Arsenal progressed into the group stages of the Champions League last night with a 2-0 victory over Fenerbahce, to win their play-off tie 5-0 on aggregate.
Over the two legs arguably the best player on the pitch has been young Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey.
The Wales international has come in for horrendous criticism from the Gunners fans in recent seasons, at times rather undeservedly.
He has been made a scapegoat when Arsenal have produced poor performances and even booed by some Gunners fans.
I have to say I think that Aaron Ramsey is now underrated, but only because he arrived at Arsenal in 2008 as one of the most highly-rated up-and-coming youngsters in the British game.
Ramsey was being linked with moves to a host of top Premier League clubs including Manchester United and Everton, before deciding on moving to north London.
His reputation preceded him and he has struggled to live-up to the hype that surrounded him when he first established himself in the Cardiff first team. As a young British starlet expectations were inflated by the media and probably the people around him and they were difficult for Ramsey to live-up to.
In Wales Ramsey seems to be held in high esteem and became the countries youngest ever captain at just 21 years old. The reason for his elevation to captain was because Ramsey is mature beyond his years, a man’s head on young shoulders.
That maturity must have helped Ramsey through the times when he was being berated and criticised for his performances in an Arsenal shirt. Ramsey has already shown good strength of character for such a young man.
Aaron Ramsey has made a very strong start to the campaign and has been one of the Gunners best players so far this season. His drive and industry from midfield have kept the Gunners midfield ticking over.
Ramsey has definitely outshone England’s great hope Jack Wilshere, who Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has been cautious with after the youngsters injury nightmares in recent seasons. Wilshere will no doubt improve as the season goes on and he plays more games.
However, for now it is Aaron Ramsey that is making the vital contribution from midfield and showing just why he was so highly-rated in the early part of his career.
Over the two legs against Fenerbahce Ramsey scored three of Arsenal’s five goals and got forward to good effect in both games. His starting position as a holding midfield did not stop him getting forward and helping out the Gunners forward line.
I would regard Ramsey as more of an attacking player, than a defensive player, although he can tackle and has decent positioning. It is doubtful that an anchor-man role in midfield will be Ramsey’s position long-term.
He is just playing in that position as a stop-gap, but he is not doing a bad job at the moment. The only thing about Ramsey playing in that position is that when he goes forward he may leave a gap which better opposition may exploit.
Aaron Ramsey is a natural attacking player always looking to go forward, drive at defences and creates chances for his teammates. He does not have the natural ability of a more defensive player to know when to go and when to stay, or maybe the same positioning knowledge.
Ramsey and Wilshere have the potential to be a very good partnership in the centre of the park, but maybe the promising young pair need a more defensive player to operate behind them. Arsenal has been crying out for that natural defensive midfielder for years and yet one has not yet arrived.
Ramsey is not the answer to the defensive midfielder problem. He is improving fast though and could be a very good stop-gap until a natural defensive midfielder is found.
I think people forget that Aaron Ramsey is still on 22, as he has been at the club from such a young age. He has the potential to go on and improve massively in the next couple of years. I just hope that if the Gunners do sign players before the window shuts then it will not be Ramsey who makes way for them.
Aaron Ramsey finally looks like he could fulfil his potential in north London after five hard years of ups-and downs. This could be the season that he final shines in an Arsenal shirt and I bet it has not came a second too soon for the youngster.
Could this be the season that Aaron Ramsey proves himself at Arsenal?