Arsenal

The rebirth of Ramsey as a No.10

 • by Adam Newson
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No matter what Aaron Ramsey achieves on the pitch for Arsenal this season, it’s what he does off it which will define the Welshman’s 2018/19 campaign.

The 27-year-old, who has been with the Gunners for ten years, is out of contract at the end of June and is constantly being linked with clubs at home and abroad.

Will he stay or will he go? Only Ramsey can answer that question, yet the speculation will continue and grow as the months pass.

New Arsenal boss Unai Emery knows that full well, which is why he said in August: “I only need his focus on training, the matches and on his performance each day.”

Ramsey has quickly established himself as a key member of Emery’s starting XI, starting four of the Gunners’ opening five Premier League matches. And most intriguingly is that the Spaniard has used the former Cardiff City youngster as a No.10.

It’s a decision that has seen Mesut Özil – who, somewhat ironically, finally took up the No.10 shirt this summer following Jack Wilshere’s departure – shunted out to the right flank by Emery.

And the German isn’t the only star name being redeployed. Striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, brought in for a club-record fee from Borussia Dortmund, last January, has been used out wide on the left flank with Alexandre Lacazette leading the Arsenal attack.

A new Rambo

During his ten seasons at Arsenal under Arsène Wenger, Ramsey played a variety of midfield roles. He was used as midfield pivot in 4-2-3-1 system; a box-to-box role in a 3-4-2-1; and as an attacking threat from midfield in a 4-3-3.

He has also, sporadically, been used as a No.10. However, it was never a position Wenger placed Ramsey in for a period of time, instead trusting Özil to be his creator-in-chief.

Yet over the years Ramsey became a consistent goal threat, often arriving late in the penalty area to finish off chances inside penalty area or from the edge of the box.

In the 2013/14 campaign Ramsey hit 16 goals and has reached double figures in another two seasons. And logic would dictate that playing further up the pitch would enable the Welsh star to become more prolific.

Instead, however, the opposite has occurred. Last season Arsenal’s No.8 had an expected goals per 90 of 0.33 – the 28th-best tally in the Premier League. This term it has fallen dramatically to just 0.08, behind 121 other top-flight stars.

A reason for this, in part, is Ramsey is taking fewer shots on goal. His scoring attempts per 90 in the Premier League have dropped from 2.73 per 90 last season to 1.87 this.

But why?

The simple answer over an admittedly small sample size is that it’s not what Emery wants from his No.10.

As Football Whispers‘ persona radar (below) shows, Ramsey’s game has changed dramatically this season. He has become a facilitator for those around him, a creator of chances rather than the man finishing them.

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The numbers back that up. He is completing more take-ons per 90 than last term, 1.87 compared to 1.41, and is, perhaps most tellingly, playing 2.41 open-play key passes per 90 compared to 0.97.

And given he is now playing in a side which contains two pure finishers in Aubameyang and Lacazette, it makes sense for Emery and the Arsenal players to ensure one, if not both, get the ball close to goal as often as possible.

Tellingly, Lacazette’s touches in the opposition box has marginally increased to 7.97 per 90 from 7.17 while his scoring attempts per 90 is up sharply from 2.76 to 3.91.

While that won’t solely be down to Ramsey’s influence, what is undeniable is that the midfielder is having far more influence when Arsenal have the ball in the attacking third.

He is also helping the Gunners win possession higher up the pitch, averaging 1.87 tackles per 90, an increase from 1.70 last term, when he was playing a deeper role.

So, yes, while events off the field may come to define Ramsey’s season it is clear that on the pitch he is evolving under Emery. Whether Arsenal reap the long-term benefits of this rebirth, however, is another matter.

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