LONDON (Reuters) - Under-fire Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey will return to the top of his game as long as the Welshman “keeps his priorities right”, manager Arsene Wenger said on Friday.
The 23-year-old was Arsenal’s best midfielder last term, bagging 16 goals in all competitions despite being plagued by niggling injuries, and named the club’s player of the season.
But after a string of below-par performances in recent weeks, Wenger was forced to back Ramsey ahead of his side’s trip to Swansea City in the Premier League on Sunday.
“A midfielder is a guy who defends well, makes the other players play – focus on that,” Wenger told a news conference.
“I think you have to be guided not by what people say, but the way you want to play and the (way the) game should be played.
“When you score a goal but have a disastrous game, people say you have been great.
“As a midfielder you have to keep the priorities right. Defend well, attack well and give good balls to other players. That’s basically what the game is about.
“It’s not about goalscoring — goalscoring is a consequence of playing well, so focus on playing well.”
After throwing away a three-goal lead against Anderlecht in their Champions League group game on Wednesday to draw 3-3, Wenger believes his side learnt a tough lesson and will be better as a result.
“It was a shock, but overall we know we can score goals and do better defensively,” he said. “We can learn a lot from what happened. Subconsciously we thought the game was over and it rarely is.
“We are very positive inside the camp. We are not affected by negativity. We are not happy when we don’t win but that’s it.”
Fourth-placed Arsenal will be without captain Mikel Arteta, who has a hamstring strain, for the trip to Swansea but forward Theo Walcott is fit to start after missing the last 10 months with a cruciate knee ligament injury.
The 25-year-old made his comeback off the bench against Burnley last weekend and has received a surprise call-up by England manager Roy Hodgson for this month’s Euro 2016 qualifier at home to Slovenia and the friendly away to Scotland.
“He (Walcott) is available, he has been chosen by England and he needs competition,” the Frenchman said. “He has been out for 10 months.
“People think it’s like mechanics. They’re not machines, they are human beings and to get back into the rhythm of the top, top competition will take time.
“Every time you have a big injury, there is a bigger chance of having another.
“Overall he has been taken care of very well. He is now ready to play again and we have to just leave him in peace and give him the needed time to come back.”
Reporting by Michael Hann; Editing by Ken Ferris