independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Wenger hails Ramsey's strength of character

Arsenal boss admits fans' impatience made him consider dropping Wales star last season

Arsene Wenger believes Aaron Ramsey still has room for improvement

ArsEne Wenger has revealed that he was encouraged to consider dropping Aaron Ramsey from home matches last season because of the impatience of fans at the Emirates.

Arsenal supporters have voted Ramsey their player of the month four times in succession this year but he was the focus for some of their frustrations before Christmas last season when he was frequently being used out of position on the right.

Wenger feels that Ramsey can now develop into one of the world's best players and, after the setbacks he has suffered, admitted that seeing him fulfil his potential would be as satisfying as any improvement he has inspired in a player.

"Let's not forget that one year ago people were saying to me, 'it's difficult to play him at the Emirates'," said Wenger.

REGENERATE

"You could see there was an impatience with him at the Emirates. You always are, as a manager, in a period where you think, 'do I push him through and he can go more down or do I give him a breather to regenerate, to get him a fresh start?'

"That's always difficult for us to assess because it is linked to their mental state. When their own confidence is down, of course they are in trouble. But he is a confident boy.

"You have to give him credit for that transformation because he could deal with that. He could come back, never give up, convince everybody that he has the needed quality."

Ramsey has long been admired at Arsenal for the energy he brings to the team -- club statistics show that he regularly covers the most ground in matches -- but Wenger also cites how he would never "hide" during matches.

That was evident even after coming back from a double leg fracture and being questioned by many of the club's own fans.

"We always saw that he had a good engine," said Wenger. "He had another quality in that he does not hide to take the ball. And when he makes a mistake, he doesn't hide again.

"Where he has improved a lot is in his first touch, in his finishing, in the quality of his long balls and in the speed of his vision."

Asked if Ramsey was now "world-class", Wenger said: "He can become. Of course, when you play at Arsenal you need already to be a world-class player because you go through so many selections to finish here. What is for me the most important is, 'has a player gone as far as he could?'

"He's 22 years old. I'm 64 and I still think I can improve so why should a guy who is 22, who can play until he is 35, think he is at the top of his game?"

Victory tonight against Marseille will only guarantee Arsenal's qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League for a 14th consecutive year if Borussia Dortmund fail to beat Napoli.

Should Dortmund win, it will all go down to the final round of matches, with Arsenal still potentially needing to get a result in Naples.

Having drawn Barcelona, Bayern Munich and AC Milan after qualifying only second in their group during the last three seasons, Wenger is determined to stay top.

"If we qualify, maybe we are contenders," he said. "If you look at our recent opponents, we didn't play Mickey Mouse teams. We played Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Milan.

Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile, must beat Napoli at home tonight to keep alive their prospects of reaching the last 16. Last season's Champions League runners-up, who have lost their last three matches, are decimated by injuries. Both central defenders Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic are on the long-term list and left-back Marcel Schmelzer also unavailable.

ARSENAL V MARSEILLE,

LIVE, SETANTA IRELAND/ITV, 7.45

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