During another boring international break this past November, something happened that captivated the sports media world for several days. On November 14, 2017, during a World Cup playoff game between Denmark and The Republic of Ireland, Christian Eriksen scored a hattrick. Denmark went on to win the match 5-1 and earned a ticket to Russia. While the goals were decent enough, the media blew it out of proportion. This was only against an Ireland team that hasn’t made a World Cup since 2002. For several “journalists,” this was enough evidence to cement Eriksen’s place in the world’s top 10 (no joke)! Sure, there are some great midfielders in the Premier League who deserve to be part of “Top 10” discussions like Hazard or De Bruyne, but Eriksen? Really?
There’s another Premier League midfielder similar in age to Eriksen that is often left out of these discussions, that I believe deserves more credit. I’m of course talking about Aaron Ramsey. While it’s easier to blame an anti-Arsenal media bias for leaving Ramsey out of any discussions, it probably has more to do with his injury record. In 5 seasons with Spurs, Eriksen has only been injured for a total of 55 days (an average of 11 per season). In 10 seasons with Arsenal, Ramsey has missed a total of 669 days (an average of 67 per season). Of course, a majority of his time missed was due to the break he suffered in 2010, but even when you leave that out he still has missed an average of 42 days per season. But, with Ramsey back at his best and a contract negotiation on the line, it’s vital that Arsenal fans understand how important he is (and how much better than Eriksen he is).
In 43 appearances this season, Eriksen has recorded 13 goals and 9 assists. Ramsey has tacked up 10 goals and 7 assists in 29 appearances this season. In terms of a per 90-minute average, Eriksen’s .37 goals and .26 assists pale in comparison to Ramsey’s .49 goals and .34 assists. The Welshman also maintains a higher pass completion rate and successful take-ons per 90. What’s even more encouraging about Ramsey’s numbers is that they’re from a very sub-par Arsenal season. It’s not often that the team has clicked this season, but when it does, Ramsey is often in the side. The pairing of Ramsey and Xhaka has seen continued success this season. When Xhaka can properly cover for defenders and play the role of the deep-lying midfielder, Ramsey is freed up to create.
What Ramsey lacks in raw passing ability, he makes up for it with runs into open space and positioning. I’m willing to concede that Eriksen could probably beat Ramsey in a pinpoint passing or crossing drill, but that can only get you so far. It’s not that Ramsey is lacking talent, because anybody that saw his goal against CSKA Moscow knows that he’s technically-gifted. But he doesn’t have to rely on other teammates to finish his long ball or chip into the box as much as Eriksen might. Ramsey has a knack for slipping into the box unnoticed and wreaking havoc on defences from close range to the goal. It’s that type of play that fits Arsenal’s squad perfectly. Considering they tend to load up the centre of the pitch, a great mover off the ball can confuse and tire a challenged defence.
On top of Ramsey’s better stats this season, when determining top talent you have to look at the trophy case. Ramsey has won 3 FA Cups with Arsenal, most notably scoring the winners in the 2014 and 2017 finals. Eriksen, however, hasn’t won anything since his days with Ajax. So as a word of warning, before you try and make a case for a player being amongst the elite in that position, take a look at the whole picture. If you get too distracted looking at one portion of the image, you just might miss something.