Nine years without a trophy is a long time for a club, especially for a club as big as Arsenal.
During those nine years following Patrick Vieira's penalty in the 2005 FA Cup final, the Gunners threw away a 1-0 lead in the last 15 minutes of the 2006 Champions League final against FC Barcelona, lost in the 2011 League Cup final to then Premier League dwellers Birmingham City in comedic fashion in the 89th minute, and created the meme that is ‘The Fourth Place Trophy’.
But something else important happened during those nine years that would in-turn snowball into Arsenal ending their trophy drought as, in 2008, Arsene Wenger decided to shell out nearly £5 million on a teenager from Cardiff City.
That player was Aaron Ramsey, and in the 11 years the Welshman has spent at the club, the midfielder has etched a legacy and will leave north London in the summer as an Arsenal icon.
The long road to glory
What makes Ramsey’s story at Arsenal great is that the now 28-year-old suffered setback after setback, and yet through it all, the Gunners #8 now stands proudly as one of the best players at the club.
Everyone remembers the infamous leg break at Stoke City in February 2010, where Ryan Shawcross left the then 20-year-old prospect with a double leg fracture.
Eight months of recovery later, Ramsey was back in action, and after two one-month loan spells at Nottingham Forest and his boyhood Cardiff City, the Premier League was ready for his return, but another hurdle faced him, winning over the Arsenal fans.
Winning over the critics
It’s hard to think of a time when Ramsey was a divisive figure in the Arsenal fan base, but once a time did exist. Between 2011 and 2013 the Welsh international was often called out for not performing to the standards of the club, yet Wenger stuck with him in the starting XI, mainly in a central midfield role.
Ramsey’s biggest claim to fame over those two years was his remarkable record of scoring goals just before the death of a major celebrity or public figure, with names such as Steve Jobs, Whitney Houston and Osama Bin Laden all falling victim to the "curse".
The once-promising midfielder looked to be another dud, with many blaming his leg break and eight-month absence from football as the cause for the decline in development. The fans wanted to see a proven midfielder come in and take Ramsey’s spot, but then the 2013/14 season rolled around, and everything changed.
Premier League, meet Aaron Ramsey
The 2013/14 season remains one of the most entertaining Premier League seasons of all time, but for Ramsey, this was the season he finally introduced himself to the Premier League.
Eight goals in the opening 18 games helped the Gunners to first place going into 2014 as the midfielder asserted himself as one of the most important players for Arsenal that season, but a thigh injury going into the New Year ruled the Welshman out until April as Wenger’s side, predictably, slumped to fourth place in the table upon his return.
However, Ramsey returned just in time for Arsenal’s first FA Cup semi-final in over five years against Championship side and holders of the cup Wigan Athletic, and after a heart-pounding game that saw the Gunners progress through to the final on penalties, fans started to believe that the trophy drought might finally be coming to an end.
That final, that goal
May 17th, 2014 is a day many Arsenal fans will never forget. The 2013/14 FA Cup final was one of the most thrilling cup finals in the competition’s history. It had absolutely everything.
The heavy favourites getting battered by the people’s underdog, a comeback from the most unlikely of sources, goal-line clearances in extra-time, and of course, that goal from Ramsey in the 109th minute.
In a split second from Olivier Giroud’s backheel assist to the Welshman firing the ball past Allan McGregor, nine years of torment, frustration and hopelessness all faded away as the red half of Wembley erupted into euphoria.
Ramsey, who came to north London as a teenager from Cardiff, who suffered one of the worst injuries any athlete can experience and endured years of inconsistency and criticism from the fans, fought back and etched his name into the history books of Arsenal.
The midfielder will leave the Gunners in the summer when his contract expires, but unlike most former players to leave the club, Ramsey can depart knowing he does as an icon.