Why Aaron Ramsey Is Being Restricted by Arsene Wenger and Deserves Less Criticism
Arsenal's performance against Liverpool on Sunday was barely believable in how bad it was, with the defence a disaster, the midfield non-existent and the away side not able to register a single shot on target during the game.
It's the midfield which has come in for particular attention from fans and pundits, as the combination of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey was completely overrun by the trio of Henderson, Can and Wijnaldum.
Gary Neville, who at times during the match was on the verge of a breakdown as he watched the Arsenal defending, sarcastically expressed his disappointment at Ramsey being taken off at half-time.
“They took Aaron Ramsey off, which is a shame because he would have been my man of the match so I could get the post-match interview with him.”
While Ramsey's performance was truly woeful, showing no tactical awareness as he marauded up the pitch as a self-declared centre-forward, the criticism should be aimed at the manager for going into a big away game with a midfield duo of Ramsey and Xhaka.
Wenger has moved to a three-man defence, but has not bought players to fit the system, meaning he is trying to squeeze his existing players into positions they are not comfortable in.
Aaron Ramsey's natural instinct is to make runs forward and try and get himself into the box, a tactic that enabled him to shine in the 2013/14 season with sixteen goals as he was voted Arsenal's Player of the Season.
For Wales, Ramsey is given far more freedom as he operates primarily as an attacking midfielder behind the striker, taking away some of the pressure on him to be disciplined defensively.
It is a position in which he has thrived for his country, making it into the Euro 2016 Team of the Tournament as he produced more assists than any other player and led Wales to the semi-finals.
Therefore, to get the best out of Ramsey, Wenger he needs to change how he's using the Welshman. If Arsenal are to stick with the 3-4-2-1 system, Ramsey would surely be more suited to one of the two positions behind the striker as playing him in a two-man midfield in front of the defence does not get the best out of him.
This would of course rely on Wenger actually signing a defensive midfielder to partner Xhaka and in doing so release Ramsey further forward. It seem unlikely however, as Wenger doesn't yet appear ready to move on from the disappointment of losing Vieira twelve years ago.
Arsenal can just about get away with Xhaka and Ramsey as a midfield duo when at home against teams that will just sit back, as there isn't as much of a defensive requirement on them, and Ramsey's late runs can be key to unlocking defences.
However, as has been seen in the away games at Stoke and Liverpool, they do not offer enough protection to an already shaky defence in matches when Arsenal are under real pressure.
For a man who has come back from a horrendous leg break, and has scored the winning goal in two FA Cup finals, Ramsey gets a huge amount of flak from Arsenal fans and much of it is largely undeserved.
He has been forced to play in a position in which he can't be at his best, having to cover for the fact Wenger has not signed a proper defensive midfielder. Given the freedom higher up the pitch to attack and make runs at will, Arsenal fans could well see a return to the form Ramsey showed four seasons ago.