[dropcap]T[/dropcap]itle hopefuls Arsenal recorded an invaluable three points against top-of-the-table rivals Manchester City last night, with a 2-1 victory moving the Gunners into a promising second place position for Christmas.
There is a feeling around the Emirates Stadium that this season could well be the one to see the North London club end its 11-year wait to become English champions – and with good reason.
One of the factors that will play a part in the team’s chances of silverware will be the management of injuries, with it becoming something of a running theme that Arsenal are a team that struggle to keep their best players fit.
A handful of unavailable stars sat out last night’s win over City, while Arsène Wenger’s decision not to add any outfield players over the summer transfer window is keenly revisited by his critics when the side are missing key personnel.
The centre of midfield has been an area of concern, and a perceived weakness, since the days when Patrick Vieira dominated for the North London side.
Early this year Wenger seemingly made his mind up that Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla would be his first-choice pairing, with the duo putting in performances to suggest that it could be a winning formula.
However, with Jack Wilshere also yet to play a single minute of football this season due to another long-term setback, losing both the Spaniard and the Frenchman to injury recently will have had the Gunners boss feeling slightly nervous.
The pair’s absence has afforded a stellar opportunity to Aaron Ramsey, who has been utilised alongside enforcer Mathieu Flamini in the Arsenal boiler room as Coquelin and Cazorla are sidelined.
Arguably the best period of Ramsey’s Arsenal career was in the first half of the 2013-14 season, where he regained full fitness and was an almost unplayable opponent in the heart of the club’s midfield.
The ultimate box-to-box midfielder, the former Cardiff man seemed to be scoring and getting man of the match accolades every time he stepped out onto the pitch, before the dreaded Arsenal injury hoodoo struck.
In recent weeks, there have been signs to suggest that Ramsey can get back to that form by playing his favoured position in Cazorla and Coquelin’s absence.
Although other Arsenal players excelled in the win over City, the 24-year-old was man of the match in my opinion and put in a display that Manuel Pellegrini’s side struggled to shackle. The only criticism was his failure to convert good chances after excellent movement to get into goalscoring opportunities.
Keeping Ramsey fit and at his best over the next month or two will be key in the Gunners’ hopes of silverware this term, while it remains to be seen just what will happen when everyone is fit for Wenger to select from.
The Welshman certainly does not possess Cazorla’s range of passing or Coquelin’s physicality, but his energy, movement off the ball and goal threat add to Arsenal’s performances at both ends of the pitch.
In the long run Ramsey’s best role will certainly be as a central midfielder, with Wenger possessing the task of getting the very best from a player capable of being a real talisman for club and country over the next couple of years.
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