On June 10th June 2008, Aaron Ramsey officially signed for Arsenal for a fee of £4.8 million, amid interest from Manchester United. This Summer, after 371 appearances for the club we all love, his future is sealed, and he will join Italian champions Juventus when his contract expires in July. He’s been a superb servant over an eleven-year period, providing us with countless unforgettable memories along the way. Although his absence will undeniably have a huge effect at Arsenal both on and off the field, the move does make sense from a personal perspective. However, with just one month of games remaining on his current and final Arsenal deal remaining, it begs to question: Is Aaron Ramsey an Arsenal legend?
The argument that you can’t be a club legend without having the silverware to back it up always bugs me. Is it a factor to consider? Absolutely. Is it the be all and end all? Far from it. How can the ability of an individual be determined by the collective achievements of a 23-man squad? For example, during the 2013/14 season, Aaron scored 16 goals in 2,724 minutes of football, whilst providing a further 10 assists during the same period. That worked out as a goal/assist every ~105 minutes. In comparison, Yaya Touré of Manchester City averaged a goal/assist every 110 minutes, and his campaign is one of the best ever produced by a midfielder in England. I’m not suggesting that Aaron was as good throughout the course of the season, I’m just putting his output into context. His return was very impressive, and his side were leading the Premier League table for extended periods. However, he suffered a relatively long-term injury in late December, and Arsenal found themselves in fourth position when he returned in April. Subsequently, if you base Ramsey’s year solely off his league position, it would suggest that he had a mediocre season, when that is so far from the truth. As can often be the case, he was somewhat let down by his teammates, hence why the ‘trophies won’ argument isn’t necessarily an accurate indication to a player’s contribution at a given club. Also, Liam Brady only won a single FA Cup during his time at Arsenal, yet he is considered a legend by most, if not all, of the fanbase. Despite not winning a league title at the club, Aaron won three FA Cups, scoring the winning goal in the final on two occasions.
During his time in London, Ramsey has proven to be a versatile player. He’s featured as a number ten, on the right flank, but predominantly as a number eight in a 4-2-3-1 or, in more recent times, 3-4-2-1. Subsequently, it wouldn’t be logical to judge a player who occupies such a deep position solely on the basis of goals and assists. Admittedly, it is a major part of his game, but he offers so much to the side in terms of workrate, linkup and leadership. He has everything in his locker. He can score, create, bring out the best in others, be disciplined when required and occupy various different positions depending on the current needs of the team. During his 371 appearances for the club, he's found the net on 65 occasions. This makes him the highest-scoring central midfielder in the history of the club. He has also managed 65 assists during the same period; meaning that he is the first midfielder to reach 50+ in terms of both goals and assists since Robert Pirès. Of course, Robert achieved this in 88 fewer games, but he played as a wide midfielder who was almost entirely relieved of any defensive duties. In terms of output vs the biggest sides: Aaron has managed a combined 24 goals/assists vs the current Premier League top six as well as Napoli, Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan. In terms of the spread of his output, it has been relatively consistent rather than individual bursts of form followed by lengthy droughts. Over the past six seasons, he has only failed to reach a minimum of 10 G/A on one occasion – the 2016/17 season. Not to mention that he played 9 games as a defensive midfielder that season and suffered various spells on the sideline, which resulted in him not featuring in a total of 23 fixtures. During the period mentioned, he has averaged a G/A every 157 minutes, which is less that one every two games. This would be a relatively respectable return for a striker, let alone a central midfielder. Also, it is important to note that Aaron virtually never takes set pieces, so his output isn't padded by a large influx of penalty goals. Since signing, only one of his 130 goal contributions have been from a set-piece, it came in our away tie vs Vorskla Poltava in this season’s Europa League groupstage. Outside of his output, Ramsey is one of the hardest workers in the squad, if not the league. He helps out defensively whenever it is required and is a key member of the dressing room, both in terms of leadership and letting his ability doing the talking when necessary.
Attitude off the pitch.
While it doesn’t directly affect his ability on the pitch, the professionalism demonstrated off the field can undeniably influence how their career’s at a given club is remembered by fans. Take Alexis Sánchez, for example. 125 goals and assists in just 166 games for the club is a remarkable return. Absolutely remarkable. However, he spoke out about a possible exit on numerous occasions, had a questionable attitude when things weren't going smoothly for the squad and was near useless for the months prior to his departure because of his impact on the dressing-room/enthusiasm levels. To add to all this, he ended up joining direct rivals in the form of Manchester United, which doesn’t sit well with many fans. As a result, I’m not sure that many fans would class him as a club legend. Was he a top player? Absolutely. Is he a club great? Not for me. However, in the case of Ramsey, his mindset off the field has in fact added to the admiration that many fans have for him. A prime example is when he was forced to play out wide for periods of the 2014/15 season. It was clear that his preferred position was in the center, yet he never complained, got on with his work and continued to give 100% for the manager, the team and the fans. Despite being at the club for eleven years, I can't remember a single moment when Aaron has let down the values that the club stands for. This season, when contract talks broke down with the club, he never spoke to the media in an attempt to attract potential suitors and he never considered joining a direct domestic rival. Instead, he travelled to Ukraine with the second-string players. He never once complained, nor questioned why a player of his quality wasn’t getting opportunities with the first XI. He remained a model professional and always worked hard, taking the opportunities when they presented themselves to him. So much so, that he managed to force his way back into the team and was a major factor in our top four race and Europa League journey until he picked up an injury in Naples. Many players tarnish their legacy when a departure seems inevitable, but Aaron has done exactly the opposite, and for that, he deserves immense credit.
For me, the answer is clear. Aaron is undoubtedly a club legend. People often use the counter argument ‘are you putting him in the same bracket as Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp?’ and my response is simple. Just because you’re not as good as one of the top two players in our history doesn’t mean that you’re not a club legend. He’s had a major impact on the club during his stay and I think we’ll appreciate it even more in the years to come.