Paris (AFP) – Aaron Ramsey’s man-of-the-match display in Wales’s 3-0 win over Russia at Euro 2016 sent a reminder that there is more to Chris Coleman’s side than Gareth Bale.
The 25-year-old Arsenal midfielder scored his team’s opener in Toulouse on Monday — a smooth, lofted finish from Joe Allen’s pass — and teed up Bale for the third goal, his second assist of the tournament.
He has also had five shots on target, more than any other midfielder, and will be a central figure in Saturday’s last 16 clash with Northern Ireland at Parc des Princes in Paris.
“He gives us something that we haven’t got,” Coleman, the Wales manager, said of Ramsey on the eve of the tournament.
“He can do things in the position he plays that other players can’t do. He can start play on the edge of our box and he can finish it off on the edge of the opposition box.
“Some of the performances I’ve seen him put in are total dominance in a football game from a midfielder.
“They are the best I’ve seen from any Welsh midfielder. That’s how good he can be.”
It has been said that international duty represents an escape for Bale, who has been under constant scrutiny at Real Madrid since his world-record transfer from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013.
The same could also be said of Ramsey.
Approaching his ninth season at Arsenal, he divides opinion among club supporters, with some lauding his talent and work rate while others bemoan his occasional tendency to over-elaborate.
The 2013-14 season represented a watershed as Ramsey scored a career-best 16 goals, topped off by an extra-time winner against Hull City in the FA Cup final.
– Make a statement –
But the two years since have seen him shunted around the team as Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger uses Ramsey’s industriousness to counter-balance the creative gifts of players like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.
Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has described Ramsey as “the best attacking midfielder in the Premier League”. But following a stint on the right flank in 2015, he finished last season plugging a hole in defensive midfield.
With his country he is afforded greater attacking liberty, permitted to strike forward alongside Bale when Wales win the ball.
Ramsey unveiled a striking blond hairstyle prior to the tournament and whether he meant to or not, he arrived in France looking like a man intending to make a statement.