Parlour, Ljungberg, Hleb, Rosicky, Nasri…. Who is next in the sequence? Ramsey?

Embrace the position your are given by Wenger

There is a lot of talk about Wenger playing players not in their perceived positions. I have certainly written on these lines and our good pal John Cross deemed it a lesson ‘Le Boss’ should learn after the win over Palace – Namely Ramsey should not be played on the right.

There has certainly been much debate on the utilisation of Ramsey on the right at the end of last season and again on Saturday but that in itself is a non issue for me. I have absolutely no issue with Wenger playing midfielders or at least the type he likes and buys, ostensibly in the ‘wrong’ position. What I do dislike is when those midfielders don’t them play in the position they are given, particularly when the other team have the ball. I would prefer to see Oxlade-Chamberlain rampaging down the right flank, taking players on, providing width and whipping balls into the penalty area but that is the manager’s call.

I know it may well be just me but whilst I have no issue with fluidity and interchange of positions when we are in attack and in possession, I do not like the same when we lose the ball. When we are on the back foot I prefer every player to know their position and role and be back in it as swiftly as possible. I would go as far as to say I actually love seeing wide players switching to provide new challenges to their full backs. In fact I wish we did it more particularly as Alexis on the left always cuts inside and on the right he might be encouraged to take on the defender on the outside. If this was the case it would be fine as long as each wide player knew which side they were on at the time and on which side they should be dripping to support the their own full back. However when I do have a problem is when the chosen wide player is wandering out of position and then does not do his utmost to get back to their correct defensive position.

The winner at Wembley 2014

Now before you all think this is all about Ramsey it is not. Those reading my blogs in 2013/14 will know that this frustration then was firmly directed at Santi Cazorla. He was playing on the left and whilst many told me he was a winger in Spain, having excelled in his debut season at CAM, he was clearly not comfortable in his position. He was always drifting inside and frequently not getting back into his defensive position when required. I recall being away at Villa Park in the January and when we were comfortably 2-0 to the good Villa pulled one back through Benteke and but for better finishing should have equalised. Both Villa openings came for their right flank where Santi was out of position and could not make up ground or was too weak to defend.

So If Ramsey is to be the first choice for the manager so be it but he needs to embrace that is his position for now and not ‘continually’ wander across the pitch in search of the ball. There will be times for him to do this and numerous times where he can utilises his acute sense of when to burst into the box and get on the end of things. What he does not need to do is to come to the left to receive the ball 5 years away from Santi or Mesut and leave acres of space on the right flank and our attacking too narrow.

The Welshman does not pass as well or have the vision of the German or the Spaniard but he does time his runs into the box and finish better than either of them, both of which he can do from the right. I would love Wenger or someone on the coaching staff to show him some old videos of some of the best players in the Frenchman’s reign all of who wanted to play or arrived as central midfielders and encourage him enjoy and learn from their success.

Ray Parlour – More appearances in the Premier League for Arsenal then anyone arrived on the scene as a teenage central midfield grafter. In 1997 Wenger converted him to the right midfield role and in the first Double year he played 47 games on the right and was Man of the Match at Wembley in the FA Cup Final. A season let us not forget where his flying left wing team mate Marc Overmars christened him the ‘Romford Pele.’ His form saw him break into the England team as a right sided player the following season.

2 Players who embraced the right flank and made history

Freddie Ljungberg – The Swede arrived as a CAM and played much of his later international football as the central attacking midfielder but it too Freddie 3 seasons to truly claim his stake as a regular and it was in Parlour’s old position on the right.

Ramsey can learn as much from our Red Haired hero as any when you think of all the trade mark timed runs into the box on our way to Wenger’s 2nd Double in 01/02. First from the right and from February to May on the left after Pires’s injury, the Swede hit 17 goals, mostly from central positions having timed his run from the flank. Playing wide in an Arsenal team under Wenger you are never solely a provider as Pires notched 13 in a truncated season as well.

Legend Status secured on the right

Freddie never did claim his place centrally at Arsenal, although Parlour had done by then but I would imagine if you asked Ljungberg if he has any regrets playing most of his top flight club career on the right wing and being an Invincible there, I think we can guess the answer.

Alex Hleb – Arrived from Stuggart in the summer of 2005 as a confirmed in the hole No.10 and found himself competing with Ljungberg for the right wing/midfield berth. He played most of his best football wide in a 442 for Arsenal only occasionally being given the role in the hole when we played a 451/4411 in Europe.

From No.10 to Right Midfield

With Wenger if you have technique and attacking flair he will often utilise you in the wide positions and Hleb’s stand out season was the nearly campaign of 07/08 where he played on either flank in the main.

Tomas Rosicky – Having starred at the 2006 World Cup in the centre of the Czech midfield I wonder if he knew when Wenger signed him he would not play there for Arsenal for years? In 2007/8 like Hleb he truly hit a groove in the Autumn/Winter playing on the left of the 4 in midfield. It was his injury that in a large part derailed our campaign for me. Interestingly later in his career he has played some of his best football for the club in the CAM role, at the end of 11/12 and 12/13 – Patience is a virtue!

Mozart – Arrived at CM and then played Left or Right for first 2 seasons

Samir Nasri – Now Samir always coveted Cesc’s role at Arsenal but despite considering himself a central attacking midfielder was never really given the role. In his stand out third season 10/11 the first choice Arsenal 3 behind RVP was Walcott right, Fabregas centrally and Nasri left. From that position he won 3 Player of the months and was nominated for the PFA season award. He scored 15 goals in the style of season Ramsey has in 13/14 where everything he touched turned to Gold.

