In the desire to produce consistent content, we can all sometimes be too guilty of reading too much into preseason friendlies. One example is the desire to post "5 things we learned" after every single match, which would have you believing that Chuba Akpom was the new Thierry Henry one week, and the new Kaba Diawara the next. Yet, when viewed properly, with the caveat that these games are friendlies and first and foremost for the purpose of match fitness, there is something to be taken out of these matches. One example is the way a team is playing in terms of its shape and style and the ease in which players combine with their teammates. It is hard, then, not to be impressed by the 6-0 demolition of Lyon on Saturday in the Emirates Cup, especially with the nine-minute period where Arsenal scored four times.
The attacking play was fluid, quick, and showed signs of what Wenger has been speaking of throughout the preseason: cohesion. The three goals from open play featured quick exchanges of passing and movement, with Ramsey, Giroud and Oxlade-Chamberlain combining for the second goal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Ramsey and Alexi Iwobi for the third goal, and Ramsey, Özil and Ramsey again for the fourth. The fourth goal was especially indicative of Arsenal's cohesion: Özil, having received the ball from Ramsey, saw the Welshman making a run into the box, and played the pass on the ground into an area that he knew Ramsey would get to and score from. It was a combination that was reminiscent of the beginning of the 2013/14 season, when Özil's passing and Ramsey's late-running opened teams up as Arsenal topped the league. That title challenge was built off of the back of a good ending to the 2012/13 campaign, with Özil providing added stardust and several players, such as Ramsey, improving. Arsenal had a similarly strong end to last season, and there is added quality to the side now, with Alexis Sánchez and Petr Cech strengthening the starting XI, and players such as Gabriel, Calum Chambers and Danny Welbeck adding better depth. There is room for improvement from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott, among others, who can give the extra ten goals that Wenger desires. But if Arsenal are to mount a title challenge, there will have be a strong, central core of the side that shoulders the attacking responsibility.
That core should be Ramsey and Özil, and both should be played in their preferred central positions. Both players spent time out wide last season, and while both did a job from a wider position, they were not at their best. From wide, Özil's ability to drift into positions, as well as control the game with his passing, is compromised, and the natural fluidity that comes into play when Özil drifts is taken away. Ramsey, too, is not as good from wide: the runs he makes are different, he's unable to carry Arsenal on the counter attack as he does in the middle, and his skill set is under utilised in the wide areas, such as his excellent long-range passing.
If there is one potential issue, it is that the perfect partner for Ramsey is likely the Mikel Arteta of two seasons ago. Arteta was able to dictate the tempo and let Ramsey foray forward because of his passing, something that Francis Coquelin lacks. Thus, Ramsey and Coquelin have only played together twice, against West Ham at home, and against Lyon, while Ramsey only played centrally last season after Coquelin's emergence and the return of 4-2-3-1 when Coquelin was either at right back, such as the final 15 minutes at Old Trafford, or off the pitch entirely. Arsène Wenger has played Cazorla and Ramsey together, and there is some potential merit to that partnership, with Ramsey's physical attributes and defensive play able to cover for Cazorla's lack of pace and physicality. The success of that partnership, however, remains to be seen.
Yet, even if the midfield partner for Ramsey is less than ideal, he should still be played in the centre. The understanding between Özil and Ramsey, and their understanding with Olivier Giroud, is excellent, and they compliment each other well. With Alexis wreaking havoc in the final third, having Özil and Ramsey will give Arsenal the creativity and control that they need to score goals, while Ramsey provides energy and physicality in central midfield. Ramsey and Özil already gave Arsenal a chance at winning the league, before injury to both, and to Arsenal's other attacking players, saw them fizzle out. Two years on, with a stronger squad, and after the disastrous results of the 4141 system have necessitated a return to 4231, Arsenal should return to Özil and Ramsey in order to push Manchester City and Chelsea for the full campaign.