The weekend is getting ever closer, and with it comes Arsenal's trip to Stoke City on Sunday afternoon at the unusual time of 2:05 pm for the second week in a row. It's a game which holds some very bad memories for Aaron Ramsey, and the rest of the Arsenal team who played in this fixture last season. In the 65th minute of that game in February 2010 Ramsey had his leg shattered by an absolutely awful challenge from Ryan Shawcross, and he has only just returned to the Arsenal team since that incident.
I watched that match along with a lot of fellow Gooners in the Arsenal supporters club in The Strand bar in Bray, and it was immediately obvious how serious the injury was. The other Arsenal players were visibly upset by the nature of his injury, and it brought back memories of a similar incident involving Eduardo a couple of years earlier. Unfortunately for Arsenal, Eduardo never really returned to his goalscoring form for them after his recovery, although their change of style during his injury layoff didn't help his cause. He has since joined Shakhtar Donetsk, and helped them to win the Ukrainean Premier League this season.
The original prognosis for Ramsey was that he would be out for up to nine months, but he was expected to make a full recovery. I thought he would have to write this season off, and look forward to hopefully resurrecting his Arsenal career in 2011/12. He was loaned out to both Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City in the Championship around the turn of the year, as he looked to gradually recover his form and confidence.
The loan spells went reasonably well for Ramsey, but he didn't exactly set the Championship alight. When he returned to Arsenal he had to wait a few weeks before eventually making his comeback for them in the 2-0 away defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter final. Since then he has only had two starts and two substitute appearances, and it looked like he was destined to wait for next season for an opportunity to stake a place in the team.
When Cesc Fabregas picked up an injury before last Sunday's game against United, it gave Ramsey the chance to show how far along the road to recovery he had gone. Alongside Alex Song and Jack Wilshere he had an excellent game in Arsenal's midfield, and he topped it all by scoring the only goal of the game. I'm sure it meant an awful lot to him, and the next step for him could be the possibility of facing Stoke and Shawcross again on Sunday.
If Cesc doesn't recover in time the chances are Ramsey will be in Arsenal's starting 11, and it will be a real test for him. Stoke will not hold back from playing their usual game despite the fact they have a date with Man City in the FA Cup final only six days later. Their usual game is based around putting the opposition under pressure from high balls, and set pieces, as well as hitting them as hard as possible, as often as possible.
I'll preview that Arsenal game on Saturday, but if Ramsey is selected to play I think he has enough about him to stand up and be counted in a game that will be those horrible memories flooding back. I'm sure the magnificent traveling Arsenal support will cheer him all the way, as well as giving Shawcross a hard time at every possible opportunity. I'm looking forward to the game, and I'm hoping Ramsey can show Stoke that their tactics didn't work, and his future at Arsenal is still very bright indeed.
In other news Arsenal announced on Tuesday that ticket prices will increase by approximately 6.5% next season, and it's caused an awful lot of upset among Arsenal fans. As it stands Arsenal tickets are already very expensive, and during a very serious economic recession it's hard for ordinary fans to justify an increase in the price. There are bound to be some season ticket holders who simply cannot afford to renew their tickets, and I genuinely feel for them.
The club have argued that there hasn't been a price ride in three years, and 2.5% of the 6.5% is down to a V.A.T. increase which they have no control over. Footballers seem to be immune to the general economic climate, as players receive substantial wage rises on an almost annual basis, and it's not always connected to their ability either. The ownership of both Chelsea and Man City by incredibly wealthy people, who don't seem to care how much money they lose, makes it very hard for an economically sound club like Arsenal to compete.
Both of those clubs can sign almost any player they want to, and pay wages far above the level Arsenal are capable of paying. It means Arsenal have to increase the wages of their players to keep them as happy as possible, and the costs have to be recouped somewhere. Hopefully when the new financial regulations are introduced into England and Europe it will stop those teams and others from operating at a huge loss, and putting pressure on the teams who manage to do things properly. It's probably a forlorn hope though, as I'm sure both clubs will do all they can to bend the rules in their favour, and I seriously doubt the football authorities ability to make them accountable for their actions.
I'm sure Arsenal will still manage to sell every seat at the Emirates for their games next season. but there is only so much money the fans have available to them, and something will have to give. It could be that sales in the various club shops will suffer as a result, and that would be a real blow to Arsenal's finances. They currently generate more match day income than any other Premier League club, and it's a statistic which the club need to continue to keep their finances in such a good state.
I'm sure it's an issue which won't go away for Arsenal fans, but there's not an awful lot they can do about it. In an ideal world ticket prices would never rise, and Arsenal would have the money to buy the players that are needed to improve the team, and pay the wages for them too. However, it takes a lot of money to compete at the top, and that's where Arsenal are aiming for right now.
The lack of trophies in the last six years makes it very difficult for the fans to stomach this price rise, and if Arsene Wenger fails to sign the players so many fans feel are necessary this summer, it could make life very difficult for him. If the fans have to watch Arsenal crash and burn yet again next season, after their hard earned money has not been reinvested, there will be a lot of very unhappy fans. I really hope that's not the case, but a lot of Arsenal fans are very unhappy, and they will make their voices heard.
That's it for today.
Here's a look at a great goal scored by Aaron Ramsey.
See You tomorrow.
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