Blog by: One Nil Down Two One Up
I think we can say with some certainty that the two subjects gaining the most attention from the supremely active Arsenal blogging community in September have been German and Welsh. I myself have written on three occasions on Ozil, once seriously and twice not so seriously. However, I have resisted entering the fray when it comes to Aaron Ramsey thus far. I have kept my powder dry, not because his form does not merit my attention, far from it. More because there has been such a barrage of pieces I wanted to hold back unless I felt I had something new to add worth reading.
I have also found it quite laughable how many on social media and in blogs have ‘always believed’ in Aaron and knew he would come good. Well done to those who genuinely did retain full conviction in Ramsey, in the late part of 2011/12 and the first half of 2012/13 but I am not sure you are as large in number as you claim to be. I will not claim to have been a Ramsey advocate wholeheartedly and if I am honest went from believing him ready to step into Cesc’s shoes in the summer of 2011, to doubting if he would ever be more than a good squad player in the space of 18 months.
I certainly saw the potential but was not sure with the emergence of Wilshere and the form of Arteta, where he would fit in on a regular basis. I guess I was unconvinced post his long term injury, how long it might take him to get back to where he should have been and, if an under pressure Arsenal and Arsene Wenger could wait. At no point, I should say, did I ever cease hoping that it would happen for him and I admired the belief that many still had.
His current form has brought back to mind a piece I wrote in support of Ramsey late in 2011/12 when a resurgent Rosicky had taken his place and form had deserted him playing at CAM. My suggestion was that he should look to Ray Parlour as an example and for inspiration. I suggested perhaps it was time he was played wide or in different positions, which would assist him in the long term.
As it transpired, that blog proved quite perceptive as Aaron was indeed asked to play wide frequently in the early part of last season, although not in the 4-4-2 I had hoped for. It was reading this piece again that brought me to dig a bit deeper in the comparison between the career paths of Parlour and Ramsey. It is what I found that was the inspiration for me to enter into the Rambo blogging frenzy. Sometimes you have the seed of an idea and the research disproves it but it is lovely when the facts back the theory.
The theory of Ramsey’s development and sudden form improvement which began last season and has flourished at the start of this was born out of a thought that perhaps it is actual top level competitive game time required to truly see the best of a player. Again, my mind was wandering back to Parlour and how long it took for him to change from solid squad member to top flight regular. Of course this has been impacted for Ramsey as a result of his long term injury, courtesy of this weekend’s opponents and Wenger has spoken on how this set Aaron back yesterday.
The similarities between Parlour and Ramsey and their career path are obvious – both box-to-box midfielders, tough tackling, with the ability to do a job for the team in many roles, playing wide and centrally with equal effectiveness. And yes, an eye for an important goal. However I wanted to look at how many seasons/games it took until both players truly made their true impacts for the Arsenal. We all know there are some players who have the ability to gate crash top level football as teenagers. But for every Owen, Rooney, Cesc or Wilshere there are dozens of Ramseys or Parlours. Most of the greats don’t truly reach their potential until their 20s.
Parlour made his Arsenal debut at 19 and Ramsey at 18, but have a look at the tables below:
|Season||Arsenal Appearances||International Appearances||Total|
|96/97 (Wenger)||36||0||38 (169)|
|Season||Arsenal Appearances||International Appearances||Total|
Parlour had been in and around the Arsenal squad for 4 years consistently involved but never a first choice for any prolonged period until his fifth season in 1996/97. This was Wenger’s first season and Parlour had quickly become a go-to player on the right side of the midfield in the second half of the campaign. At the end of that season, Parlour had played 169 games for Arsenal and he would go on to star for the double winning side in his sixth full campaign, culminating in a man of the match performance at Wembley against Newcastle.
Ramsey had been in and around the Arsenal squad for 4 years last season and there is little doubt that his fifth campaign, like Parlour’s was the one that saw him establish himself as a genuine first teamer. Only Cazorla appeared more for Arsenal in the Premier league than Ramsey in 2012/13. So at the end of last season, how many top flight games had Ramsey played for Arsenal and Wales? 176. And after 5 seasons in which the fifth saw both players truly belong, there was only a difference of 7 games between Parlour and Ramsey!
Parlour’s sixth campaign and his second under Wenger saw himself become one of the first names on the team sheet and it remained that way for the next 4 seasons at least. He is still, of course, the player who has played more games in the Premier League for Arsenal than anyone and with 3 league titles, 4 FA Cups, one League Cup and a European Cup Winners Cup to his name ‘The Real Romford Pele’ is truly a club legend.
At the start of Ramsey’s sixth campaign, Parlour’s successor is a truly complete box-to-box midfielder with an eye for goal and tenacity reminiscent of Razor. I could go on you know – Parlour played right back for 7 games in his break through under Wenger to cover for Dixon and who else have we seen doing that?
“I’d put on a Red shirt and run through brick walls for Arsenal.” – Parlour
Both took circa 170 top flight games to be truly established. Both saw their technique improve with age and indeed their passing and choice of pass. Both, most importantly, whilst never doubted by the faithful for their effort, were doubted by the fans for their ability. If I had been asked in 1995, in the dire latter days of George Graham, which of our young central midfielders I thought would make it I would honestly have had Hughes and Selley ahead of Parlour. Just how wrong would I have been?
If I was asked in the summer of 2012 which of our young British midfielders I thought would make it, I might have said all three, but being honest I would have had Wilshere and Chamberlain ahead of Ramsey. If you asked me now?
It is all there for Ramsey right now and I have the distinct impression that the Welshman is more than ready to accept the responsibility. He is 23 in December and it was in Parlour’s 23rd year that he made the red and white shirt his own. The similarities are evident, but technically I believe Ramsey has more in his locker. We just could be watching something quite special develop in N5 and Aaron Ramsey will be integral to our future success. Ask Overmars, Bergkamp of Henry and I am certain they would all tell you that every great team needs a dynamic engine like Parlour or Ramsey.
You may feel I am stretching the point on the number of games it can take even a great player to truly feel at home in the top echelons of the game in England? If so, love him or hate him, Frank Lampard is arguably the best exponent we have had in club football, at least of a goal scoring box-to-box central midfielder in recent times. No guesses then at what age Lampard was when he earned his move to Chelsea – 23 exactly with 185 top flight games under his belt. He was ready and so is Ramsey.
I will leave the last words to the great man himself:
“I am sure he will be fine,” the ex-England international told Arsenal.com. “Robert Pires did his cruciate while I was at Arsenal and came back. Aaron has a strong body and a strong character for a 19-year-old. He’ll have to work hard on his fitness of course but I am sure he’ll be OK.”
Parlour occupied the Arsenal midfield 466 times and therefore knows something about the quality required ‘in the engine room’. Ramsey has clearly caught his eye.
“I rate him really highly,” he said. “He is an excellent player who can be big for Arsenal in the future. He has gone up a standard this season. I have been really impressed by him this season.”
Ray Parlour on Aaron Ramsey March 3, 2010. After the double leg fracture.
Perhaps Ramsey will be saying something like this when he hangs up his boots.
“What an honour. I’m pleased, because I wasn’t one of those players who stick out and do magical things every game, but I think [the Arsenal fans] liked how I worked.” – Ray Parlour having been voted Arsenal’s 19th greatest player ever!