Wenger hails Ramsey transformation
Manager Arsene Wenger admits there was a time last season when he was told not to play Aaron Ramsey at the Emirates Stadium - but never lost confidence in the potential of the Wales midfielder.
The 22-year-old former Cardiff trainee is relishing his integral role at the heartbeat of the Arsenal team, from where he has scored 11 goals already this season to help the Gunners top the Barclays Premier League.
It is a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for Ramsey - now fully recovered from an horrific double leg break at Stoke in February 2010. After facing an uncertain future following some indifferent displays last season, he looked short on confidence, especially when the target of jeers from sections of the home support.
Wenger, though, always felt Ramsey's time would come, having invested some £5million to bring in the then raw talent in June 2008.
"Let's not forget that one year ago people were saying to me: 'It is difficult to play him at the Emirates', but you have to give him credit for that transformation because he could deal with that," said Wenger, whose side tackle Marseille on Tuesday night aiming to move a step closer to the last 16 of the Champions League.
"He could come back, he never give up and convinced everybody that he has the needed quality."
Wenger added: "You could see there was an impatience with him at the Emirates.
"As a manager you are always in a period where you think, 'Do I push him through and he can go more down?' Or do you give him a breather to regenerate to get him a fresh start?
"That is always difficult for us to assess because it is linked to their mental state.
"When their own confidence is down, of course they are in trouble, but Aaron is a confident boy."
Ramsey's transformation was highlighted by his second-half header which secured a 1-0 smash-and-grab raid on Borussia Dortmund earlier this month to put Arsenal back on course for qualification from the toughest of groups.
"There is a technical difference now," Wenger said.
"We always saw that he had a good engine, now he has another quality in that he does not hide to take the ball, and when he makes a mistake, he doesn't hide again.
"For me that is a quality. He is always available to take the ball and play.
"Where he has improved a lot is in his first touch, in his finishing, in the quality of his long balls which was always too strong or not accurate enough and in the speed of his vision."
Wenger feels Ramsey is best deployed at the heartbeat of the midfield alongside the likes of England's Jack Wilshere, Spain's Santi Cazorla and Germany's Mesut Ozil.
As to how far the combative Welshman can take his game, Wenger is confident Ramsey can become one of the Premier League's best talents.
"I do not judge people when I look back at their career as you respect them because they were world-class or not world-class. I always think, 'has this guy done the maximum with the potential he had?," Wenger said.
"What is more important for me is has a player gone as far as he could?
"If he has the right attitude, he will continue to improve."
Arsenal moved four points clear at the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 victory over Southampton on Saturday.
Nevertheless, they are not yet favourites for the title with either bookmakers or pundits.
Wenger, though, remains unconcerned with external opinions.
"I like it that people are not talking about us because it means you can focus on what is important, which is to play well and not answer too many questions or get a false level of confidence, to just enjoy what you are really here for, which is to play football," he said.
"At the moment people still stay we are outsiders in the Premier League.
"We have now played 12 games, basically a third of the season. If we can be consistent in the next five or six games, then it will change a bit.
"We always have to accept that people will talk about the recent results of the team, so let's just keep focusing on our quality and keep winning."