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Aaron Ramsey

Arsenal to Juventus, Free

Profile
Aaron Ramsey came through the Cardiff City academy, making his senior debut for the club in their penultimate fixture of the 2006/07 Championship season. At 16 years and 124 days, he became their youngest ever first-team player.

He made a further 21 first-team appearances the following season, attracting the attentions of both Arsenal and Manchester United. He eventually chose to sign for Arsène Wenger over Sir Alex Ferguson, and duly spent the following 11 years at the north London club.

The Welsh international had to be patient in his early days at the Emirates, where he competed with Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and later Jack Wilshere for selection. His progress was also undermined by the horrific double leg-break he suffered away at Stoke in 2010.

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If he was slow in making a full recovery, 2011/12 represented his breakthrough as a Premier League player. Following the departures of Nasri and Fabregas, he became a consistent figure in the Arsenal midfield, his dynamism and eye for a slicing forward pass or late supporting run making him increasingly influential.

In both 2014 and 2017, he scored the winning goal in the FA Cup final; and, as one of Wales’ key figures, his contributions helped to inspire them to the Euro 2016 semi finals. He was later named in the team of the tournament.

Wenger’s departure, and Unai Emery’s subsequent appointment and preference for a more rigid and positionally disciplined midfielder, saw Ramsey become a more peripheral figure. When he was dropped following a breakdown in contract negotiations, Juventus capitalised – just as they did with Adrien Rabiot from PSG – to secure the signing on a free of the highest scoring central midfielder in Arsenal’s history.

Tactical analysis
The 28-year-old Ramsey’s priority both with and without the ball is forward penetration. Out of possession he is a keen supporting runner – ideal for a transitional-based team or one that requires runners to support lone strikers. His movements are explosive, and his timing superb, meaning he is excellent at moving as the third-man in a passing sequence. Once the ball leaves the first player – who is making a pass into the second – Ramsey is usually already advancing (above), so the next receiver has a first-time passing option.

For him to be at his most effective, Ramsey’s teammates have to leave various spaces in midfield for him to burst into. A congested central midfield can hinder his running, particularly when he receive passes to his left side. Ramsey is competent on his left, but prioritises his stronger right side; whenever possession is at risk of getting away from him, particularly when he is under heavy pressure, he will always use his right foot – even if that means stretching in an unorthodox manner.

The Wales international has always been an expressive individual, regularly making turns and flicks (above), but in doing so he consistently advances with possession. The deeper he plays, however, the more predictable, slow and often unco-ordinated his performance becomes. When dropping to support teammates he struggles to move possession quickly and accurately, and can risk putting his defence in trouble (below). It is when he is used ahead of the ball that he and his teammates are at their best.

Role at new club
Ramsey is a fantastic, penetrative number 10, who runs in behind at every opportunity, and relishes rotating with a central striker or wider midfielders. Combining with attackers who prefer to come inside with possession – Cristiano Ronaldo or Paulo Dybala – he will find good spaces to attack and create regular chances. His performances for Wales, and understanding with Gareth Bale, have often demonstrated that.

Should Juventus’ new manager Maurizio Sarri remain committed to a three-strong central midfield, Ramsey could be used in a supporting role to make delayed runs from a deeper position (below left). This could make him effective both during transitions and if Juve play directly to Ronaldo or Mario Mandzukic, both of whom are excellent in the air.

At Juventus, Miralem Pjanic tends to start and build moves as the deeper pivot – a role new signing Rabiot could also adopt – while Rodrigo Bentancur and Blaise Matuidi can both regain possession within midfield. Emre Can and Sami Khedira have provided similar movements to Ramsey, but neither have the Welshman’s pace, timing or end product in attacking areas.

Though he is defensively inconsistent, Ramsey has shown himself able to man-mark and disrupt specific opponents. His footballing intelligence should also prove a further asset in Italy, where the Welshman will hope to win the first league winner’s medal of his career.

Aaron Ramsey

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