Inside the head of Aaron Ramsey
He rocked up in Nice on 1st August with, it has to be said, a background and a name that needed no introduction. Almost three months since his arrival, Aaron Ramsey sat down with us to give us a fair assessment of his first few weeks on the Côte d’Azur, adjusting to his new life here, managing his body, getting to know a new environment and the team’s objectives.
Even though he needed no introduction when he arrived, Ramsey was still enough of a gentleman to present himself to Ligue 1 during his first few appearances. Having come into the game away to Toulouse on the hour mark, he waited just 120 seconds to hit the back of the net with a powerful, first-time shot that earned Les Rouge et Noir their first point of the season. “It was nice to score on my debut,” smiles the man whose celebration enjoys pride of place on the walls and on an elevator at the training ground. As a sidenote, he also found the net in his first game in Serie A with Juventus, against Hellas Verona on 21st September 2019.
In the first three months of the campaign, “the Prince of Wales” has featured 11 times for Le Gym in all competitions. Having been set back by injury an hour into the game against Monaco on Matchday 6 and cautiously kept on the sidelines against Troyes and Slovácko, he made his return to competitive action away to Auxerre on Sunday. “It’s difficult to manage your body,” admits the no. 16, “because when you’re playing, you want to play every minute of every game, especially when you’re starting to feel good and getting sharper and sharper. The more you play, the more you want to play, but maybe it’s sometimes better to come on midway through a game or not to play one game so that you can start the next one.” The former Gunner receives daily support when it comes to the fitness aspect of his job. “Those discussions have to happen internally. Until now, the club and the medical staff have handled the situation perfectly. I’m very much open to every discussion. We’ve got a very busy schedule, and the standard required is high. The most important thing is that we’re on the same wavelength.”
«i like creating »
Ramsey’s versatile profile and experience mean that he can fill any position in the midfield, which hasn’t escaped the attention of coach Lucien Favre. Whenever he gets the chance, the Swiss tactician gives the Welshman the freedom of the pitch. Having featured just behind the striker on his Rouge et Noir debut, he was later used in a three-man midfield and then as part of a duo of “attacking ball-winners”, sat in front of the defence, as was the case against Monaco. A “happy” figure in the changing room so long as he’s “on the pitch, no matter where” and can “help the team”, Ramsey did let us in on a little secret whilst talking about playing, beyond his role: “I like creating, attacking and getting into the box to score. So, if I had to choose, I’d rather have the chance to play further up the pitch, but of course, I’m at the coach’s disposal.”
«It’s a big culture shock»
In a cosmopolitan dressing room, the Caerphilly native represents a meeting point between two styles of football and is gifted with a wide-ranging perspective on things. “The Premier League is very demanding physically. Serie A is probably less so, but it’s much more focused on tactics. I’d say that Ligue 1 is more like the Premier League, where games are a bit more open. It’s a very physical, athletic and fast-paced league. I’ve been pretty impressed by the standard so far. There are some really good players.”
“When British players go abroad, it’s new for them,” he continues, thinking about it clearly and taking an even wider view of the matter. “They aren’t used to playing in a different environment. It’s a big culture shock. I’ve been lucky enough to play in Italy, so it’s become easier and more natural for me to fit in. For other players, obviously, it takes a bit more time, but the team and the coaching staff are brilliant at helping them to get their bearings.”
“WE JUST NEED TO KEEP PICKING UP POINTS AND GET THROUGH IN EUROPE”
As the conversation goes on, one element keeps coming back: time. Carrying on regardless remains a basic ingredient of the bond that brings a squad together. “For the moment, there are so many games in the schedule that it’s impossible to work on certain aspects during the week,” analyses the midfielder. “Even though we’re getting to know each other more and more, we can’t look too far ahead. Before the break for the World Cup, we just need to take it game by game, keep picking up points in Ligue 1 and, of course, get through to the knockout stages in Europe. Those are our aims. Then, we’ll be able to take a breath, sit down together and, after the winter break, focus on trying to have a successful season.”
A season that, from a personal perspective, may well take him to the World Cup with a squad that he has 75 caps and 20 goals for. “It’s in the back of my mind, obviously,” he finishes. “But I’m fully focused on giving my all for Nice. We need to move forward together, day by day. I’ll have time to think about the rest later.”