Arsenal will begin its season on Sunday with the FA Community Shield. The Gunners will meet London rivals Chelsea at Wembley Stadium and will look to earn another trophy after capturing last year’s Community Shield and FA Cup titles. It’s been a long time since Arsenal have won a major trophy, and fans are hopeful that this is the season that one of the big trophies comes back to the Emirates.
One of the key players to Arsenal’s hopes of challenging for a Premier League title — its first since 2003/04 — is Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey, 24, has already made more than 200 appearances for the club and been a fixture in the starting lineup when healthy. Another shrewd piece of business by manager Arsene Wenger, Ramsey has been with the club for seven years.
Here’s what you need to know about Ramsey:
1. Ramsey Has 34 Caps For Wales, Which Is Ranked 10th In the World
Ramsey made his debut for the national team as a 17-year-old (breaking the previous record) in 2008 for Wales in a friendly against Denmark. It wasn’t too long after that — 2011 to be exact — that Ramsey was named captain of the national side. However, he was removed from the role by manager Chris Coleman in 2012; Swansea defender Ashley Williams remains the captain.
Ramsey and Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale have formed a dynamic duo for Wales, who have not qualified for a major tournament since the 1958 World Cup. That drought may end as they are within sight of a place in Euro 2016 in France.
The country recently secured one of the most famous wins in its history, a 1-0 triumph over No. 3 ranked and World Cup quarterfinalist Belgium. Behind their recent form, Wales was placed in Pot 1 for World Cup 2018 qualifying, and will be in a group with Austria, Serbia, Ireland, Moldova and Georgia.
2. He Was The Youngest Player To Ever Play For Cardiff
Ramsey grew up in Cardiff’s youth academy — starting at eight-years-old — and made his debut for the senior team in 2007 while Cardiff was playing in the English Championship. At 16 years, 124 days he was the youngest player in club history. The youngest player to ever play in the Premier League is former Fulham man Matthew Briggs at 16 years and 68 days.
Ramsey only played a season for the Bluebirds, but helped them reach the FA Cup Final — a rare accomplishment for a team outside the Premier League.
3. Arsenal Signed Ramsey In 2008 As a 17-Year-Old For $7.5 Million
After dazzling for Cardiff in a short period of time, the top English Premier League teams came calling. Manchester United and Cardiff reached an agreement on a transfer fee and Everton were also in the mix, but instead he chose to join Arsenal for $7.5 million. Arsenal refused to loan the player back to the Bluebirds, a procedure that’s usually agreed upon once a Premier League team raids the lower divisions for a younger player.
In February 2010, Ramsey suffered a devastating leg break that temporarily halted his progress with the Arsenal first team. He suffered fractures in his fibula and tibia as a result of a tackle from Stoke’s Ryan Showcross. During his road to recovery, Arsenal loaned Ramsey back to Cardiff for a month. It would about nine months before Ramsey would suit up for Arsenal again.
Ramsey said in 2013 that it took years to get over breaking his leg. In the last two seasons, he’s scored 26 goals for the Gunners.
He’s also performed so well with the Gunners that he’s virtually been given an annual raise. In May, 2014, Ramsey signed a new contract that increased his wages to about $160,000 per week ($8.3 million per year).
4. He Scored A Goal Of The Season Candidate In The Champions League
During the group stages of last year’s Champions League, Ramsey uncorked this half-volley from well outside the box in a match against Turkish club Galatasaray. Arsenal would win the match 4-1 and would advance to the knockout stages before being eliminated by Monaco on away goals in the round of 16.
“At first I thought it wasn’t but watching it back, it is further out than I thought so it’s my best goal,” Ramsey told BBC following the match.
The shot reached 53 miles per hour and took 1.1 seconds to reach the goal.
Arsenal has appeared in the Champions League for 17 straight seasons and will again in 2015/16. While the streak is impressive, the Gunners have never won the competition, have made the final just once and haven’t reached the quarterfinals since 2015.
5. He Married His Wife Colleen In June 2014
Ramsey and Colleen Rowlands met as youngsters in Wales, long before the former became the star he is today. Judging by her instagram page, Colleen Ramsey has a passion for cooking.
The pair got married at Caldicot Castle in Wales last June; in James Bond fashion, Ransey jetted to the site of the ceremony, then left three hours later. They also had a ceremony in the Carribean; the pair honeymooned in Venice and recently celebrated their one-year anniversary.