A feature of Arsenal’s upturn in results over recent weeks has been the presence of their quality attacking players in the side, with Unai Emery starting the quartet of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey in two straight matches, while also bringing Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan on as substitutes to great effect. Playing the good players, and playing better, is perhaps not that surprising, but when looking at how Arsenal’s results have improved on last season, it is emphasizes the importance that Aaron Ramsey has had to Emery’s tactics. Outside of the second game of the season, against Manchester City, Ramsey has not lost when starting in a home game against the Big 6, while he was instrumental in the draw away at Tottenham and as a substitute in the home win against Spurs. The problem, though, is that the perhaps most key aspect of Arsenal’s midfield is leaving in the summer.
Ramsey has been valuable for both his work on the ball and off the ball. Defensively, as Arsenal’s number 10, he led the pressing from the front, giving Arsenal solidity in midfield, while as a number 8 in the last two games, he covered a lot of ground, and won a majority of the 50-50s. His forward runs were as productive as ever; against Rennes, Ramsey’s dart into space behind the defence gave Maitland-Niles the pass, and then Ramsey cut the ball across goal for Aubameyang to tuck it away. With Ramsey not in the side, no one else makes that run, and in part, Ramsey’s forward running, in addition to his long-range passing and creativity in the final third, has given Arsenal’s attack variation, allowing the Gunners to do more than rely on cutbacks from the wingbacks.
The problem for Arsenal is that there is no one else in the squad who combines the attacking quality with the physicality that Ramsey does. And having initially struggled with the particulars of Emery’s system, the adaptability of both coach and player have come to the fore in recent weeks, with the professionalization of both allowing Arsenal to get value out of Ramsey’s last few months at Arsenal. Indeed, as Arsenal move forward, it becomes obvious that players like Ramsey, who provide a lot in both energy, quality and decisive moments, are important for Emery’s vision of Arsenal. Unfortunately for Arsenal, getting a player with the quality of Ramsey is nigh on impossible; it is, after all, why he will be making a lot of money at Juventus.
Yet, Arsenal must find a player like Ramsey. For one thing, number 8s who play in a higher role is Emery’s preference for his number 10, and while the manager has repaired relations with Mesut Özil in recent weeks, Ramsey’s inclusion from the start against Tottenham, and then Manchester United, indicated that the manager wants players with those qualities in the biggest games. And while Arsenal have promising energetic central midfielders in both Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi, neither have the attacking wherewithal to contribute to nearly two-thirds of a goal per game as Ramsey has done this season.
While centre back has long been a necessity for Arsenal this summer, finding a replacement for Aaron Ramsey has shot near to the top of needs that Arsenal must address this summer. With the likely difficulty in finding a replacement perhaps making Arsenal go with an internal solution, letting Ramsey walk away may be a decision both the club and Unai Emery regret in the long term.