On Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal’s FA Cup Victory And How Winning Heals Reputations

05.17.14 4 years ago 23 Comments

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Football life can’t be better for Aaron Ramsey right now. The Welsh midfielder is currently one of the Premier League’s best talents and, at 23, his best years may be ahead of him.

Also, with his FA Cup-winning goal against Hull City, Arsenal ended their nine-year trophy drought in a shocking 3-2 comeback win in extra time. He’ll forever be tied to the club’s folklore, as his approval rating among fans shoots through the roof.

Ramsey’s rise to prominence comes across as prime for silver screen treatment. However, Gooners and EPL followers would look foolish to suddenly front like he’s been universally supported.

Aaron started his Arsenal career in 2008 as a raw prospect. Ramsey, 17 going on 18 at the time, impressed but encountered growing pains as a sub and infrequent starter. His steady progression as a future star remained intact until 2010 when Ryan Shawcross’ reckless challenge broke Aaron’s leg in two places.

Forget about the play cutting Aaron’s season short. The clash felt career-ending, making some of his teammates look away in horror. The hit became a major talking point at the time and memories of Eduardo’s leg break swirled back into supporters’ minds.

Prayers, well wishes and a long journey in rehab saw Aaron back in an Arsenal shirt in 2011. He made few appearances in the 2010-11 season and didn’t cause much alarm for negative feedback. He came off a horrific injury, didn’t look so out of sorts and showed flashes of potential again.

Then the 2011-12 season rolled around and, for much of Arsenal’s fan base, patience turned to sh*t.

Aaron Ramsey’s first full season back saw him struggle to find any form. He frequently made mistakes, second-guessed himself and became the club scapegoat. His rare goals became meme-ified as they strangely coincided with celebrity deaths, as few people thought he could considerably improve.

He was fit enough to play but many believed his injury destroyed his upside as the 2012-13 season began. He fared better, most notably late in the season as a holding midfielder, but the majority of pundits and fans saw his ceiling as a squad player.

Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger always stuck by Ramsey and spoke highly of him at every chance. Derision towards Wenger and Aaron followed as Le Boss gave him consistent playing time. The usual narrative of “he’s not good enough” hung over Aaron. Such was especially since his counterpart Jack Wilshere returned from a year-long injury and looked good as new. Yet Wenger saw something in Ramsey and always held his confidence–even when Aaron didn’t see it in himself.

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The aforementioned demonstration of loyalty in sports always seems so foolish. Once a player goes bad or doesn’t live up to expectations, the club and fans alike eventually push him out to be someone else’s problem. This “what have you done for me lately?” mentality’s a routine sporting heuristic–for fans, journalists and personnel alike–and, to be fair, oftentimes fills gaps when franchises play their cards right.

Anyone could’ve named a gang of better midfielders than Aaron Ramsey in the English Premier League at the time. It didn’t matter. Aaron Ramsey was Wenger’s project. Everyone had to shut up and deal with it.

Arsene stood by his instinct and it surely paid off this past season. Ramsey scored goals and dropped dimes left and right. Fans collectively wondered who this guy was and what the hell happened to the whipping boy they knew as Rambo. No one complained either way as Ramsey tallied 14 goals and nine assists in 28 Arsenal appearances. The statline includes an impressive ten goals and eight assists in 20 Premier League matches.

The guy Arsenal could’ve done without became the one they desperately needed. He sat out for three months over another leg problem, and his side sorely missed his directness, key passes and ability to get behind defenses. More injuries and bad games saw Arsenal bow out of first place for good but the downturn started with Ramsey’s absence. The saying “Wenger Knows” never rang truer.

Now, Ramsey appears settled as a club hero after sealing Arsenal’s incredible FA Cup triumph. Expect to see Ramsey’s name in lights, far-fetched transfer rumors and mentioned as a “fan favorite”–despite the fact the last one’s not entirely factual.

Onlookers must understand Aaron Ramsey’s path to redemption before they hop on the bandwagon. His arc from a spurned Gunner to a top-class athlete gives proper context to his dramatic feat today. Aaron Ramsey’s story unfolds as a lesson of perseverance and exceeding a bar one’s not meant to meet. Former detractors just have to be honest about his past hurdles, heavily criticized game and the star he’s become.

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