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'Awesome' Ramsey's long Arsenal goodbye gets more painful by the week

7:41 pm AEST 12/4/19
Aaron Ramsey Arsenal 2018/19
The Welshman will join Juventus on a free transfer this summer and his fine form of late is only going to make his departure even harder to take

Wind the clock back a few months and there was a feeling around Arsenal that the departure of Aaron Ramsey would not be a significant loss.

The midfielder was seen as a fine player, one who had served the club nobly and scored two FA Cup-winning goals along the way – but it was widely believed that he was not well-suited to Unai Emery's style of football.

The Spaniard had a clear vision of how he wanted his team to operate and Ramsey, whom Emery viewed more as a No.10, did not fit into that vision.

The Wales international was in and out of the starting line-up – with his expiring contract a constant topic of debate. When Ramsey did get a chance to impress, he wasn’t delivering the sort of performances that had become his benchmark over recent years.

Last season’s Player of the Year looked to be heading for a fairly underwhelming farewell – how things have changed now.

As we head into the final few weeks of Ramsey’s stay in north London, the realisation of exactly what Arsenal are losing is beginning to dawn on many.

The 27-year-old, who joins Juventus on a free transfer in the summer, has been magnificent of late and is now at the forefront of Arsenal’s attempts to secure Champions League football once again.

Of course, Ramsey is already guaranteed to be playing in Europe’s elite competition next season. For many, that would be seen as an excuse to just go through the motions. Why bust a gut now, potentially even risking injury, to try to bring success to a club you are leaving?

Granted, Ramsey is a professional, and all professionals should do the job they are paid to do to the best of their ability – no matter the circumstances. But let’s face it, that doesn’t always happen, especially in football.

However, Ramsey is busting a gut to get Arsenal back into the Champions League and, if anything, he is getting better the closer he gets to the end of his contract.

In doing so, he is making a mockery out of suggestions that he is not the type of player who could fit into Emery’s side.

On Thursday night against Napoli, Ramsey played as part of a midfield two, with Mesut Ozil in the more advanced role behind the two strikers and – along with midfield partner Lucas Torreira – he was superb.

Ramsey scored the first goal as Arsenal took control of the Europa League quarter-final, popping up in the box to finish off a flowing move involving Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

And then, after Torreira had added a second, he and the Uruguayan went on to dominate the midfield battle against a Napoli side who were well beaten by the end of the contest.

“Awesome! Awesome!” – Those were the words used by Emery after Thursday night’s game when asked to describe Ramsey’s form.

If there was one criticism of the Welshman against Napoli, it was that he didn’t add to his goal tally in the second half. Presented with a glorious opportunity by Henrikh Mkhitaryan late on, he lifted his effort well over the bar from 10 yards. 

But that one wasted chance should not take away from what was another elite performance from a player who could easily be forgiven for having one eye firmly fixed on Turin. 

“He feels a lot for Arsenal,” said Emery. “When he is with our supporters, he gives us more than all he can to do the best performance, not individually, but in the collective.

“I want to enjoy this moment with him and I want to do something important with him. His focus is very big, he’s thinking of Arsenal only.

“He wants to do something important with us, to help us.”

And that is exactly what Ramsey is doing right now, he is helping Arsenal – in fact, he is inspiring Arsenal at a time when they need him most.

Against Napoli he had five shots, three of which were on target; nobody had more. He also topped the statistics in terms of passing (50) and crosses (4) on the night for the home side.

Should the Gunners go on and ultimately reach the final in Baku, it would mean that his last appearance for the club would be in Azerbaijan on May 29.

“I haven’t thought about that,” Ramsey said when quizzed on that possibility after Thursday night’s victory.

He already has two cup final-winning goals to his name and, on this form, you would not back against him completing the hat-trick next month.

There would be no better way for the midfielder to end his decade-long stay in north London; to turn this long and an increasingly painful goodbye into a fond farewell.