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Thoughts of Ramsey’s Return to Full Fitness


SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal vies with Patrick van Aanholt of Sunderland during the Premier League match between Sunderland and Arsenal at Stadium of Light on October 29, 2016 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

For those that watched the European Championships last summer, they must have been astonished with the performance of the Welsh national team. Reaching the semifinals of their maiden Euros was a monumental achievement but there were certain players that played key roles in reaching that feat. Gareth Bale accepted his talismanic role with full responsibility and scored many important goals for his nation as they progressed in the tournament. Another instrumental player was the blonde Aaron Ramsey that was a vital cog in the Welsh midfield engine and his absence in the semis against Portugal was a bitter pill to swallow.

Unlike Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud that were given extended breaks from their Euro exertions, Ramsey started in the curtain raiser against Liverpool and suffered a recurrence of his hamstring injury that sidelined him for months. In all honesty, his absence from the team wasn’t felt as Santi Cazorla, Granit Xhaka, Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny took turns to fill up the holding midfield slots. Coquelin suffered an injury against Chelsea that paved the way for Xhaka to get an extended run on the side but the Swiss maverick earned himself a red card against Swansea, thereby suspending him for three games.

Arsenal’s depth was on the spotlight, showing how much things have improved at the club, and people tend to forget that a certain Jack Wilshere is plying his trade at Bournemouth because he couldn’t break into the first team. The Gunners suffered a big blow when Cazorla got a knock against Ludogorets a fortnight ago and for some reason, he hasn’t recovered. With the North London derby and a trip to Old Trafford in the horizon, the club would be hoping their Spanish magician recovers on time but with the depth available, Cazorla doesn’t have to be used against Ludogorets tomorrow.

Which brings us to Ramsey. He’s fit again and he’s raring to go. Endured a brief cameo against Sunderland and even managed an assist for Alexis Sanchez. The Welshman will be itching to make up for lost time and with Cazorla out of action, he would be hoping to get the nod for the trip to Bulgaria. His manager, Arsene Wenger, is quite elated about his return to full fitness,

“He is a player who is box-to-box so overall he pushes the team forward. That is what we want in our side. He can play in holding midfield, he can play if needed on the flanks as well. That’s where he is not happy but he can play there as well.”

“He has a tremendous drive, he’s a bit Lampard-ish you know, where he likes to get in the box, likes to shoot from distance and has similar quality.”

However, the manager is trying to be cautious on throwing Ramsey into action,

“I don’t know. I  will have to analyse all that now, with Xhaka back. We play now in the Champions League and then we play Tottenham.

“So I have to see who I rest and who I play without diminishing the chance of the team to win the game.”

With the depth available in the squad, there would be no need to rush Ramsey into action, so that there would be no risk of aggravating his injury, but it’s really heartwarming to know that he’s available for selection.


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A Semifinal Without the Welsh Jesus and Toral Out on Loan Again

After a short break, the European Championships is down to the last four and we would start with Portugal vs. Wales. Portugal are familiar surroundings, as the team has been astonishingly consistent in the Euros, playing their fourth semifinals in the last five competitions. In Euro 2000, they were knocked out by eventual winners, France. They hosted the tournament in 2004 and went all the way to the final only to lose to surprise package, Greece. In the last edition, the country was knocked out by Spain in the semis.

Wales, on the other hand, have exceeded every set expectations to be where they are in the competition. In fact, the only time Welsh football was in the spotlight in an international tournament was as far back as 1958, when Jimmy Murphy’s side went all the way to the quarterfinals in that World Cup before losing to a Pele goal. Pele and his country went on to win the tournament.

This class of ’16 led by Chris Coleman has been consistent from game one till this very moment but what they lacked in talent and skill, they made up for it with sheer determination and industry. Take a look at the back line for instance, Wayne Hennessey is certainly no Manuel Neuer, but he has come goods for his nation in this tournament. Ashley Williams, James Chester and Ben Davies are not world beaters, but they work very hard for each other as a defensive unit. On the flanks, Neil Taylor and Chris Gunter support both attack and defensive superbly.

With Joe Allen, the Welsh Pirlo, and Joe Ledley holding the fort in the middle of the park, Aaron Ramsey has been given the freedom to influence the game as his team’s creative hub, and so far, he has been involved in a combination of five goals and assists for his team. The nation’s talisman, Gareth Bale, has been outstanding the competition with his goals but Ramsey has been one of the contenders for the Player of the Tournament, which makes his suspension today a very bitter pill to swallow.

