Played 16, Won 7, Drawn 2 and Lost 7. That’s exactly what Arsenal’s away record reads like in this season’s Premier League. All in all, on the road Arsenal haven’t been very comfortable, and the only reason why they aren’t fighting for the title. The problems have been aplenty, but two issues in particular, have cost the Gunners dear. First, the way opposition teams press against them, not in the middle of the pitch and deep, but also high up the pitch. Second, the distinct lack of shape the teams shows when playing away from home. The first issue depends partially on the second one, and thus the latter is the one we will focus our attention on.

Interestingly, whenever Arsenal lose, along with Arsene Wenger (not without reasons in this case), some predefined names always takes most of the blame. In recent times, Aaron Ramsey and Johan Djourou have had the honour of being in that list. After the recent defeat to QPR, Ramsey was criticized by fans and neutrals alike. But there is something fundamentally wrong in the way, the team was set up, which has affected the way both Ramsey and Arsenal. What do you expect of a player played terribly out of position?

Over the past 4-5 away games, the team selection by AW has shown a definite trend of fielding a LAM, over an orthodox winger. This tactical move makes sense as an increased number of bodies in midfield, should be ideal for our possession game. Yet, as the result at QPR showed, it not only narrows the attacking play, but also leaves Arsenal’s left hand side horribly exposed and prone to attacks.

The victories at Anfield (Benayoun started on the left) and Everton (Ramsey on the left) may have papered the cracks, but the problem remains. Although it has to be said Ramsey did play well against Everton, and thus makes it an even intriguing case as to why he has had such a fluctuating time off late when played on the left?

Being played out of position!
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Aaron started the season strongly, bossing the midfield alongside Arteta, in wins against Swansea, Bolton, Marseille and Stoke. The game against Bolton is a perfect example of Ramsey’s strengths, as he put Walcott through with a beautiful slide rule pass, and also assisted Robin later in the game. He also scored the winner against Marseille after coming on as a substitute.

It is interesting to note how he played as the most advanced midfielder in all the above mentioned games. Thus, his tendency to play through the middle makes him exposed when playing wide. He constantly tends to drop inside, causing a distorted and narrow shape for the team. Oxlade or Gervinho on the other hand, take on the full back, go outside him, cut inside and thus provide a greater attacking threat.

Ramsey’s engine is exemplary, but he isn’t one of the fastest players. He much prefers short passing, give-and-go’s rather than beating his marker for pace, one of the key ingredients into making a good winger. But having said that, he does possess creativity, and his constant diagonal runs against Everton would not have gone unnoticed by the manager, and thus the start against QPR. The fact that the move backfired would be an understatement.

These are heat maps (Courtesy : http://soccernet.espn.go.com) that shows movements of Aaron Ramsey in the matches against Everton and QPR.

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If one takes a good look into the heat map depicted above, it clearly shows how Ramsey, despite being played as a winger/wide attacker, cuts back inside, instead of maintaining the width.

These are heat maps (Courtesy : http://soccernet.espn.go.com) that shows movements of Theo Walcott in the matches against QPR.

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If one compares Ramsey’s movement from the left, with that of Walcott on the right, one can easily see how Walcott maintains the width for the team, while cutting inside only occasionally.

We can go as far as to say that, it was this tactical move that hindered Rosicky’s creativity. The crowding up of midfield was mostly Arsenal’s own making. As Ramsey dropped into the centre, not only did he leave Arsenal exposed on the wings in case the Gunners lost the ball, he also limited the space in the middle of the park for Rosicky to work the ball to the forwards. It hindered entire attacking nucleus, and as a result we often saw Van Persie dropping deep, to help create some chances of note. It didn’t happen, and the much required freedom for Rosicky arrived when Ramsey was substituted in the 70th minute, as it opened up spaces in the middle.

The major reason Wenger sticks with AaronAi??on the leftAi??in these away games is because he wants a more compact midfield. More numbers in the middle means putting the weight of creativity on more than one shoulder, means greater outlets for attack. Perfect tactic, imperfect personnel!

Ramsey is more of a central midfielder, who is better suited to short passing, and making through balls. But on the wing he is a complete waste. Going for someone like Yossi would suit Arsenal just fine, as he can cut in as well take the fullbacks on. More importantly he would offer the width missing when Ramsey plays there, and more defensive cover for Gibbs. Chamberlain is another option and would be the perfect choice, considering he is creative, pacey and tracks back well.

The energy and vision of Ramsey should ensure he always starts through the middle. But luckily for Arsenal and unluckily for the Welshman, Rosicky has been in fine form and is unlikely to lose his place in the team, neither will Arteta. Ramsey, atleast for the moment has to wait on the wings and wait for his turn. But will Wenger allow him to do so? Or will he continue playing him out of position?

Arsenal have three away games left in the league, against Stoke, Wolves and West Brom. It will be interesting to see how Ramsey is used. Expect changes made in the starting line-ups then, as each of these games could be pivotal to our final league position. Complacency is not an option.

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Written byAi??Debarshee Mitra

Follow him on twitter @goonerstar_deb

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6 Responses to “Arsenal’s Corner: Ramsey Is Not Right On The ‘Left’”

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  1. dew says:

    Good for Ramsey. It seems that british players are getting fat supporters in Arsenal. Just to show some little respect for the eyes of many fans, It would be nice if ramsey is not included in the starting lineup against Man city.

  2. bluemoon says:

    Somebody helps me to make Ramsey injured for 6 weeks may be good for Arsenal and AW to worry and concern to put him in the pitch. In the last 10 games, it showed that the team without Ramsey looked good and played pretty well except AW who prefer the fantastic Ramsey and try to put him in the pitch that will destroy team spirit in the future and team loss like QPR ( it just likes play 10 men in the pitch.)

  3. edu says:

    bluemoon, i agree with you. Arsenal’s good run came when Ramsey was initially dropped Vs Blackburn (was it 7-1) then he got injured and missed Spurs, Milan return,Liverpool, Newcastle all big game.
    I think teammates can see how he affects the team, this affects their confidence and performance.
    I would love to see his stats; assists, tackles, % passes completed etc. Am sure they are piss poor.

  4. samintor says:

    somebody help me here….do i see van persie’s body language different, call it languid, for lack of a proper word, whenever ramsey plays? am not sure but i seem to have witnessed it somehow of late.

  5. Raghugovind says:

    Cut the kid some slack he is coming out from injury !!! I don’t understand how all the Gooners have become so intolerant !! Even though we lost the game because of 2 mistakes from Vermalaen everybody is overlooking that and going to ridiculous extent to suggest that Ramsay’s presence is what is stopping Van Persie from scoring !!!! Stop being neurotic !!!

  6. Verminator says:

    I hate to disagree with bluemoon. Remember the shot against Sunderland??