Ramsey serenaded by Arsenal fans, yet Emery seems content to let him leave
BLACKPOOL, England -- These are strange and confusing times for Aaron Ramsey. The Arsenal midfielder is playing for a manager who sanctioned the withdrawal of a new contract offer earlier this season, but despite being unwanted by Unai Emery, the Welshman knows he has admirers at Juventus, Bayern Munich and Liverpool, all of which are prepared to sign him as a free agent this summer.
And judging by the prolonged chanting of his name by more than 5,000 Arsenal supporters during Saturday's FA Cup third-round 3-0 victory against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road -- "Aaron Ramsey, we want you to stay" was the song being sung -- Ramsey has the vocal backing of the fans in the stands as he enters the final six months of his deal at the Emirates.
The very fact that Ramsey started this cup tie against League One Blackpool highlighted his standing in the pecking order under Emery. Yes, he has been involved on a regular basis this season, but Ramsey has started less than half of Arsenal's Premier League games, and he is definitely not one of Emery's A-listers.
When asked after this game whether he wanted Ramsey to stay, Emery danced around the subject with a non-committal answer.
"I don't know what is the situation," Emery said. "But I am very proud of his commitment and how he helped the team today."
Sources have told ESPN FC that the decision last September to withdraw the contract offer, which had been on the table for eight months, was down to Emery believing that Ramsey did not, and could not, fit the profile of his ideal midfielder. Ramsey, meanwhile, was ready to sign a new deal worth £180,000 a week until it was withdrawn by the club.
Arsenal know that the 28-year-old will run all day long and cover more miles than almost anyone in the squad, but his strengths are more endurance-based than the high-energy requirements of Emery and, as a result, the contract was withdrawn and, since Jan. 1, Ramsey has been free to talk to non-English clubs about a summer move.
Juventus are the front-runners, with the Italian champions making it clear to Ramsey that they want him to bolster a midfield that already contains Miralem Pjanic, Sami Khedira, Emre Can, Blaise Matuidi, Federico Bernardeschi and Rodrigo Bentancur. Bayern also believe they have a strong chance of persuading Ramsey to swap the Emirates for the Allianz Arena, while Liverpool see a highly versatile player who would cost them nothing in terms of a transfer fee if they were to sign him at the end this season.
But if Juve, Bayern and Liverpool are so keen to fight it out for Ramsey, who has been a solid servant for Arsenal since arriving from Cardiff City as a teenager in 2008, why has Emery already written him off as being surplus to requirements? That is a question many of the Arsenal are asking, and they made their concerns known by chanting Ramsey's name during the Blackpool game.
While Ramsey is not in the same league as some of Arsenal's great midfielders of recent times -- such as Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Cesc Fabregas -- he is a consistent, proven Premier League performer, and allowing him to leave for nothing appears to be a bold, maybe even reckless, move by Emery.
The Spaniard was right to cut ties with Jack Wilshere last summer. The former England midfielder had come to the end of the road after too many injuries and missed opportunities at the Emirates, but Ramsey is a player who still has plenty to offer.
At Blackpool, he was measured, solid and reliable, if not spectacular, but that has been the way for Ramsey throughout his time at Arsenal. He overcame a horrific broken leg, sustained against Stoke in February 2010, to rebuild his career and his subsequent success with the club, and with Wales at Euro 2016, has been a testament to his desire and commitment.
But now Arsenal believe they can do without him, and unless the supporters are able to force Emery to change his mind, Ramsey will be off in the summer.
His next move will be a crucial one, too, because there will be no guarantees of regular football at Juve, Bayern or Liverpool, and with Euro 2020 on the horizon, Wales manager Ryan Giggs will not want one of his key players sitting on the bench next season.
Staying at Arsenal will not secure first-team football either, but as Emery rebuilds the team he inherited from Arsene Wenger, he might come to realise that Ramsey is a player worth keeping. Because if he is deemed good enough for Juventus, Bayern Munich and Liverpool, then he is surely a player that Arsenal can't afford to lose.