Arsenal’s 3-0 battering of Chelsea at the weekend was as welcome as it was overdue.
However, the nature of it has presented Arsène Wenger with a minor conundrum. Namely, just where will Aaron Ramsey fit in when he returns from injury?
Yeah yeah, I know, he’s Aaron Ramsey; the boss will fit him in somewhere. He has to, right?
Well, no, actually.
Arsène’s refusal to just throw in Granit Xhaka despite spending upwards of £30m on him hints at two things:
a) Arsenal’s massive strength in depth and
b) A new way of doing things.
Arsène stuck with Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin in the face of repeated calls for one, if not both, of the two to be dropped (my Twitter timeline on Saturday afternoon was a right sight).
He did so because he believes in the balance of this partnership, of the importance of continuity. In doing so, I think he has been rewarded, eventually, with some quality performances from Coquelin.
Arsène now has the luxury of having a a range of options available to him, but he also now has the option not to have to make a change just because there’s one available to him.
Performances have seen to that.
Clearly, Coquelin’s injury (get well soon Francis) has now given Xhaka a chance to stake his claim in the centre of our midfield.
What we know, what we have seen of this man already doesn’t suggest a man ready to give up his spot without a hell of a fight. Importantly, I don’t think anyone’s in any doubt that he’s good enough to keep that spot.
So, form and injuries permitting, it’s his to lose.
So, could Rambo return alongside Xhaka, in place of Santi Cazorla?
You see, Santi is a classic example of someone being so good, it’s easy to take him for granted.
He has made one of those central midfield spots his own, despite not really being a central midfielder.
I’m reminded of when we signed Mesut Özil and Ian Stone was confidently predicting Cazorla’s demise on the Tuesday Club podcast to which Alan Davies simply laughed and replied “He’s Santi Cazorla!”
I imagine Arsène Wenger has a similar thought process if he’s ever tempted to drop the Asturian genius.
Besides which, the attack minded Ramsey can only really play in that deeper central midfield role with the right partner. Now, it may turn out that Xhaka is exactly the kind of partner to facilitate Aaron turning out there, but we don’t know that he is yet.
Again, Ramsey finds himself on the outside looking for an injury or a suspension to give him a way in.
This is Arsenal, of course, one of the two will happen soon enough.
Wide right, of course this has been a regular posting for the Welshman over the last few years. However, if Theo Walcott keeps up his blistering start to the season.. well, unless you want to shore your right hand side up, you’d have to be bonkers to drop him for Ramsey – no, I can’t believe I just wrote that either.
Aaron has rarely, if ever, played on the left. This leaves one spot in the team – Mesut Özil’s spot. After Saturday night, when perhaps even the highlights package didn’t quite do the German justice, are you prepared to drop “Arsène Wenger’s man”?
Simply put, I suppose, things are as they should be. Aaron Ramsey should not, and will not, just walk back into our first team (hello, new way of doing things!). Bearing in mind his injury history, I would imagine he’ll be quite grateful not to be overloaded on his return.
It is a squad game, after all.
What will be interesting though is what happens if we get months and months into the season and Xhaka, Cazorla and Özil prove indispensable. I know, I know, I’m dwelling in the utopian land of no injuries and suspensions, I’m a fantasist…
Obviously, they will all need to be rested at some stage of the season; he’ll need to take his chance when it comes.
Footballers are not known for their patience, or a lack of self confidence (except Gervinho), I wonder if there might be trouble ahead. We’ve already heard, repeatedly, that Ramsey wants to play centrally.
What does he do if all of our options there are better than him?