Despite an unspectacular performance, Aaron Ramsey was rewarded with a goal during the North London Derby and almost bagged the winner in the late stages of the game.
The Welshman was certainly better suited out wide on the right in the 2-2 draw rather than his central midfield position next to Francis Coquelin in recent weeks.
Not a holding player
Ramsey has shown next to Coquelin he is a weak link in the midfield duo as Arsenal have severely lacked a deep lying playmaker, a position filled adequately in 2015 by Santi Cazorla.
This was very evident at Old Trafford where Arsenal struggled to move the ball in midfield with neither Ramsey nor Coquelin able to get on the ball in midfield and start attacks in the same frame that Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas or Cazorla have done before him.
He’s certainly not got the defensive qualities either, despite being a high-energy player who can be box-to-box; Ramsey’s game flourishes in the final third of the pitch able to latch onto the end of flowing moves similar to Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard, evidenced in his best season 2013-14 where Ramsey scored 16 goals in 34 games.
Much like Gerrard, who during his time deeper in midfield made mistakes, including a costly slip against Chelsea that effectively cost Liverpool the league title, Ramsey also has a habit of making mistakes with stray passes and being caught out, being the most dribbled past player in the Premier League this season.
The Welshman’s inability to distribute the ball under pressure in deep midfield slows the Gunners attacks down and has been one of the main reasons for their underperformance in recent months.
Ideally, his most favoured position would be behind Arsenal’s striker, however, that’s very much occupied by Mesut Özil who is having by far his best season in England and is irreplaceable right now.
For Ramsey, that means being moved to the right and that might not be the worst position for him as it can allow him to be involved in Arsenal’s attacking moves, as shown in the derby with his innovative finish past Hugo Lloris.
He also wouldn’t be the first player to be shifted out of position and flourish. Freddie Ljungberg joined Arsenal as a shadow striker but with Dennis Bergkamp firmly in that position, Ljungberg found himself out wide.
Although the Swede says his best time at Arsenal was behind Thierry Henry in the Gunners' run to the UEFA Champions League final in 2006, Ljungberg’s best seasons statistically were out wide, scoring 50 goals over four seasons, 17 of which came in 2001-02 when his goals in the latter part of the season were a huge factor in winning Arsenal the double.
Ramsey could learn a lot from Ljungberg’s versatility in the role and could also add much needed creativity to Arsenal’s wide positions, something they lack from Theo Walcott or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who have been wasteful with their opportunities on the right hand side.
The only negative is Ramsey’s defensive ill-discipline, too often against Spurs, Ramsey was found inside and not protecting right-back Hector Bellerin from Erik Lamela and Danny Rose.
However, with Mohamed Elneny’s great league debut against Spurs, Ramsey may find himself out wide to balance the team again once Francis Coquelin returns from suspension.