It has been a universally discussed issue about Arsenal over the past decade – just about every midfielder we sign wants to play centrally.
However, due to their versatility or, indeed, their lack of quality, Wenger has been reluctant to position a certain number of players in their preferred role over the past few years.
Given his vast experience, Wenger will usually find these predicaments easy to deal with, but one issue in our current squad may well be giving him food for thought.
After Aaron Ramsey’s sensational campaign in the 2013/14 season, in which he scored 17 goals in all competitions and won us the FA Cup with his famous goal, it seemed as though the leader of Wenger’s new team had emerged.
If Cesc Fabregas was the chief of the team Wenger initially intended to build following our move to the Emirates Stadium, it looked like Ramsey – rather than Jack Wilshere – was our new ‘main man’.
Had it not been for his prolonged thigh injury during that season, we may well have been celebrating another double and the Welshman would’ve inevitably claimed all the individual awards available to him.
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However, as usual in football, the last 12 months haven’t exactly panned out how many would have predicted for Ramsey.
During the opening months of last season, the 24-year-old was troubled by constant hamstring problems and despite netting a few goals early on, he wasn’t hitting the heights he had previously demonstrated.
As Wenger attempted to partner him and Wilshere in a new-look 4-1-4-1 formation, something didn’t seem quite right with both our system and the balance of the side.
However, on the eve of a huge Champions League tie against Borussia Dortmund, Wenger identified the issue and, rather bizarrely, publically criticised Ramsey for his lack of discipline.
“A midfielder is a player who defends well, attacks well and keeps his priorities right,” Wenger told reporters (via Arsenal Player).
“He’s not a goalscorer, so he has not to be obsessed by that. I just want him to do his job well.”
Wenger’s words were both accurate and telling. Ramsey had become too bothered about getting on the scoresheet and almost abandoned the basic expectations of a midfielder.
And, while he was out nursing another injury along with Mikel Arteta, Wenger stumbled across another partnership, who together, possessed all the qualities he was looking for in our midfield.
Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin are neither as prolific nor as energetic as Ramsey. However, our current midfield pairing provide the team with balance and also, in the case of Cazorla, keep the team ticking over in terms of our possession game.
After a summer of complaining and constant promises that he’ll reclaim his central midfield role (via the Mirror), Wenger started Ramsey in the middle against West Ham in our opening game and what transpired was something which obviously displeased the manager.
We looked disjointed and, more importantly, our fluency wasn’t intact with Cazorla not at the centre of our game.
It seemed as though Wenger had given Ramsey his chance, and he wasn’t too happy with what he’d seen. Cazorla was restored for our trip to Crystal Palace and the manager’s comments after the game indicated that he was clear as to how our midfield should function from now on.
“Cazorla is important at the start of the game when the ball comes from our defenders, because he can pass from deep midfield to high midfield better than everybody and get out of pressure,” Wenger told the media after the game (via Arsenal Player).
To put it bluntly, the issue is clear. Ramsey doesn’t possess the technical qualities required for Wenger to build the team around, especially with the boss adhering to our passing philosophy. The stats back it up too.
Most misplaced passes in the Premier League this term: Y.Kaboul (35) A.Ramsey (26) D.Janmaat (25) G.Barry (24) C.Benteke (24) R.Brady (24)
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 19, 2015
Unless, as the former Cardiff man was during the 13/14 campaign, he’s positioned alongside a holding midfielder who can also carry the burden as our deeper playmaker similar to what Arteta did, playing Ramsey alongside a destructive midfielder like Coquelin just doesn’t work.
Mesut Ozil is a genius at picking up space in between the lines and our football relies on continuously finding him in those pockets, Ramsey isn’t capable of that.
While Wenger remains our manager, it’s difficult to see him holding down a regular place in his preferred role, especially given that the boss has just handed Cazorla a new deal.
Follow Mohamuud Jama on Twitter – @Jama_93