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Man Machine: Aaron Ramsey

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The midfielder on the benefits of boxing, racing Theo Walcott and how he could have been a rugby player

The dark days made me realise how much football means to me.” Aaron Ramsey, who, following a double leg break in a 2010 Premier League game, spent 12 months watching his Arsenal teammates from the sidelines, has certainly had his share of those. Happily though, the Welshman is now back to his best, and having recently signed a new contract, ShortList caught up with the star ahead of Arsenal trying to claw back a two-goal Champions League deficit in Munich.

What was the lowest point during your lengthy lay-off?

Not being able to train. That was tough. And even when the crutches came off and I started running again, I knew it was going to take a lot of time to get back to how I was before the injury. It took patience more than anything.

When did you first realise you were a talented footballer?

Quite late – my first sport was rugby. I played for Caerphilly RFC and it was only when I went along to a football event arranged by my school that a coach spotted me and asked me if I’d switch sports. It was then that I had to choose between rugby or Cardiff City.

Could you have made it in rugby?

Perhaps. There was an enquiry made by a couple of big teams, including St Helens, so I like to think I had the talent. I enjoyed it, I learned a lot.

Do you play any other sports at Arsenal as part of training?

We sometimes play a little basketball, just for a different sort of warm-up. Per Mertesacker fancies himself as a bit of a basketball player – he’s a big fan and has the height. As for other sports, I’ve been boxing a couple of times with a guy I know who trains fighters. Taking a punch toughens you up.

Do you have any tips for improving passing accuracy?

We do plenty of drills with mannequins. My favourite one is to put five of them in a row, playing one-touch passes with another player around them, but doing it while running past the dummies. The trick is to start slowly with your passing and movement, gradually gaining speed. This way, you get a feel for the conditions of the pitch, the weight of the ball and how your teammate likes to receive the ball. This drill hones your ability to play triangles against real opponents.

What’s the best advice for playing a killer pass?

Just before you receive the ball, take a glance at the attackers in front of you, so that once you’ve taken your touch you have a rough idea of what runs your strikers are making. It’s all about reading the game before it happens. You get better with practise.

Are the coaches keen for you to try out new skills in training?

Yeah, not only because it helps us play attractive football but also because those skills could mean the difference between winning and losing. Just watch Santi Cazorla – whenever you think he’s penned in, he pulls off a move and gets out of the situation. That man is unbelievable with both feet, so tricky. Those amazing goals you’ve been seeing him hit from 25 yards in the Premier League? We see them in training every day.

Who’s the fastest player at Arsenal?

Walcott. It’s almost ridiculous how quick he is. You can play a bad ball over the top and he’ll turn it into a good ball. He knows he’s the fastest, too [laughs], I’ve never beaten him. If he raced us backwards I’m sure he’d win that, too.

Aaron’s killer tip

Fajitas are good fuel for after training – they’re full of vegetables, protein, and they’re tasty, too. The chefs at Arsenal make spectacular ones.

Aaron Ramsey wears the latest adidas Predator LZ, (£165); adidas.com

(Images: Rex Features)

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