 when he arrived at Arsenal from Cardiff City, from whom he’d learned his trade since the age of eight. Despite the cross-border locations of their very early footballing careers, since Ramsey’s signing in 2008, both players have endured remarkably similar fortunes since the beginning of the 08-09 campaign. Long-term injuries, loan spells at smaller clubs, scintillating performances for the first team and disappointing levels of consistency tend to sum up their careers at Arsenal.
At the present moment neither player could be called a guaranteed starter in this season’s first 11. Between the two of them they’ve started only 21 games in the Premier League and whilst both have been hampered by consistent injury lay-offs this campaign, there still hasn’t been enough shown in their appearances to fuel the Wilshere/Rambo midfield pair dream.
There have been glimpses i.e. Wilshere’s performance in the 2-2 draw with Man City was one that rang of a veteran box to box player beyond Jack’s years and Ramsey’s volley in the Champions League group stages against Galatasaray echoed of last season’s star player and FA cup hero. Nonetheless it just hasn’t come together for either player individually or as a duo in recent memory and that’s a concern. With the first team as a whole seemingly moving in the right direction for the most part and a balance forming between our capable but inconsistent defence and our entertaining and potent attack, things feel like they shouldn’t be changed between now and the end of the season.
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To accommodate Wilshere and Ramsey into the Arsenal midfield would require a reshuffle of personnel, formation and tactics. Both players have it within themselves to sit and dictate play or to bomb on from the middle of the park and link up with or run beyond the strikers. It’s fabled that Wilshere can provide adequate defensive cover in the anchor man position however this has never actually been seen by anyone and frankly the guy tackles like Paul Scholes. So, this causes problems.
To play the pair the team would require a proper defensive midfielder either alongside one with the other advanced or directly in behind the two. Coquelin would occupy that 3rd role on current form which sounds good but means losing both Ozil and Cazorla from the team. However, the German, Spaniard and even the likes of Rosicky and Sanchez are both superior attacking midfield options to either a Ramsey or Wilshere playing in an advanced position. As it is Wenger is already playing Cazorla out of position to allow Ozil that role which speaks to the midfield hierarchy at the club right now.
What this means for the next few seasons (barring the sale of or serious injury to Ozil, Cazorla and Sanchez), the time will likely persist with the current system of 4-2-3-1. Because of the pace, technical ability, interchangeable nature and creativity of the players at our disposal in those four attacking positions, it makes sense to play an offensive game and outscore our opponents. Away at Southampton and Chelsea are the only times we’ve failed to hit the net in the Premier League this season. Additionally, with Sanchez and Welbeck often making up half of the attacking foursome, the team gains a lot in its defensive game within the opposition’s half as both are willing chasers.
The consequences for Wilshere and Ramsey are that they will continue to be played separately, with Ramsey the more probable to hold down a regular starting space as the more experienced and athletic player. Ironically, when the two did get regular playing time together at the beginning of this season, it was Wilshere who much outshone a weary-seeming Ramsey. Yet, it’s Wilshere, lined up to succeed Tony Adams as the current generation’s Mr. Arsenal, who will have to round his game and take it to a higher level before he merits a starting midfield place at his beloved club.