Ever since Aaron Ramsey arrived at Juventus on a free transfer from Arsenal, he has gelled in perfectly. He seems to understand Maurizio Sarri’s system more than anyone else. When others are taking time, Ramsey has impressed right from the start.
Juventus have played a starkly different style of football over the last decade or so. It used to be defensive and pragmatic. Many players in that team are used to playing that brand of football. While Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi have looked good under Sarri, they’re unlikely to be long-term options.
Adrien Rabiot has struggled with fitness, lack of form and is getting to grips with the new style. The likes of Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic have impressed too.
But coming from a different country and culture, Ramsey had to adapt more than many others. Matthijs de Ligt has been average, being in quite a similar situation to Ramsey. But the Welshman has taken the new country, culture and playing style in his stride to impress.
Sarri has changed formations often this season. He has experimented with 4-4-2, 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 diamond shape. In the latter, Ramsey has played as the attacking midfielder with two of Cristiano Ronaldo, Dybala or Higuain in front of him. The former Gunner has been tasked with creating chances and moving quickly between the lines.
The wide midfielders have found the system inscrutable sometimes but Ramsey has already scored once, playing 1.3 key passes per game (per Whoscored). He has made the attack look fluid when Juve look sluggish and slow in possession.
His workrate, ability on the ball and intelligence to pick out spaces behind the strikers has been key. When Rabiot has struggled to figure out his positioning, Ramsey has had to drift wide and over up for him. The Welshman has also made one successful dribble per game.
His role was key for Juve in games against SPAL, Brescia and Verona. Both SPAL and Brescia made things tough for Juve by playing deeper and forcing them wide when Sarri had played a diamond 4-4-2. Despite playing centrally, Ramsey constantly made runs off the ball to drag their defences out of position.
When on the ball, he looked to break the lines and pick up spaces in the final third to create openings.
Against Verona- a side that kept a higher defensive line and looked to play on the front-foot, Ramsey played on the right side of a midfield three in a 4-3-3 shape. That was a complete performance from the 28-year-old. He grabbed a goal and was involved in more tackles than any other Juve player.
He worked hard in midfield, looked to gain the ball back and move forward. He was the only midfielder in that three who could create and he made a big impact. The heatmap from the game shows exactly that.
This has been his best performance in a Juve shirt till now even though he has looked pretty good in the other two. He had fitness issues early on and they never helped him at all. He again, has those issues cropping up and that is why he didn’t start against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.
The way he played as right central-midfielder is exactly what Sarri wants in his midfielder. It isn’t his ideal midfield as Juve were looking to sell Khedira and Matuidi before they started well. But with a better set of midfielders around him, Ramsey will only improve from here.
With Emre Can not included in Juve’s Champions League squad and Rabiot certainly struggling, Ramsey is Juve’s only creative midfielder. The burden of creating from that area will fall on Ramsey till the time Rabiot comes back to full form in the next months or weeks.
Not just that, Ramsey brings in extra variety to a side that hasn’t had a midfielder like him for many years. He may not be the workhorse that Matuidi is and not the physical, ball winner that Khedira is. He isn’t a technical player like Pjanic too. He’s a mix of all of them and something unique, because of that.
He has laid down the perfect foundation for himself and for someone who has had to adapt more than anyone else, Ramsey’s start to the new campaign has been nothing but impressive. The only way forward is up.