With a 2-0 win over Southampton, Arsenal now sits four points clear of the rest of the Premier League. This improvement speaks to the faith that Arsene Wenger has shown in his young players. Wenger has been criticized for not doing enough to keep talents like Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas, but through it all he never lost faith in his young players, particularly Aaron Ramsey.
Wenger's faith in Ramsey was tested when the Welsh international broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg in 2010. And while Ramsey's comeback from that horrific injury has taken longer than most expected, this season he has eliminated any doubt that he can be an elite player.
Through 12 games, Ramsey has not only realized the individual potential that everyone saw in him as a youth at Cardiff City, but he has also been the driving force behind Arsenal's fast start. Wenger has used both tactical shifts and more compatible teammates to transform Ramsey into a consistent two-way player for the top team in the Premier League, and he is my early favorite for the Player of the Year award.
Last year, Wenger made a deliberate decision to rebuild around a British core of young players, who have come up through Arsenal's famed youth system. This group includes Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carl Jenkinson and Wojciech Szczesny. This familiarity Wenger has cultivated on the field has done wonders for Ramsey, who recently pointed out that "when you play with certain players for an amount of time, you understand their game so much better, things happen more naturally on the pitch. I think that has happened this season."
Ramsey's move from an auxiliary wing position to the central midfield this season has played an instrumental role in his establishment among Europe's best midfielders. The move gave Ramsey more control of the midfield, and he now leads the possession-based Gunners with 87 touches per 90 minutes. For some, the fact that Ramsey is the most active player on the league's top team is enough to garner consideration for Player of the Year, but Ramsey's advanced numbers show that his move to central midfield has made him more efficient in other areas as well.
While playing out wide, Ramsey was ...