There was a time when the news Aaron Ramsey was set to leave Arsenal would have made me really sad, but a lot has happened since then to turn me into a cold-hearted b*stard. Let me explain…
For the past 10 years, Arsenal fans have watched as their club slid backwards while we convinced ourselves we were going the opposite way. We’d drunk the Kool-Aid and gone all in. Sure, there were people crying in the streets that Arsene Wenger was ruining the club, but we mocked them and their black bin bags. We had history on our side, we had trophies, we had 49 games unbeaten goddam it!
With the slight passage of time, it occurs to me that some of us who thought we were right, weren’t. We allowed ourselves to be distracted by the vitriol the anti-Wenger brigade spewed forth at every given opportunity so we didn’t have to listen to the core of their argument – Arsenal were stagnating, and change was needed urgently.
As Unai Emery has shown this season, the wound carved over the past five years or so runs deep. This is not something we can fix with a couple of steri-strips and a paracetamol. This squad needs major surgery and Aaron Ramsey could well be the final Wenger sore to be drained.
When he arrived at the club as a fresh-faced Taffy who had rejected Manchester United for Arsenal, he had the world at his feet. But a meeting with Ryan Shawcross on a cold night in Stoke coupled with whatever the hell was allowed to develop in the Arsenal coaching department has seen him fail to fulfill what we still all label as ‘potential’.
He’s 28 now. Well, he’s 27 until he’s 28 in December, but he’s not a kid. He’ll have three kids of his own soon (that’s one more than Raheem Sterling for those keeping count). These should be the best years of his career but his passing stats this season are the worst he’s had since his first season at the club.
Emery has a choice. Ramsey or Ozil. It’s beyond stupid to play the world’s best number 10 out wide to accommodate someone who isn’t even the best Welshman in football. One has a contract worth £350kpw and the other doesn’t. This is not a hard choice for the club who can look back over Ramsey’s career and point to 15 injuries and 113 games missed.
If I’m honest, I didn’t know I felt this way until I started this article. I knew I was less bothered about the thought of Ramsey leaving than I would have been a few years ago, but I had no idea how much I was fed up with the mediocrity we’ve tried to convince ourselves was quality.
Before you Ramsey fanboys get your dragons in a twist, I’m not saying he’s a bad player, I’m just saying he’s maybe not as good as we all wanted him to be. He can still go on to be that player, although he’ll have to move quick, but like with Arsenal itself, Ramsey would probably benefit from a change.
So what do we do now?
Well, we get ready for him joining United or Liverpool or Chelsea and we brace ourselves for him doing well, because he will.
Then we turn back to Arsenal and look at the fertile ground now free from the debris of a decade of disappointment and we pick the spot we want to watch Emile Smith Rowe grow.
This article was first written for Paddy Power