In the aftermath of Arsenal’s uncharacteristically dogged 0-0 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on September 17, many fans and pundits agreed that this was exactly the type of game plan that Arsene Wenger needed to start implementing, on a regular basis, if his side are to improve their horrific away record to the Premier League’s top-six.
This performance came against the backdrop of The Gunners’ 5-0 humiliation at Anfield to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Many put Arsenal’s improved tactical discipline and increased work-rate down to the absence of one man, Mesut Ozil.
The German playmaker has long been accused of “going missing” in big away games, which has resulted in the 29-year-old coming in for some stinging criticism from pundits and fans alike.
It must be noted that Ozil’s omission from the starting XI against Chelsea was not a tactical ploy by Wenger, but was rather a change enforced by the player picking up a knee injury.
Since his return from the treatment table Ozil has show signs of his ability – especially in his sides first away win of the season against Everton.
Despite all the criticism the ex-Real Madrid man has received, he showed that day at Goodison Park just how influential he can be when on form; he scored, provided an assist and created a league high eight chances in the first 45 minutes alone.
There is of course an argument that Ozil’s struggles away from home are also a consequence of Arsenal’s weakness in the centre of midfield. If The Gunners had a solid defensive midfielder like N’Golo Kante or Nemanja Matic perhaps his weaknesses would not be so obvious and his strengths; providing assist and key passes, could be allowed to flourish.
Alex Iwobi filled in for the German international in the number 10 role against Chelsea and his added mobility and defensive discipline made a huge difference in Arsenal not being over-run in midfield as they so often are against the top teams.
With The Gunners traveling to the Etihad tomorrow to face Pep Gaurdiola’s high flying Manchester City, the major question Arsene Wenger will be contending with is whether or not his side have a better chance of coming away with a result if Ozil starts.
Sadly, for the talented playmaker all the evidence points to Arsenal’s chances of getting a positive result increasing in his absence. That is of course unless the 29-year-old wakes up tomorrow morning deciding that he is going to completely change how he plays the game.
Man City are the best team in the Premier League and possibly even in Europe at the moment. During their hugely impressive start to this campaign, which has seen them build a five point lead on their nearest rivals Manchester United, Guardiola’s men have averaged 66% possession in each game.
Quite simply Arsenal cannot afford to play with a number 10 who does not regularly drop back into midfield to try and regain possession, as City will more than likely dominate the ball for large parts of the game.
As I recently said here I believe Ozil is a world class player and a lot of the stick his gets from pundits is a bit over the top.
However, I am also a great believer in the old saying “Horses for courses” and I’m sorry Mesut but you definitely are not the right horse for the Etihad course.
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