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If Football365 were collectively in charge of Arsenal, we would have sold or loaned out Aaron Ramsey at 12.03am on January 1 after an infuriatingly poor first half of the season. Whether he was played wide on the right, in an advanced midfield position or as an orthodox central midfielder, he had looked way, way short of the quality required by the Gunners to claim a place in the top four. If Fulham or Everton had come calling, we would have gladly accepted £5m and skipped to the shop to buy far too many sweets.
Ramsey was eagerly cast in a role previously occupied by Denilson - the Arsenal player whose shortcomings perfectly illustrated the malaise at Arsenal. Every Arsenal XI that included Ramsey was another indication that things had gone awry at the Emirates. When he lined up on the right wing against Manchester United in November, his utter uselessness was far more frustrating than it was surprising. It wasn't just that he was out of position; he was out of his depth. Arsene Wenger's faith seemed to be entirely misplaced and based on a sepia-tinted version of the Welshman that most of us could barely remember.
This was why Arsene no longer knew.
Fast-forward a few months and Ramsey started Arsenal's last nine, unbeaten Premier League games of the season in central midfield alongside Mikel Arteta. He looked an entirely different player - confident, incisive and intelligent. He was playing in his natural position and revelling in the investment and faith shown by his manager. He carried that form into pre-season and was then excellent in both legs of the Champions League qualifier that sandwiched Saturday's emphatic win at Fulham. It even emerges that he can finish. After scoring just once from 46 attempts in the Premier League last season, he has already scored three goals this season in Europe. Double figures for the season does not look unrealistic.
It turns out Arsene still knows after all.
Watch Ramsey now and you start to understand Wenger's theory that he should not bring in ready-made players that would stifle the development of his young players. He looked at the Welshman, knew that the potential he had shown before his devastating injury was hidden rather than lost and pledged to give him the time and space to be better than anybody he could realistically buy. To Wenger that is real management - far more fulfilling than merely responding to the 'spend some f***ing money' chants by spending some f***ing money.
"Ramsey is a young player and year ago, he was highly under scrutiny," said Wenger on Saturday. "People had major doubts, but I think he deserves huge credit for having moved forward the way he did. We deserve some as well because we continued to develop him and believe in him and all the players we have here. We have good quality at this club, do not forget that."
He's right to take a share of the credit, though we should also not forget that it was Wenger who played Ramsey out of position - exposing him to the jeers of frustrated fans - as he played silly beggars with Theo Walcott in the early part of last season. The Frenchman undoubtedly contributed to his lack of confidence, so taking credit for its rebuilding is a tad disingenuous. Though it's difficult to begrudge him some pride that it turns out he was right to show faith in a player most would have discarded without question.
We're by no means suggesting that Wenger is always right - we would still be able to give him a list of players that he could buy to improve his squad this week - but sometimes even his most ardent critics have to acknowledge that the example of the currently excellent Ramsey certainly helps his case when he argues that he knows rather more than the rest of us about the potential of his players.
@Kpumping, I agree, had Arsenal not sold or lost players in previous seasons (Clichy, Flamini, Toure, Nasri, Fabregas, Hleb, RvP, Adebayor (arguably PV and Henry etc.), it is likely that Arsenal would have put up better displays in Europe and domestically, in those seasons; however, signing Ozil, is not just about the spending of "big" money, it is signaling a new dawn, one where we make a boatload more cash per year and do not need to sell our best players as they will be offered better wages and be playing with better players (special thanks Premier League TV deal, Puma, Emirates). If FFP has any teeth, only Man Utd will be in a better position domestically and in Europe only Bayern, Madrid and Barcelona. So, basically kpumping, Arsenal WILL not be open for business selling their players and this should lead to more domestic and European Success. Plus Citeh and Utd look lost early in the season if I am honest. I think maybe the three big london teams will fight for the title (and maybe liverpool, but still early doors).- yegway