Aaron Ramsey is desperate to fulfil his potential at Arsenal after admitting his horrific leg break and the death of Welsh national team coach Gary Speed left him both physically and mentally drained.
The 21-year-old, who scored his first goal of the season with a deft dink against Olympiakos, featured regularly last season across the midfield but struggled to find the necessary consistency to hold down a regular starting berth.
Citing both fitness and off-field problems for his unpredictable form, the Welshman made clear that he has high hopes for the season ahead, despite competition in the midfield being as strong as ever.
“I had a really bad injury and it takes a while to get back to your best,” he told the Evening Standard after last night’s 3-1 win.
“I’m feeling good and confident again, getting back to my old self, which got me here in the first place. Hopefully now this will kick me on again and I’ll keep on improving throughout the season.
“I spoke to a number of people who’ve had similar injuries who reassured me through it all. I listened, I was patient. I didn’t want to rush back, I wanted to make sure everything was correct.
“I’d been out for nine months and your body takes a lot longer than you think to get used to that. You take longer to do things on the pitch that usually come naturally, which is how I felt during the second half of last season. Prior to the injury, I’d been running around every day since I was a kid. Hopefully now, I can have a good season.”
Given he has had to cope with the death of the man who made him captain of his country, it’s obvious that Ramsey has had much to come to terms with in the last year. Hinting at the tough journey he has undertaken, he continued:
“A lot happened last year for me and it’s always difficult to overcome things like that in life. There were loads of things going on off the pitch as well. I’m feeling good now, I’m feeling happy and hopefully that’s showing in my performances.
“I grew up a lot while I was recovering from the injury. It makes you stronger and it’s about getting over the mental side of it. As soon as you get through that, the confidence comes back and it’s a thing of the past.”
One thing Aaron Ramsey won’t have to worry about is playing along side Ryan Shawcross for Wales. The Stoke clogger has been called up by Roy Hodgson for England’s upcoming World Cup qualification matches with San Marino and Poland meaning he’ll now be ineligible for the principality despite Chris Coleman’s eagerness.
The downside of this scenario is that Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (all included) will be forced to share training sessions with Shawcross as he prepares to kill San Marinese butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.