It was no surprise Arsenal FC were keen to tie Aaron Ramsey to a new long-term deal until 2018, confirmed on Tuesday along with that of Santi Cazorla up to 2017.
The 23-year-old Wales midfielder's career has been blighted by injury, including the thigh problem which kept him out of both legs of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie with FC Bayern München. However, that has not stopped him emerging as a key man for the Gunners, whom he joined from Cardiff City FC in 2008.
This season alone Ramsey has 13 goals in 27 appearances, including three in the UEFA Champions League play-off with Fenerbahçe SK and decisive strikes in the group wins at Olympique de Marseille and Borussia Dortmund. He speaks to UEFA.com about his previous injury recovery and how Arsène Wenger's confidence has helped him bounce back.
UEFA.com: A few years ago you had an even longer absence when you broke your leg; how did you manage to get back to the shape you were in this season?
Aaron Ramsey: Obviously it takes a long time mentally to overcome that. It's not an easy thing to do, and like you saw with me, it took a year or a year and a half to overcome that, before you really feel confident going in for tackles again. So yes, I overcame it. I had some great people behind me – my friends and family, the staff and everyone here, always had belief in me, and hopefully I'm repaying them now for that.
UEFA.com: Arsène Wenger has had real belief in you and real belief in his vision for the club. How does it feel to be such a part of his plans for Arsenal?
Ramsey: It's massive for me. Going through a difficult period after my [broken leg], he always had the belief in me. In the team as well, when the team weren't doing so well and things weren't going to plan, he was always defending his players and defending what his team was capable of doing. And hopefully now the team is repaying his faith in us by showing what we're capable of and proving a few people wrong.
UEFA.com: How would you describe as his strengths as a manager and what does he mean to this club?
Ramsey: The way he wants to play the game attracts so many players to this club. And we work on things like that every day in training, to help our passing. That's drilled into us, the way we play. He's a great man-manger as well, he knows exactly what certain players need and how to manage that. He has many qualities, that's just a couple.
UEFA.com: You were having a great season before your injury. Do you feel there are aspects to your game that are different from previous seasons?
Ramsey: I just think I got my confidence back. It's such a big thing in football for a person or a team to have confidence. And obviously I've added goals to my game as well – in previous seasons I've had opportunities to score but I haven't quite taken them, so I've become a lot more composed in front of goal.
UEFA.com: Is that something you said to yourself at the start of the season? Did you set yourself certain targets or were there targets set for you by the coaching staff?
Ramsey: No, they weren't so much targets, but obviously I set myself some targets and I wanted to get into double figures this season and managed to do that quite early on! So hopefully I can continue that and get a few more.
UEFA.com: What has been Mesut Özil's impact on the team and how is he settling in?
Ramsey: He has a few assists and a few goals, so he's settled in really well. It's not always easy moving to the Premier League, with the pace [of] the game over here. He's a really grounded guy and one who wants to help the team, so that's helped him in his progression so far.
UEFA.com: There has been a lot of talk about Arsenal's lack of silverware since 2005; what would it mean to win a trophy this season?
Ramsey: It would mean a lot. In the last few seasons we've always had to play catch-up – we've got off to bad starts in the league and that's cost us in the end. We had a great start to this campaign and hopefully now ... we know our form [in spring] in the last few seasons has been second to none, so we're quite confident. Hopefully we can get something this year.
UEFA.com: What did it mean to score the winner at Dortmund that was crucial in Arsenal getting through from the group stage?
Ramsey: It was an important result. Obviously we'd lost at home to them, so we needed something away from home to progress. We knew what we had to do over there and it was a great performance. And the atmosphere over there was electric before we scored. It was a great moment for us and a big result in the season.
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