Arsenal: Aaron Ramsey can give Wenger the perfect send-off
The 27-year-old is in sparkling form but can he inspire his team to victory in the Europa League?
Declan Rice raised his eyes to the sky. Why, after 82 minutes of stout defensive work, had he ducked under Aaron Ramsey’s cross?
The Welshman didn’t care, with his aimless delivery finding a home in Joe Hart’s bottom corner.
The goal capped a wonderful afternoon for the Arsenal man, whose close control and deft pass set up Alexandre Lacazette’s second goal just minutes later.
It was a game that summed up his talents. At his best, the 27-year-old defies positional logic. He has always delivered when given fewer instructions.
Absolved of defensive responsibility and given licence to drift, his late runs and nerveless finishing offer the Gunners a potent asset.
Keen to impress
Perhaps more than any other player, Ramsey seemed keen to impress on an afternoon that had been dominated by the news of Arsene Wenger’s departure.
“Obviously it’s really tough to take from the group of lads” he admitted to reporters after Arsenal’s 4-1 victory.
“He has believed in us, he has backed us and given us opportunities over the years, especially for me. He brought me here as a 17-year-old”.
A fearsome deterrent
Ramsey, then, will have extra motivation to help provide the kind of send-off that his manager deserves.
Wenger has never won a European trophy at Arsenal and the game against Atlético Madrid on Thursday offers a fearsome deterrent to breaking that record.
If the Welshman performs, however, then Diego Simeone can do little to prepare for him. After a season dogged by injury, he scored his eighth goal in nine games on Sunday. There have even been calls for him to be made permanent captain next season, replacing the departing Per Mertesacker.
“We are communicating,” said Wenger in midweek, when asked about a possible extension to Ramsey’s contract.
The Frenchman will serve no part of those negotiations, but the club will nevertheless be keen to secure the future of a man whose deal runs out in just over 12 months.
A brittle body
Ramsey, who has been linked with Barcelona in recent years, has struggled to reconcile a prodigious talent with a brittle body.
He has missed almost 30 games over the past two campaigns alone. In the course of his Arsenal career, he has suffered fifteen injuries.
Provided he stays fit, Ramsey will be a certain starter under any of the coaches that have so far been linked with the Arsenal job.
His game intelligence is too sharp, and his ability to turn games so acute, that leaving him out of the side would be to rob a team of its most irrepressible weapon.
For now though, Ramsey will focus solely on the next game. Score against Atlético Madrid at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday and he might just bring Wenger the trophy that has so far eluded him.
It is the least that he can do for the coach who has nurtured him from wide-eyed prodigy to ruthless predator.
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