Aaron Ramsey deserves plenty of credit for his half century of goals
When Aaron Ramsey tucked home Arsenal's winner against Swansea on Saturday, the goal had an added significance: it was the Welshman's 50th strike in a Gunners shirt. Reaching that landmark puts him in good company, and it's about time fans recognised the scale of Ramsey's contribution to the Arsenal.
Only 10 other players have scored 50 goals for Wenger's Arsenal. There are the obvious names in there, strikers like Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Robin van Persie and Alexis Sanchez. However, in terms of midfielders, there's just Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires, Cesc Fabregas and (depending on your positional categorisation) Theo Walcott.
Speaking after the Swansea game, Wenger moved quickly to praise Ramsey's milestone strike:
"It's fantastic. When you look at the video of the game again, you see that Aaron Ramsey is always in the box. Many times he could not finish but this season he is calmer with his finishing and what he did today will give him more confidence. I think there are some goals in him."
He's certainly enjoyed a promising start to his Premier League campaign. Ramsey has only made eight starts, but has already racked up three goals. He's certainly getting into dangerous positions with impressive frequency. According to Squawka, Ramsey's nine league appearances have yielded 25 attempts on goal. That's four more than Arsenal's first-choice centre-forward, Alexandre Lacazette.
It's taken him nine years to reach the 50-goal mark, which doesn't initially sound like a particularly impressive ratio. However, it's worth factoring in how much time Ramsey has missed with injury. He also arrived at the club as a teenager and took some time to establish himself in the team.
His best season was probably 2013-14, when he scored 16 times despite a major thigh injury ruling him out for several months. In some respects, that prolific campaign did him as much harm as good. His subsequent failure to match that total has led to unprecedented levels of frustration from Arsenal's increasingly truculent fan base.
It's odd that a player who has twice scored the goal to win Arsenal the FA Cup is not more universally admired by the club's supporters. Someone who's accomplished such a feat would, under normal circumstances, be adored. Ramsey remains a divisive figure at the Emirates Stadium. It is telling that among Arsenal's half-centurions under Wenger, Ramsey and Walcott are probably the least popular among the fans. They're both part of the failed "British core" experiment, and are still associated with the most difficult part of Wenger's reign.
However, there is far more to Ramsey's story than that. After all, this is a man who turned down Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United to join Arsenal. He fought back from a horrific leg break to become a top-class international midfielder, and he became the player to end Arsenal's nine-year wait for silverware with the winner against Hull in 2014.
At 26, there's still so much more to come. If he stays with Arsenal, it's not impossible to suggest he could eventually double his tally and become a fully fledged centurion. If Sanchez and Mesut Ozil leave, Wenger will need to build his teams around stars, and Ramsey is likely to become a pivotal figure. There's also the question of the captaincy to consider: with Per Mertesacker due to retire at the end of the season and Laurent Koscielny seemingly on the wane, Ramsey is likely to be a front-runner in the race to succeed the skipper.
Ramsey deserves to be celebrated, not condemned. He has shown loyalty and quality, and with his current deal due to expire in 2019, Arsenal should make tying him down to a new contract an absolute priority.
James McNicholas is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @gunnerblog.