Ramsey return offer fresh belief
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger understands it will take a couple more weeks for Aaron Ramsey to be back to his dynamic best after three months out - but feels the midfielder's long-awaited return could be like making a new signing.
- Related Content
The Wales international has not featured since suffering a thigh strain at West Ham on Boxing Day, robbing Wenger of one of his key performers with the 23-year-old having scored an impressive 13 goals in the opening part of the season.
Initially it was anticipated Ramsey would be out for around six weeks, only for the player to suffer a couple of setbacks.
Ramsey should be involved again in the match-day squad for Sunday's crunch Barclays Premier League trip to top-four rivals Everton, which will come as a welcome boost for Wenger ahead of Arsenal's FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on April 7, with both playmaker Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere still not set to return.
"(When you are out for) three months, then it takes two or three weeks. Aaron has worked very hard for a while in training now. What he lacks is competition," Wenger said.
"He is an all-round midfielder who can score goals and always drives the team forward, is a real box-to-box player.
"It is an area where we are short because we have many midfielders out.
"We have Wilshere and Ozil out in this area, so of course it is good to have him back.
"At the same time we had (Theo) Walcott, Wilshere, Ramsey and Ozil out, so you cannot say that you have exactly the same creativity and the same goalscoring opportunities we had before."
Wenger added: "It is a bit like that (signing a new player), yes. Of course he is somebody back; he can help the team be very successful."
The Gunners head to Goodison Park seven points off leaders Liverpool following last weekend's morale-boosting 1-1 draw against Manchester City.
However, Arsenal are also only four points ahead of fifth-placed Everton, who hold a match in hand.
Wenger said: "For us it is an opportunity to go up forward and as well an opportunity to make a distance with Everton of course. It is both.
"The target is to finish as high as possible. Where that will be at the moment I must say, behind us will depend only on our results.
"In front of us will depend on our results and the results on the other teams, so that's impossible to predict."
Wenger added: "There are still a lot of twists and turns in the Premier League until the end of the season and there is no clear favourite.
"Liverpool has an advantage as they don't play any competition other than the Premier League for a long, long time so they have only one target and they can of course be stable in their preparation. That is a little advantage, but it is very tight."
Asked whether Arsenal were now a "little horse" in the title race, Wenger said: "Everybody has the right to see our size as big or as small as he wants.
"For us, on our side, no matter how big the chance is we have absolutely to give everything to fight for it."
Arsenal will again be without centre-back Laurent Koscielny (calf) this weekend and midfielder Serge Gnabry (knee). Left-back Kieran Gibbs (ankle) is a doubt.