Ramsey insists harsh lessons learnt this season will help Arsenal move forward

Five years ago the Premier League’s top clubs were all clambering for a 17-year-old Welsh prodigy who’d been shining brightly in the Championship.

The teenage sensation looked set to join the newly crowned Champions League winners, Manchester United, but to everyone’s surprise he chose north London over the North West.

You could be forgiven for thinking we were talking about Gareth Bale, but Tottenham’s star man made the switch to White Hart Lane a year earlier. The player who shunned Sir Alex Ferguson in favour of Arsene Wenger was Bale’s compatriot Aaron Ramsey.

While Bale was being labelled as a curse (he was in the midst of 25 game winless streak for his new club), Ramsey was being hailed as one of the most exciting prospects in British football as Arsenal paid Cardiff City £5 million for his services.

How the Welsh pair’s fortunes and reputations have changed since Ramsey moved into the flat beneath Bale in London. After making a promising start to his Arsenal career, Ramsey’s progress was halted by a double leg fracture in 2010. Over in N17, meanwhile, Bale finally broke his curse and has gone on to become – according to France and Real Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane – the best footballer in Europe right now.

But having battled his way through a difficult few years, Ramsey is determined to not end up as an unfulfilled talent. At 22 he’s a key player for Wales and his growing influence in the Arsenal first team is seeing him getting back to his best for club and country.

“I was shocked when I heard I’ve been at Arsenal five years,” Ramsey tells FFT. “It doesn’t feel that long, but I’ve been through a lot. My career at Arsenal started off really well and then I got injured.

“That was hard and took a lot mentally to overcome. Naturally, that took a while to get over and it really set me back.

“Injury aside, I think it’s gone pretty well for me at Arsenal and now I’m feeling good about myself again.”

Ramsey has found form at just the right time, with Arsenal battling for a top-four finish with Chelsea, Everton and Spurs – the latter driven forward by Bale’s virtuoso performances.

After six wins, one draw and one defeat in their last eight Premier League games there is renewed optimism around the Emirates – a stark contrast to the gloom that engulfed the club for much of the season, following erratic league form and shock cup defeats to Bradford and Blackburn.

The Arsenal fans vented their frustrations from the stands, jeering the team through this difficult period, with some calling for Wenger’s resignation. But, as challenging as the period was, Ramsey insists, the players are better for it.

“You’re not going to be at your best in every game and with the way we play it can be frustrating when we struggle to break teams down that just come to defend – and that’s when the criticism starts,” he says. “That’s when you can hear a few groans in the crowd, and that’s difficult, but we’ve learned a lot. As a professional footballer you have to overcome these things.

“We definitely have a lot of potential and quality players in the team, and we’ve proven that with some of the results we’ve got since then.”

The Gunners are now four points behind third-placed Tottenham with a game in hand and Ramsey believes his team must maintain their rhythm if they are to secure Champions League qualification for a 16th successive season.

“The biggest thing we need to change is consistency. We need to start going on lengthy runs and getting results when we’re up against it,” he says.

“The team gets behind each other and we all believe in what we do and each other’s qualities.”

Champions League qualification aside, the season marks an eighth consecutive campaign without a trophy for the Gunners.


When Ramsey first signed on the dotted line for Wenger, the manager would have sold him a future filled with silverware and glory – but it hasn’t quite worked out that way. While he would have wanted to get his hands on more trophies, the boy from Caerphilly has no regrets. According to Ramsey, he has learned some invaluable lessons during his time in England’s capital, both as footballer and as a person.

“I’ve definitely grown up a lot. When I was at Cardiff I was still living with my parents and then I moved to London and lived with Chris Gunter, who had just signed for Tottenham.

“Knowing someone down here made life easier, but coming to live in London was a big life change.

“There’s a much quicker pace to everything and a lot more traffic. When I was at home my mum would do everything for me. Then suddenly I was on my own and having to buy my own food and cook. I had to grow up a lot – both on the pitch and off it.

“When you come here you learn to play the Arsenal way. That’s not just a style of play, it’s a mentality. Yes, you have to master quick one-two touch passing with lots of movement, but you also have to learn what it is to be an Arsenal player – you have to believe in it.”

He reserves special praise for Wenger – the man who flew him out to the European Championship in Austria and Switzerland in 2008 to persuade him Arsenal was his ideal match.

“He’s a very approachable guy who you can go and ask how you did and what you need to do to improve after every game,” says Ramsey, talking at a coaching session for kids as part of Disney XD’s Aim High on Goalmouth.

“Thatr’s a good thing to have in a relationship. You know where you’re at with him and you know what he thinks you can do to improve.

“He’s helped me in so many ways and that’s why he’s done so well over the years. He’s given youngsters opportunities and developed them into great players.”

Any critics questioning Ramsey’s ability to meet the expectations pinned on him as a teenager should remember the 22-year-old is still far from an established Premier League performer.

Having overcome a loss of confidence following his career-threatening injury, he’s now ready to show his full potential – a quality Wenger has proven track record of nurturing.

The Gunners manager has never lost faith and neither should the cluba’s fans. Ramsey’s career may not have taken a different path to that of his old friend Bale, it may just be moving at a different speed.

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey took part in a training session with Canonbury Primary School for Disney XD’s Aim High on Goalmouth. Be sure to check out Aaron on Goalmouth at 5:30pm on Thursday April 4 on Disney XD