Ramsey hailed as 'massive' presence

29 November 2013 08:01

Arsene Wenger is hoping the "massive" presence of Aaron Ramsey can help Arsenal preserve their four-point lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League when the midfielder returns to former club Cardiff on Saturday.

Wales international Ramsey is enjoying a stand-out campaign, having scored 11 goals for the Gunners.

The Caerphilly-born 22-year-old has come a long way since leaving south Wales as a raw talent in a £5million deal during the summer of 2008 - with Cardiff manager Malky Makay describing Ramsey as "one of the best performers in Europe" on current form.

Wenger hopes Ramsey will continue to relish his role at the heartbeat of the side.

"Aaron [Ramsey] has first a fantastic engine. I believe his defensive awareness has improved, his defensive qualities have improved and his defensive score is very strong now," Wenger told Arsenal Player.

"After that he has a huge desire to play every single ball. He wins the 50:50s - that was not the case a year ago.

"If you let him, he takes the ball at the back, passes to himself in midfield and passes to himself up front because he wants the ball so much.

"That is why his presence is so massive in a game."

England midfielder Jack Wilshere was himself among the goals as his brace helped sink Marseille 2-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday night to move Wenger's team to within touching distance of the knockout stages.

Wilshere needed less than 30 seconds to sweep the home side ahead, clipping home following a swift break down the right, in a display which left a clear impression on his manager.

"It demands vision, it demands calmness, it demands quality execution and he had all that in that goal. I would say his [first goal was] absolutely stunning," said Wenger.

"I must say I was even surprised by the way he took that goal. That shows his belief in his finishing has gone up a lot."

Wenger continued: "We have him and [Aaron] Ramsey who can score now and that's a huge improvement.

"Before we had Ramsey, two goals per year and Wilshere, two goals per year. To see them scoring goals is magnificent."

Arsenal confirmed some sad news on Thursday, with the announcement former captain and assistant manager Pat Rice was in hospital receiving treatment for cancer.

Wenger paid tribute to his close friend, who had been Arsenal's number two since 1996 until retiring at the end of last season.

"Not only do we love him, but of course we are very grateful for what he has done here," said Wenger of the popular 64-year-old former Northern Ireland defender.

"We are in touch with him, but I trust his legendary strength to get over it.

"I am confident that he still has the fighting spirit he always had to get over it and that he will come out in a successful way."

Left-back Kieran Gibbs missed the European tie through illness, but will be in contention again at Cardiff

Source: PA