Wenger hails maturing Ramsey
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger feels midfielder Aaron Ramsey is growing with every game he plays as the Wales captain prepares to tackle Swansea tomorrow. The 21-year-old has grabbed his opportunity this season, stepping into a regular first-team place alongside Mikel Arteta and Alex Song following the summer sale of Cesc Fabregas and injury to Jack Wilshere.
Wenger was always confident the former Cardiff trainee could make the step up in class, all the more remarkable in the wake of his horrendous leg injury in February 2010. "I brought him in because of his quality," said the Arsenal manager.
"People forget about Ramsey is that this is his first full season really. For me, he is growing month to month and people are a bit impatient with him. I am very happy with what he is delivering - and if Wilshere comes back [soon] they can play together."
Ramsey has been outspoken in his views over the future of Wales following the death of manager Gary Speed. Wenger is impressed with how Ramsey has taken such an important role in his stride. "Aaron has personality," said the Arsenal manager.
"He is a bit young [to be a captain], because it is a massive responsibility for a player that age with the little experience he has. However, he can take pressure so he will grow very quickly in this role and he will be a great captain for Wales."
Arsenal head to Liberty Stadium looking to get their drive toward the top four back on course following a largely disappointing festive season, which saw them lose at Fulham before securing an FA Cup third-round victory over Leeds last Monday night. Gunners legend Thierry Henry came off the bench to score the winner and the on-loan New York Red Bulls forward could team up with Arsenal captain Robin van Persie tomorrow when the Dutchman returns to the squad after some extra time off.
Wenger said: "I gave Robin a breather because he is under more pressure than anybody else because of his injury history and because he played more games than anybody else in 2011. He was always happy when Thierry joined us, but what we expect of him now is to continue his goalscoring record he delivered in 2011 and hopefully ready for another fight."
Wenger believes both men could feature in what would be an awesome frontline. "They have a good understanding," said the Arsenal manager. "If the team is balanced offensively and defensively then they can. Thierry can play out wide as well because he still has the reflexes of a winger. When he is on the left side he can still pass people and deliver.
"But of course it demands a lot of physical effort and it is more suited to a player who is between 20 and 30. Thierry always had exceptional physical quality so even if he has dropped a little bit, he is still good."
With Gervinho away at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, tomorrow could well present another opportunity for Andrey Arshavin. The Russian, 30, continues to divide opinion among Gunners fans, but not Wenger. "We know he has the talent. He has been questioned many times, but his attitude has always been spot on," said the Arsenal manager.
"In the last game specifically, he showed that he needs to play with confidence and freedom, that is his strength. Andrey is a creative player and you need that fraction of belief and confidence to play with freedom. He has always been a player who plays on the borderline, he is a big gambler. But at the end of the day against QPR, he gave the ball to Robin van Persie to score in that game. Sometimes the visual impression you get from a game has been frustrating, but he is very efficient."
Swansea have competed well so far in their first Premier League campaign, especially at home where Brendan Rodgers' men have won four and lost just once. Wenger has been impressed by the Welshmen, who came up via the play-offs. "They have the quality to play in the Premier League because they play positive football," the Arsenal boss said. "Swansea play without fear anywhere. They have just won at Aston Villa and overall I think they are a team who looks completely in their place in the Premier League."