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Still better than Barry

One to fill your time for just 24 hours before the next Arsenal game. Not only was Sunday’s game a disappointing one with regards to the final results, it was also a frustrating one to watch because of the abuse Aaron Ramsey was getting from those around me. I had a differing view to what was shouted out around me. What to do next? Chalkboards and numbers to see if I was wrong.

Ramsey v Silva, passing heatmap in the City-Arsenal game

The above picture is the heatmap shown in comparison between Ramsey and David Silva from the same Sunday’s match. Let’s look at a couple of observation.
1) Silva plays more passes from positions higher up the pitch than Ramsey.
2) Silva has a tendency to play the pass from the side more than the middle.
3) Ramsey plays more passes generally from almost the centre of the pitch.

Successful passes

4) Ramsey does not take corners or throw ins, but Silva does.
5) Silva’s passes tends to be shorter and while Ramsey chooses to go with more distance with his.
6) Side passing / passing it behind is generally the same with both.

Unsuccessful passes

7) Silva has more unsuccessful passes further up field than Ramsey, who does it more in the middle of the park.
8 ) Silva takes more risk with his passing when he’s nearer to the opposition goal than Ramsey does.

First of all, I’ve only chosen Ramsey to be compared with Silva because Ramsey is assumed to be creative hub in this current Arsenal side. It’s a bit half-half in that regard because Silva has less defensive duties to perform while Ramsey is more of a box-to-box midfielder. Of course this varies from game to game but in this instance (City v Arsenal), Ramsey does his job more in the deeper 3rd and middle 3rd of the pitch while Silva was more instrumental in the final 3rd of the pitch.

Naturally, when the 4-3-3 or 4-2-1-2-1 formation is used by Arsene Wenger, the comparison with Cesc Fabregas is inevitable. However, with the highest respect to Ramsey, he is not Fabregas. In recent seasons Fabregas has been freed of defensive duties and concentrates more in the attacking side of his game. It would not be fair to rate Ramsey according to what Fabregas was capable of doing.

Ramsey's individual match statistics

This final picture shows Ramsey’s individual statistics from all the Premier League games that he has featured in. The lowest passing accuracy was against Fulham but that can be considered an outlier (players are allowed to be off form once a while). In fact, in all the other games, his passing percentage never drops below the 82% mark. Now, not all players are Xavi or Iniesta who can hit the high 90% in every single game. That tells us that Ramsey rarely loses the ball and can be counted upon by his team mates to give him the ball in any situation. Add to that the consistent number of key passes in each game he’s always involved, either in creating goal-scoring opportunities or stopping an opposition attack.

His shooting accuracy is slightly below that of 25%. This is one area which he can improve. Ramsey constantly makes those late runs into the box or into a shooting position and should at least ensure those shots goes on target. The way he approaches it is no different to what Paul Scholes used to do, though admittedly not on the same level yet.

The criticism labelled against him was that he is a white man’s Diaby/Denilson is very harsh (not racially based comment). Yes, he does slow down the play sometimes and plays the occasional passes to the side or back. However, let’s not forget that he is still learning the game. Not everyone matures as a player at the same rate of someone like Fabregas or even Jack Wilshere. Sometimes, he may take the easy route in terms of passing but it will always be better to retain possession than to lose it taking unnecessary risk. That said, from what I’ve seen this season, when the pass forward is available, he takes it. Of course there are times when he was also reluctant to make the pass and takes one too many touch on the ball.

As is with any young player, consistency is the name of the game. There was a big period in this season thus far where Ramsey was absolutely phenomenal. The away game at Stamford Bridge is a big prove that he can not only perform against the smaller teams but also teams who are direct competitions to us. Consistency also comes with improving fitness. I’m sure none of us can forget how his leg was snapped in two different places by a thug. That took away 1 whole year of development from Ramsey. This is no fantasy football and you can never restart back from a long lay-off where you stopped. Sometimes, the player starts back at the negative side and slowly work his way back. For Ramsey, it is obvious that he still needs to build up his stamina. At the moment, he can tail off towards the last 15 minutes of the game.

The expectation from individuals can never be the same. That’s what makes us human beings special. I accept that Ramsey has not been firing on all cylinders in every single game but I will not accept the notion that he’s not Arsenal material. What say you?