The Transformation of Aaron Ramsey Into Arsenal’s Not-So-Secret Weapon

In recent seasons, Aaron Ramsey has been too aggressive, too arrogant, and too full of self-confidence. Lacking in pitch awareness, focus and control, he has helped win some games, but also either directly helped to lose or didn’t contribute enough to help win. He’s been cocky, only briefly showing signs of the talent that led Arsenal to sign him and Arsene to believe in him.

Fans and members of the media have speculated about his future, whether or not he would remain in an Arsenal shirt or for how long. Rumors swirled in Internet chat rooms that he might be a bust, another one of Wenger’s projects that would end up in disaster. The bottom line is that the Wales national team captain wasn’t looking like he was ready for the big-time.

This year, he has been off to a drastically different start than years previous. The question is, what’s changed? Well, let’s take a look.

For starters he has always been blessed with natural, God-given ability. No one has questioned his raw talent. The questions were more cerebral. The end of last year he contributed some worthwhile performances, so he did have a modicum of momentum heading into this year’s campaign. Also since his recovery from his horrific leg break in February 2010, he has stayed healthy. Injury free, he has been able to gain more playing time with the Gunners since his loan spells at Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City finished up almost a year to the day since his broken tibia and fibula. The former rugby winger turned football midfielder has been building momentum slowly.

Or perhaps he hasn’t needed to build on anything, rather just unleash those talents, focus those gifts and instinctively know how and, more importantly, when to influence a match. The timing of a pass or challenge is just as important as the quality of either.

So far this year the biggest difference with Ramsey seems to be his overall demeanor. His maturity level may finally equal his talent. He is seemingly more zeroed in on the pitch. It would appear he has internalized his overzealous self-confidence into a laser-like focus that pinpoints exactly when and where a pass is needed and with how much or how little pace. He is reading the game much better. He isn’t running so far forward without support and then not tracking back when required. He is playing his position and doing it in a way that belies his years.

While he may not have quite the imagination or resume of a Xavi, or even a Fabregas, he is off to an excellent start so far this year. What the future may hold for the two-time Welsh Young Player of the Year, only the football gods know. If he maintains the mental aspect of the game, however, and continues to grow and learn, he may very well gain the favor of those who once spurned him. He may even contribute in what every Arsenal supporter wants: a trophy.

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