Arsenal are on top of the Barclays Premier League table. The Gunners also currently lead their Champions League Group of Death.
Everything is clicking at the Emirates this season, and somehow, some way, the most improbable of players is at the forefront of their early-season charge.
It’s not Olivier Giroud, the in-form French striker who has earned himself – for now – a stay in the French national side with fantastic play in front of goal.
It’s not Mesut Ozil, the prolific German who Arsenal paid £44 million ($70.7 million) for in one of the highest-profile transfers of the summer.
No, it’s Aaron Ramsey, scorer of just 11 goals in his 150 games before this season. Recipient of a horrific broken leg three seasons ago that left him wondering if he’ll ever play again. Emergency purveyor of right-back in the first half of last year when things were going from bad to worse in North London.
Aaron Ramsey this season, however, is the proud owner of 11 goals this year – most of any Gunner – including the winner against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday in one of the most meaningful European victories in Arsenal history.
The 22-year-old holding midfielder is having a season for the ages, a stunner that has graced us from the depths of Douglas Adams’ Infinite Improbability Drive, and it’s captivating.
His work rate has been astonishing. Of Arsenal’s 1620 minutes played so far this season, Ramsey has played 1,444 of them, second on the team only to defender Per Mertesacker. His 11 goals leads the Arsenal squad this season, and he’s contributed five assists and created 13 chances.
Manager Arsene Wenger has been an admirer of Ramsey from the beginning. While courting the youngster back in 2008, Wenger fought off Manchester United and Liverpool for Ramsey’s signature by flying the player out in a private jet to Austria and Switzerland to watch Euro 2008 while the manager made his pitch.
In September, when Ramsey’s stellar season was still just a protostar, Wenger saw what was coming. “There’s still a lot of improvement to come from him,” the Frenchman declared following a 2-1 win at Swansea. Prophetic.
But don’t just go labeling Ramsey just a goal-scorer all of a sudden. According to Squawka statistics, the Welsh kid leads the Barclays Premier League with 40 successful tackles, proving he plays his role as a holding midfielder just as well, something that makes his manager smile even more than finishing goals.
“I didn’t expect him to score so many goals but he has improved in his passing, his technical quality,” Wenger told the Daily Mail just over a month ago. “He was always in good positions in the box…For me the most important thing is the quality of his game. Aaron is playing well and that is most important, that he continues to improve.”
However, in the past Ramsey was just a role player, a cog in the greater whole. This year, he’s breaking out. “This season he has the confidence and he has an unbelievable engine to get from box to box,” said Wenger. “His ability makes him a dangerous player.”
And what an asset it is for Arsenal to have such a dangerous player. While teams are preparing to defend the likes of Giroud and Ozil, Ramsey is there to pick up the pieces.
A player who once scored so rarely it was commonly joked that he murdered celebrities with his goals is now bagging them at a regular pace. But more importantly, he’s led his team to the top early on with every intention of keeping them there. And he’s got his whole career in front of him.