By James Goldman
So woeful were Fenerbahce that Arsenal’s crushing win in Istanbul could not be termed a coming-of-age performance, nor was it enough to provide evidence that this squad are destined for greater things.
It was, however, a pleasing reminder that Arsene Wenger’s abiding faith in his British core is not wildly misplaced.
At the centre of this commanding and ship steadying victory was not the silken touch of Santi Cazorla, or the drive of experienced old hand Tomas Rosicky, but the craft, graft and sheer bloody mindedness of Aaron Ramsey.
The Welshman’s career, of course, has been interrupted by a career-threatening injury, as well as chronic loss of form and confidence. Determination and character are not qualities usually associated with Wenger’s most recent sides, but the 22-year-old possesses them in spades.
Indeed, his timely return to form and prominence will no doubt be a source of great pleasure to the man who has steadfastly refused to accept that Ryan Shawcross’s leg-breaking challenge would define Ramsey’s Arsenal career.
Old fashioned virtues are one thing but Ramsey, by some distance Arsenal’s most impressive pre-season performer, is not simply blood and thunder and he proved as much at the ground on which he scored his first senior goal just shy of five years ago.
It was his incisive pass that cut open the Turkish side’s defence and allowed Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs to combine and open the scoring early in the second half.
And while his tie settling second goal 15 minutes later owed much to the lame attempts of goalkeeper Volkan Derimel, the bursting run and powerful shot that followed were symptomatic of a player now willing to accept the additional responsibility his manager has entrusted him with.
The timid teenager who was feeling his way back into life at the heart of a top Premier League club’s midfield is now becoming a man. It has not been an easy road back. Spells on loan at Nottingham Forest and hometown club Cardiff failed to prompt a return to form.
Being stationed out on the right wing, to help shield him from the heat of battle, for long periods of last season was never likely to and indeed failed to help him rediscover the talent that persuaded Wenger to intercept Sir Alex Ferguson’s attempts to sign him for Manchester United.
It would have been all too easy for Ramsey to follow the example of Gervinho, who took the abuse and criticism of Arsenal’s rightly demanding fans to heart, and sink into obscurity. He chose the more difficult path and full credit to him.
He is not alone, however. Arsenal finished with five Brits on the field, while a sixth would no doubt have played had Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain not been at home nursing a knee injury that is likely to keep him out for up to three months.
Arsenal and Wenger are rightly proud of this young crop and the Frenchman is determined to build his next great team around the talents of Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere in particular.
Ramsey and Co alone will only take this team, one that is already playing a right-back at centre-half two games into the new season, so far.
Arsene Wenger has little less than two weeks to supplement the talent he does have at his disposal with a smattering of new faces. Spend wisely and their true talent may well be realised.