Aaron Ramsey stole the show once again in a Arsenal shirt last night, scoring the opener as the Gunner took control of their Europa League quarter-final with a 2-0 first-leg win over Napoli.
It was the latest in a string of impressive performances since the Wales midfielder revealed he would be leaving Arsenal this summer to join Italian giants Juventus on a free.
And last night’s goal-scoring efforts have seen journalists, pundits and fans alike ask the same question; precisely, just how has he been allowed to leave?
Here’s how the media and supporters reacted to Ramsey’s performance.
There was a time, somewhere amid the numerous contract stand-offs and the covert briefings, the injury setbacks and the indifferent form, when you wondered whether Aaron Ramsey was in the process of torching his Arsenal legacy. Whether the fans would ever quite forgive him for the manner of his protracted exit. Whether, ultimately, Ramsey would be remembered not for his 11 years of faithful service, but as the man who never quite fulfilled his rich talent, and then walked out on the club for free.
And so, Ramsey’s last few weeks in an Arsenal shirt have been their own devastating riposte. Since his move to Juventus was announced in February, he has been quietly exceptional: committed, decisive, talismanic. Always leave well, the business sages say when swapping one employment for another. And since handing in his notice, Ramsey has ensured that if he ever returns to the Emirates, it will be to an uproarious welcome, rather than the sound of jeers and whistles.
His performance on Thursday night against Napoli was simply the latest in the collection.
Once again the reality of losing Ramsey to Juventus for nothing this summer was exposed for what it is – a ridiculous decision.
There’s nothing Arsenal can do to rectify that situation now, Ramsey’s move to Turin is signed. What they can control is their Europa League destiny, and boy were they intent on doing just that.
Martin Keown, BT Sport
It’s a sad situation but he’s a victim of circumstance. He continues to mature as a player and develop. He’s a real leader now in this Arsenal team.
Playing in a deeper role, as he did under Arsene Wenger – I think that’s the best role for him. If you want Ozil and him in the same team. He’s so imp to everything to do. It’s the energy – the box to box energy. He’s become an outstanding technician.
He’s at his peak and he’s leaving to go to another football club and that’s very hard for the Arsenal faithful to take.
Ramsey will have a dream where he can sign off by winning the Europa league and putting his former team into the Champions League.
You have no qualms with him. When he wasn’t selected he came off the bench, played incredible well – great attitude. I think he’s been harshly treated.
If I was picking between Ramsey and Ozil at the moment it would have to be Ramsey.
Ozil is improving and he’s adding a little bit of quality. But the player that is the most valuable is Ramsey.
You get what you pay for, as the old saying goes. And on this evidence, Aaron Ramsey is worth every penny of the reported £400,000 a week he will receive as a Juventus player over the next four years.
More than a few eyebrows were raised in February when it was announced the Wales international would be moving to Serie A in the summer after running down his contract yet against one of Italy’s most respected sides, Ramsey delivered a performance which underlined just how good he can be. Since the deal was confirmed, he has been the driving force in the revival of Unai Emery’s side as they have reignited their top-four challenge and now have an excellent chance of reaching the Europa League last four for the second season in succession.
Ramsey, in Emery’s words, was “awesome”. The Welshman has excelled ever since his forthcoming move to Juventus was confirmed, and since Emery started playing him in the centre of midfield. “He wants to do something important for us,” Emery said. “He feels a lot for Arsenal.”
Given recent midfield performances, Aaron Ramsey might be more important to Arsenal than he has ever been. Just as he is about to leave. Replacing him will not be easy.
It has been coming all year. Aaron Ramsey will leave Arsenal at the end of the season. In fact, the writing was on the wall when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil were all handed contracts worth more than £200,000-a-week last January. And so it has come to pass.
The sad thing, however, is that irrespective of the time it has taken for his exit to unfold, and thereby the opportunity to prepare for the inevitable departure, Ramsey leaving feels like a real blow to the squad and the Unai Emery era.
That, I believe, is because Ramsey, in the last few weeks, has proven himself more important to the team than almost ever before. He may not quite be playing at the same level as in the 2013/14 season, when he was largely heralded as one of the best players in the Premier League, but his role is more integral to the team than ever before.
And Arsenal fans weren’t exactly thrilled either when they remembered where Ramsey was heading this summer…
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