‘Like Zidane’ – Remembering 2013 Aaron Ramsey

The long-anticipated news has landed. Aaron Ramsey has signed a pre-contract agreement with Juventus. The deal will see him move to Turin in the summer and reportedly earn over £400,000 per week. Eye-watering.

If that figure sounds mind-bogglingly high, Italian sports journalist Gabriele Marcotti offered some clarification on the wage that sounds quite sensible.

His all-action midfield style as a number eight apparently does not fit in with Unai Emery’s tactical vision and therefore the club are not prepared to meet the Welshman’s salary demands.  A new contract was offered back in September, but it is thought to have been far from the £350,000 that Mesut Özil reportedly takes home each week.

So there are less than five months left of Ramsey’s Arsenal career. It’s been an eleven-year spell, since joining from Cardiff City for £4.8 million in 2008. His time at Arsenal could have been derailed completely by the terrible injury he suffered in his second season. He broke both the tibia and fibula of his right leg in a match against Stoke City in 2010. Recovering took time, but recover he did.

Although the Welshman’s time at the club coincided with the barren second period of Arsène Wenger’s reign, he still managed to get his hands on three FA Cups, scoring the winner in two of them. He won his club’s Player of the Year award in 2013-14 as well as last season. It’s also easily forgotten that he made the Euro 2016 Team of the Tournament with Wales.

That 2013-14 season was unquestionably the pinnacle of his time with the Gunners though.

Ramsey started the season by scoring in the first leg of the Champions League play-off against Fenerbahçe, being named Man of the Match in the process. In the return leg, he scored twice to secure an emphatic 5-0 aggregate progression to the group stage for Arsenal.

He wasted no time in transferring that form into the league, capitalising on the absence of Mikel Arteta to turn in a series of stellar complete midfield performances against Fulham, Tottenham, Sunderland, Stoke and Swansea that saw him scoop the September 2013 Premier League Player of the Month award. There were fine goals such as the volley against Sunderland and some intricate build-up play, particularly with frontman Olivier Giroud. Özil clearly enjoyed his company on the pitch too.

On the 19th October 2013, Arsenal welcomed Norwich City to the Emirates Stadium and Ramsey simply toyed with them. It led to Alan Hansen comparing him directly to Zinedine Zidane on Match of the Day. I was quite proud of that memory, but of course the Internet remembers it more vividly.

His goalscoring also continued in the Champions League, with goals in important away wins at Marseille and Borussia Dortmund in the group stages.

There was a nice touch on 30th November, when Cardiff City fans joined in with Arsenal fans in singing Ramsey’s name after he scored two goals against them but chose not to celebrate either out of respect for his former club. Ramsey responded by tapping both hands against his head – known by the Cardiff faithful as the Ayatollah.

By that point, he had a hugely impressive thirteen goals in 21 appearances for club and country. His manager was delighted with his form:

“He’s improved dramatically. For such a young player it’s absolutely fantastic what he is doing.” – Wenger

However, on Boxing Day he suffered a thigh strain in an away match at West Ham. It would see him ruled out for over three months.

He would still have some time to add to his tally when he returned in early April, as well as secure that FA Cup win, the first trophy in nine years for the Gunners.

He made the shortlist for the PFA Young Player of the Year award but it could have been so much more if it wasn’t for the injury he suffered. He looked untouchable in those first few months of the season and was the standout performer. Proof of this is his inexorable price rise from an opening value of £5.5 million in the Fantasy Premier League game to £7.6 million at the point where he got injured.

On an individual level, this was the season of Liverpool’s Luis Suárez and the goalscoring exploits of midfielder Yaya Touré that ultimately propelled Manchester City to the league title over the former. If it wasn’t for the injury that Ramsey suffered, though, it is easy to make the case that Ramsey would’ve been right up there with them.

Still, after that injury against Stoke back in his second season at the club, maybe we should be glad that we saw Ramsey reach that level at all. He deserves credit for that and should be remembered fondly. I know I will.

Cheers, Rambo. In bocca al lupo!

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