05 April 2014

Ramsey is 'Lampardish'. Worse comparisons could be made...

Ahead of our trip to Goodison Park, Arsène talked up Aaron Ramsey, who is set to make a return to the pitch albeit not as a starter. We've waited for Ramsey to return for months, and the thumb-twiddling that has ensured has to be filled somehow. In the interim, then, Ray Parlour compared him to Steven Gerrard, and the superlatives attenuating to Ramsey, as well as the credit for our successes early in the season, have grown. Such its the effect of absence; our hearts grow fonder. As we look ahead to his return, then, Arsène has called Ramsey "Lampardish" (his word, not mine), a comparison that highlights Ramsey's goal-scoring and cool confidence.

There are worse comparisons that could be made both for sound if not quality. "Lampardish" sounds to me like a resident of an odd country you'd prefer not to visit, but more to the point, one could do worse than to emulate Frank Lampard, another box-to-box midfielder well-known for his own work-rate, passing, and goal-scoring. Ramsey's early-season form, when he was delivering goals and assists at a rate high enough to merit mentions as a PFA Player of the Year candidate, is even further burnished by his tackling tenacity, an area in which he's still has the third-highest in the squad, despite missing the last three months (thanks to his team-highest tackles-per-game stat).

Back to Arsène's words, though:
The number of goals he has scored is tremendous for a midfielder. He turns up in the box and he is a bit ‘Lampardish’. He gets in the box at the right moment. He is cooler in his finishing now. Before, he always rushed his final ball and he was a bit nervous.
Now, it is a bit early, after a run that spans four-to-six months (if we include a month or two from last season and go up to December) to say that he can continue to score at the rate that merits this kind of comparison in the first place, but it's telling that such a comparison can even be made; such is the rise of Ramsey. The goals, the assists, the cheeky dribbles...he wasn't just playing; he was flowing. IT seemed at times as if he had reached a another level, transcending those around him, and he was playing with such freedom and confidence that others were helpless.

And he's still learning what he's capable of. He's still growing. There are still so many parts to the game that he's still to develop and master, which Arsène went on to comment on:
I expect him to improve on the defensive side of his game, on the technical side of his game - there is room for improvement. He has good vision, a good long ball, I think there is a lot more to come from him. Let’s not forget that he is where he is, and he lost over a year [due to injury].
That injury, of course, which once defined him and threatened to define if not derail his career, is fading from memory, and thank God. For those of us unfortunate enough to have witnessed it, it will always be seared in our hearts. However, with each brilliant performance he turned in, he could use the accolades and the achievements to heal the wounds, physical and emotional, and move beyond it.

The idea that he can still build on his early-season form, that he's still exploring the depths of his potential, boggles the mind. For as good as he'd been, with Gooners voting him Player of the Month four consecutive months to start the season, he's still just plumbing the depths of what he's capable of, both on the ball and in winning it back. Ponder that for a moment.

Just don't get too worked up, not yet. While we may see him sitting on the bench on Sunday, and he may even come off that bench, it's more likely to be a cameo, a tune-up to find his game-legs again, before making a more-complete return against Wigan next weekend. That said, he certainly deserves a hero's welcome, and I am not at all opposed to him marking his return in famous fashion. After all, if he does come on, it's likely to be in the last 20 minutes of the match, a crucial time when matches are won. His return should provide a huge emotional and tactical boost, elevating the play of those around him and lifting the squad for the final run-in.

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