Ramsey picked up an unnecessary yellow card in the 90th minute when Wales beat Northern Ireland in the Round of 16. Knowing fully well that any foul play from him would see him miss the semis, you’d expect the Welsh Jesus to be on his best behavior against Belgium but on the 75th minute, he picked up a card that has ruled him out of today’s showpiece. A petition has been raised to appeal the decision to suspend Ramsey but I’m sure they appeal will fall on deaf ears.

Luckily, the suspension is just for one match so Ramsey stands a chance of playing in the final if Wales gets a good result today. Good luck to the Dragons in their quest for glory.

Elsewhere, there has been some news in the transfer market, as youngster, Jon Toral, that was snapped from Barcelona with Hector Bellerin in 2011, is set for yet another loan switch to Granada CF this time. Since moving to North London to continue his football education, aged 16, Toral has been playing consistently for the reserves and has been waiting for a chance in the first team.

He was loaned out in the 2014/15 season to Brentford, where he made 37 appearances and scored six goals for the Bees. Last season, after featuring in some preseason games for the Gunners, Toral was shipped out again to Birmingham City, where he excelled with the team, scoring their goal of the season against Ipswich Town, as well as winning the Player’s Player of the Year and Supporter’s Player of the Season award.

With Toral having just one more year left in his contract, shipping him out on loan to another team would mean that if the Gunners fail to offer him a new deal, he would be available on a free transfer to another club. The thing is, a player like Toral, talented as he is, is finding it difficult to break into the Arsenal team due to the vast array of options Arsene Wenger has at his disposal in central midfield. A loan is actually good for the player because he would be limited to more Reserves football if he remains with us this season. It’s only a major injury crisis that can make him get a chance in that central midfield.

Even if Arsenal succeeds and gets him to sign a new contract, the chances of him breaking into the first team would be slim to none, so if only makes some sense to offer him a new deal to get some financial benefit from him when he’s sold. Last time I checked, he cost the club 300,000 quid when we shipped him from Barca’s La Masia academy.

Let’s see what happens as that develops.


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Euro 2016: Thoughts on Ramsey’s Performance Against Belgium

The European Championships is reaching its climax with two teams booking their places in the semifinals of the competition. I’d say that this is the best time to bet on Euro 2016 with William Hill with teams like Wales springing surprises in the tournament.


The Welsh side, led by former Fulham boss, Chris Coleman, has been a class act all tournament long, and last night performance also showed that it’s not always around Gareth Bale. Credit to the Welsh talisman for stepping into the plate with three goals in the competition so far, but in Aaron Ramsey, the Welsh have a vital cog in their midfield that has been a class act for the entirety of the tournament. Maybe it’s the blonde hair, I really don’t know.

Unlike, Arsenal where he plays with some restrictions on the wing, or in the box-to-box role when Santi Cazorla was unfortunately injured, Ramsey has been given the license to roam with ease at Wales, and he’s all over the place for his nation. His first performance against Slovakia was tame but he turned up the screw against Russia, getting a goal and an assist to his name.

When the Welsh fought against Northern Ireland in the Round of 16, Ramsey worked really hard for his team and their place in the quarterfinals were well deserved. Then came Belgium, one of the pre-tournament favorites, with all the big names here and there but that didn’t deter the Welsh from putting up another committed performance.

Belgium opened the scoring with a stunner from Radja Naingollan. The AS Roma-based midfielder has been on Chelsea’s radar for some time but his shot was way too much for Wayne Hennessey to handle. Ramsey got his first assist on the night when he lofted a corner that has headed home by skipper, Ashley Williams. This was a player that was tipped to miss the game.

Ramsey’s second assist on the night was made possible by some brilliant individual play by Hal Robson-Kanu. The Reading striker latched onto Ramsey’s cut back and made a fool out of his marker before slotting the ball past Thibaut Courtois. Wales put the game beyond doubt when Sam Vokes nodded Chris Gunter’s cross late on, and it was curtains for the highest ranked European team in the tournament.


There was some sorrow for Ramsey and Wales when he received a yellow card that would rule him out of the semifinal clash with Portugal. Bearing in mind that all cards would be cleared off in the semis, Ramsey messed up pretty bad to get himself booked.

According to Squawka, Ramsey had two shots, created six chances, made seven crosses, completed three take-ons, had a passing accuracy of 86% and he won 100% of the aerial duels he attempted. A Man of the Match performances in my books.

It has been an awesome tournament for Ramsey and we can only hope he carries this sort of form into the new season with his No. 8 jersey. On the interim, I wish him and his nation well in the Euros as they face another stern test in the form of Portugal.


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