Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was left feeling his age after Aaron Ramsey scored twice against former club Cardiff City to stretch his side’s lead in the Premier League.
Ramsey, a Cardiff academy graduate, scored with a 29th-minute header and an injury-time drive, either side of an 86th-minute Mathieu Flamini strike, in a 3-0 win at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday.
Victory left Arsenal seven points above their nearest rivals ahead of yesterday’s fixtures, and Wenger was once again indebted to 22-year-old Ramsey, who has scored 13 goals in all competitions for his club this season.
“He has matured as a player and a person,” Wenger said. “I was a midfield player and I would have loved to have had what he has. He can attack, defend and he scores goals. He is also young, which is not a quality I have. I think he can still develop. He has developed so much over the past three years, so why stop now? If he continues to play like that, he has a good future.”
Ramsey cost Arsenal ￡5 million (US$8.2 million) when he signed from Cardiff at the age of 17 and Wenger refused to countenance how much it would take for the London club to sell him now.
“It was a good price at the time, but we have to put that into perspective a little bit because the prices have gone up,” Wenger said. “As far as selling, we don’t want to sell anyone. We want to keep our team together.”
He described Ramsey’s opening goal, scored from a Mesut Ozil cross, as “a very convincing header,” while the Welshman’s second effort was an emphatic finish set up by substitute Theo Walcott.
Ramsey chose not to celebrate either effort and his actions drew a standing ovation from large sections of the home crowd after the first goal.
“I thought that was fantastic,” Wenger said. “I have a lot of respect for that and I would like to see it more often.”
Ramsey said he was delighted by the reception he had been afforded on his return to Cardiff, saying: “I’m really pleased with the way the fans reacted. I’ve got a lot of respect for them. This is where I started off in my career and they realized I needed to make the next step. They were really respectful and I gave them my respect too by not celebrating. I hope I put on a performance for them. This is where I started my career and everything began, and hopefully they’ve seen the player they produced today.”
Cardiff enjoyed their best spell of the game shortly after the interval, when visiting goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny had to pull off a smart save at his far post to repel a downward header from Fraizer Campbell.
Manager Malky Mackay expressed pride in his players’ performance, but said he was disappointed with the final outcome.
“We were playing against a very good team, but I am very proud of the team because we kept the ball in front of us in the first half and then pressed a little bit higher in the second half,” he said. “But for a fantastic save from Fraizer Campbell’s header, it would have been 1-1.”
In other English Premier League action, it was:
‧ Aston Villa 0, Sunderland 0
‧ Everton 4, Stoke 0
‧ Newcastle 2, West Brom 1
‧ Norwich 1, Crystal Palace 0
‧ West Ham 3, Fulham 0