What if... Ramsey had been fit for Arsenal all season?

The Welshman produced another dynamic display to mastermind a third consecutive league win for the Gunners as he demonstrated how much he was missed during his three months out
By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent

There was relief for Arsenal worshippers as their team took a decisive step towards a 17th consecutive season of Champions League qualification.

There was even a sense of euphoria, inspired by the polish of the passing combinations once Laurent Koscielny had opened the floodgates by poking in the opening goal. "Arsenal were too good," lamented Newcastle's under-siege manager Alan Pardew.

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4.5 Showed once again what Arsenal so badly missed during his half-season absence with another turbo-charged, dynamic display. Produced one of the passes of the game to send Podolski clear on goal in the first half and opened up the visitors time and again.
But there was also an underlying feeling at Emirates Stadium of what might have been.

Nine trophy-less years and seasons that follow an eerily similar pattern have led to an almost permanent air of dissatisfaction in the red-and-white half of north London.

One of the many frustrations for supporters is the annual injury meltdown that robs the team of key players for months on end in the second half of the season.

Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil all missed large chunks of the campaign just when their star quality was most needed.

But even that gilded trio were not as badly missed as Aaron Ramsey, the club's undoubted player of the season despite missing three-and-bit months with a thigh injury.

Arsenal's recent revival has coincided with Ramsey returning to add much-needed dynamism, energy and power to a midfield that had been so one-paced in his absence.

The Welshman was in effervescent mood against Newcastle, a team who have been marking time since the January sale of Yohann Cabaye sent them delving into summer holiday brochures.

Ramsey was everywhere, winning tackles by his own penalty box, launching inch-perfect 60-yard cross-field passes and making lung-busting runs beyond the opposition centre-backs.

A marathon runner in his youth, his stamina levels are outstanding and he commonly tops all the club's various fitness tests.

But he is far more than just a turf-devouring athlete. With his passing range, vision and ability to finish off as well as start moves, the 23-year-old has developed into the complete midfielder.

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Had a thigh injury, that troubled him even before it forced him off against West Ham on Boxing Day, not troubled him for so long, he could have provided the only genuine challenge to Luis Suarez for PFA player of the year.

It is to Arsene Wenger's credit that he stuck by Ramsey during the dark times, not least the player's troubled return from a year-long ankle lay-off that had such severe mental repercussions.

Once the scapegoat, now he is a darling of the fans. And, one of the first names on the team-sheet. Even academy graduate and Arsenal golden boy Jack Wilshere has to step aside for his fellow Brit, who was always regarded by those behind the scenes at London Colney as the better all-round player.

Moreover, Ozil looks twice the player when he is able to feed passes into the path of Ramsey and Walcott.

While appreciating Ramsey's excellence in the four matches since his return, there will also be regrets from fans that a seemingly innocuous injury robbed him of nearly half a season. Two serious setbacks kept him out for more than two months longer than initially expected.

Until Arsenal update their 20th century injury prevention methods and bring them in line with leading sports clubs around the globe, the team will continue to suffer.