Nasri 17 goals from the wing 10/11

Perhaps being asked to play wide when you consider yourself a central player who wants to be at the nub of things is not actually that bad.  Particularly if you have the engine and work rate that Aaron Ramsey has.  If Wenger chooses, as I hope he will to stick with Santi/Coq he may well persevere  with Ramsey ahead of Chamberlain on the right.  If this is the plan then Ramsey should embrace it as Parlour. Ljungberg, Rosicky etc did. He does not need to roam the pitch trying to get involved and find himself restricting space, congesting play  or at worst leaving his full back isolated. If he works the flank and supports Bellerin/Debuchy there will plenty of occasions where he can use his attacking instincts and time his runs into the areas from the right.

In fact I would go as far as to say Aaron watch this video paying particular attention to the 01-04 campaigns and tell me, with your assets and instincts you would not thrive on the right midfield/wing.  There are not many players who timed runs into the penalty area to latch on to through balls better than Freddie in his pomp and virtually all his football played out wide but Ramsey could be the heir apparent.

And if you are not Aaron Ramsey sit back and enjoy the show

Until Next time

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  1. The fact that Coquelin cant pass doesnt mean we should play our best CM on the wings. The fact that Santi is into his 30s and thus can no longer rampage down the wings doesnt mean we should put square pegs in round holes. The big problem here is we have a good number of midfielders and are finding it difficult to accomodate all. We’ve been saying for years that we havent replaced Vieira; well Ramsey is our most Vieira like player with possibly more goals in him why should he be sacrificed? We need his qualities in the middle for most games. If its because Coq cant play the ball out of midfield the way Arteta can why did Wenger pass up on Schneiderlin in the first place? Coquelin is proving thus far that the last 6 months was but a purple patch.

    1. Why do you say Coquelin can’t pass? His passing is actually quite decent. Not spectacular, but tidy. That’s all we need from him when Santi is playing alongside him.

      And why was the last 6 months only a purple patch? He’s been good in preseason and decent in the first two games as well. I can’t really see us dropping Coq – and rightly so!

      As for Ramsey, his passing is far from great too (if that’s your sole issue with Coq). And when he starts on the right he still roams infield mostly and makes those runs into the box, as the blog pointed out. So we are still playing to his strengths. And he often serves as a link between Santi and Ozil. While Bellerin provides the width on the right.

      Your comment looks a bit like one that would have read exactly the same regardless of what the blog actually said.

      1. Agree Coquelin has superb passing range. I saw it years ago when he played aa a kid v Shrewsbury and wrote about it then

    2. You’re ignoring the reality that Ramsey isnt a better CM than the 30 year old Santi Cazorla, who makes better decisions with the ball and is better at unlocking the opponents press. Cazorla is better for the team if you have to pick one.

      Ramsey has to become a better CM – or resign himself to becoming a better right midfielder. He doesnt even have to be a “Ljungberg” out there – he could also find a way to be as sold as EDU was. Edu also fancied himself to be a CM but was put on the left side of midfield – successfully.

      Its up to Ramsey to get better. That’s how teams win things.

  2. Had recent debates in twittersphere regarding the topic. I am all for Ramsey on the RW(for now) because it keeps the balance of team, and shape while defending. He is better in possession, a very good attacking player who times his runs to perfection in the opposition box, and defends equally (one of our best tackler). Even if we lose possession when he drifts in, we have Bellerin’s pace to make up, plus Moneral on the other side of the pitch, who only attacks the wing sensibly, meaning we still have defensive numbers and shape. Leaving this engine out of staring 11 simply is not an option. Meanwhile, it is funny how people have started doubting Coq already: after two games into a season, of which everybody played badly in the first and Coq won SIX out of 6 tackles attempted in the second!

  3. as much as i ike carzola, i believe ramsey should be starting in his position , if ozil is having a bad game then carzola should come on for him. chamberlain on the right or theo depending on if giroud starts.

  4. You really hit the nail on the head with the mention of Ljunberg in this article.

    Just like Ramsey, Ljunberg felt he was a CAM being played out of place. But Ljunberg was more intelligent in learning how to interpret the wide role and not be intimidated by it.

    The twist at the current time, maybe the wild card if you like, is Bellerin, who has all the tools to become a new Dani Alves/Roberto Carlos type. The type that basically plays a wing all by himself and allows a Zindane to pretend to be playing left wing while really being a playmaker.

    Alas, Ramsey is no Zidane and it might be maybe one season too early for Bellerin to become the force of nature that we see developing rapidly.

    But they really should both try. Especially Ramsely, who could really give opponents a twist if he varied staying outside with a few well selected runs inside AND a proper go at occasionally made a real tactic of covering as a “proper” right back to help Coquelin cover the space – and in the process letting Bellerin do the wing thing.

    Whatever the case, I think Ramsey right now does not understand how big a season this is not just for Arsenal but for him. If he makes a – MENTAL – step up here, he enables the team to do really HUGE things, not just be a title winner but even a CL contender too.

    All the potential is there, its just for the players to grow the hell up already.

  5. An interesting post which highlights what I feel is very much work in progress for Arsene Wenger. Arsenal are becoming very much more fluid in both line up and play and I fear until we have developed further this could make transitions quite risky and uncomfortable for some time to come. I certainly feel that one of the Coqs strengths is that he reads the game very well and shifts across the line in front of defence to make sure he is giving cover where we are light in numbers. And you are right to say that if Aaron is the worst culprit he is far from alone as Santi and Mesut can also leave us short in numbers from time to time.

  6. Think Ramsey on the right works better with Bellerin in the side than Debuchy
    Bellerin offers natural width with his pace and trickery

    The same people who say Ox should whip balls in also complain that we do not have anyone in the box to attack those crosses

    That gameplan just does not work anymore in the present game

    Midfielders getting into dangerous positions by making intelligent decisions is the name of the game these days and Ramsey is the best we have at playing that role !

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