Aaron Ramsey has wished Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin speedy recoveries – but is delighted to have a chance in the middle in their absence.
With Cazorla, Coquelin and club captain Mikel Arteta all sidelined, Ramsey, Mathieu Flamini, and Calum Chambers – who usually plays as a defender – are Arsene Wenger’s only realistic options in central midfield.
Flamini and Ramsey were paired together against Sunderland with the latter only just back from a hamstring injury.
Ramsey has long-coveted a place in the heart of Wenger’s midfield, having been forced into a wider role by the manager’s preference to partner Cazorla with a more defensively-minded player when he has everyone fit.
The Wales international scored on Saturday and played the whole 90 minutes as he looks to step up his fitness – and he is now determined to make the position his own in the coming weeks.
“I’m still a bit short of fitness and it will take me a few games to get back into it but I’m pleased today with my overall contribution,” he said.
“I prefer to be back in the middle of the pitch, that is where I feel more comfortable and feel like I play my best football – to grab a goal and get an assist was good for me as well.
“I wish Santi a speedy recovery, and Francis as well, we have been hit hard by injuries this season but it gives players the opportunities to take.
“I have made no secret that I prefer to play in the middle and hopefully now I can stay there. My performance today was good and hopefully I can keep building on that now to play where I prefer to play.”
The same midfield duo are likely to start Wednesday’s crucial Champions League tie against Olympiacos in Greece – with Arsenal needing to win by a two-goal margin, or 3-2 or better, to advance.
Ramsey knows he will not be awarded the same licence to get forward in such a game but believes the Gunners can get the required result.
When asked about having to put the brakes on when playing centrally, Ramsey said: “It is a bit easier at home because we have the majority of the ball and Flamini normally stays behind so we have that bit of licence.
“But, in the Champions League game, I will have to be a bit more professional in the way we manage the game. Of course we have to choose the right times to do that but we will always create opportunities – just hopefully we can stop them, keep a clean sheet and grab a couple of goals ourselves.
“It was never easy after the start we had but we have done well to come back into the position that we find ourselves in and it is in our hands – we know what we have to do.
“We got off to a good win today for December and hopefully we can continue this and keep ourselves in the hunt for the league and to hopefully qualify for the Champions League as well.”