Two Ramsey runs, two Arsenal goals. That’s how important Ramsey has become for the Gunners, who beat Swansea 2-1 on Saturday to stay atop the Premier League. In a tactical first half, Arsenal lacked fluidity in its passing game. But instead of growing frustrated, the Gunners showed maturity and patience to overcome the Swansea defense in the second half.
Giroud took a pass from Wilshere in the 58th minute and lost possession while attempting to dribble past Canas. But Ramsey recovered the ball and fed Gnabry, who fired into the bottom corner for the opening goal. Arsenal doubled the lead four minutes later as Wilshere won the ball in midfield with a sliding tackle. Giroud combined with Wilshere before slipping the ball to Ramsey. The Wales midfielder cut inside Canas to shoot past Vorm for his eighth goal this season.
Ramsey is not a playmaker like Ozil or Fabregas. His impact on Arsenal’s passing game is limited. Ramsey is not a holding midfielder either. His offensive contribution is much more important than what Flamini or Gilberto Silva could offer. In modern football, Ramsey is the perfect all-rounder, a player who can win tackles, make assists and score goals. Although Ramsey does not have Vieira’s defensive skills or Gerrard’s attacking skills, he seems good at everything. His stamina is definitely an asset for Arsenal’s counterattacking game. Ramsey broke forward in the 59th and played Ozil in. The Germany playmaker was clean through on goal but took too much time to pull the trigger. When Ozil finally hit a curling shot, he didn’t have much room left to place the ball as Vorm quickly came off his line to make the save.
Somehow, it’s hard to believe that Ramsey at 22 is a work in progress. Sure, his composure in front of goal is much better than last season. But he still has room to improve his passing and his shooting. Flamini set up Ramsey in the 15th but the Wales midfielder dragged his shot wide from 25 yards. Then Ramsey put Szczesny in trouble in the 27th with a hard backpass. A poor first touch led Szczesny to attempt a dribbling move. The Poland goalkeeper was lucky to see the ball bounce off Michu’s leg and behind the byline.
Gnabry could be having a breakthrough season at 18. On Saturday, the German teenager scored his first goal in the Premier League and will have a few more opportunities to impress Wenger since Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain are still recovering from injuries. Gnabry was betrayed by his inexperience in the ninth minute when Gibbs rounded the Swansea defense on the left wing to make a low cross that sailed behind Giroud and Davies cleared the ball. With Wilshere providing support to Gibbs on the left wing and Giroud making a run at the near post, Gnabry had to rush toward the far post and challenge Davies for the ball. Unfortunately, Gnabry failed to read the play and was outside the area when Gibbs crossed the ball.
Besides the opening goal, Gnabry’s offensive contribution on Saturday was interesting. He dribbled past two defenders on the stroke of halftime to play Giroud in, but the France striker missed the target from 15 yards. Then Ozil fed Gnabry in the 51st, but the low effort from the German teenager lacked power to beat Vorm.
Sagna definitely enjoyed Gnabry’s presence on the pitch as the German winger did a great defensive job. When the manager replaced Gnabry with Arteta in the 77th, Ozil shifted to the right and forgot to track back. That lapse of concentration proved costly as Swansea pulled one goal back in the 82nd. Sagna was marking Pozuelo, which means that Davies had plenty of room to cut inside and connect with an unmarked Bony on the edge of the box. Bony played the ball back to the Swansea leftback, who ran past Mertesacker to flick home.
Ozil is still adjusting to a new environment. He doesn’t have yet the influence that a world-class player should have on his team. He’s so talented that you would expect him to pull the strings in midfield like Fabregas, Pirlo or Schweinsteiger. His pass to Gnabry in the 51st and a through ball for Giroud in the 13th are not enough for a player of such a stature. He also knows that he needs to improve his finishing and his defensive contribution. That’s the next step for Ozil and you can bet that he will make it within four months with Wenger’s insightful feedback.
The Gunners’ defensive performance was outstanding until the 76th. Wilshere made a sloppy pass to Gibbs on the edge of the box. Bony intercepted the ball and forced Szczesny to make a leg save. That was Swansea’s first clear-cut chance of the match. The Poland goalkeeper also turned around the post a long-range strike from Dyer in the 69th. Wenger protected his team’s lead by sending on Monreal and Jenkinson for Ozil and Wilshere in the closing minutes.
Any point earned in September and October is crucial because Arsenal’s injured players will then get more time to recover. If the Gunners were sitting in the middle of the table, there would be more pressure for Cazorla, Walcott, Podolski, Rosicky and Oxlade-Chamberlain to get back into the squad. The top spot also helps conceal the average performances of Wilshere and Ozil. Wilshere lacks confidence and is not 100 percent match fit while Ozil is not playing like the dominant playmaker he should be. They have a few weeks left to be at the top of their game before facing harsher scrutiny.
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