Author: Edward Pitt
Since joining Arsenal for £42.5 million back in 2013, Mesut Ozil has certainly had his fair share of headlines. In the last few days alone, the midfielder offered to pay the wages of Arsenal mascot Gunnersaurus, only to then be excluded from Arsenal’s Europa League squad. For a long time, the World Cup winner has been in and out of the side, as it appeared that he fell short of the standards and discipline that Unai Emery and his successor Mikel Arteta have asked of the squad. The general opinion had been that he would spend this season with little to no involvement in the first team. He was adamant that he would see out his current contract and was not prepared to force his way out of the club in the summer, to then leave on a free transfer next year. However, according to James Olley, sources close to the German have told ESPN that his intention is to win-over Arteta and train his way back into first team contention. And it is no secret that Arsenal are in need of some creativity in their midfield…
After signing Thomas Partey on deadline day, Mikel Arteta revealed that the Ghanaian’s arrival would enable Arteta to begin using other formations than the 5-2-3 that is currently being used. By having a man as disciplined and dynamic as Partey sat infront of the back line, it appears that Arteta may finally muster the faith to return to a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation that was employed by himself and Pep Guardiola during his tenure at Manchester City. The Spaniard recently said “I think he allows us to play different formations and he can fit in within those formations in different positions, which is a really good thing to have in a squad where, in midfield, I think we were a little bit short”. Arteta has recently opted for a 5 at the back formation with the intention of sitting deep, soaking up pressure and then building from the back beat the opposition’s press and release players such as Aubameyang, Saka, Lacazette, Willian and Pepe. However, Partey’s superb ability at breaking down play in the centre of the pitch can enable Arsenal to launch their counter attacks from much higher up the pitch, making us a lot more dangerous. It is Partey’s ability to then carry the ball forward that would go hand in hand with Mesut Ozil’s ability to find pockets of space in the final third. In a 4 on 4 situation on the counter attack, no Arsenal fan could deny Mesut Ozil’s vision and experience to be able to play the perfect final ball to one of the Arsenal front three.
The biggest downside of Mesut Ozil is the well-documented lack of defensive output from the playmaker. Compared to Kevin De Bruyne at Manchester City who can pull strings in the final third but also sprint back to his own box and help recover possession for his side, Ozil really does lack the two-way ability to attack with elegance but also defend with discipline and effort. In an interview with Der Speigel, Arsenal legend Arsene Wenger admitted that “playing the game without the ball wasn’t exactly his forte”. However, the Frenchman also admitted that you can offset this issue “if you put some more defensively minded players by his side”. Well that is exactly what Arsenal have done with Thomas Partey; a player who’s athleticism and box-to-box ability in midfield might make up for Ozil’s lack thereof. If this is the case and this duo can work in the midfield, it might be enough to solve Arsenal’s lack of creativity so that we can really get the best out of the likes of Pepe and Lacazette, whilst propelling Aubameyang to scoring even more goals for the Gunners.
I for one believe that playing a 4-3-3 with either Xhaka or Ceballos (depending on the opposition) playing alongside Partey in a slightly deeper midfield pivot (similar to that of Cazorla and Coquelin a few years ago), would allow Arsenal to grant Ozil a more free role where he can find space and then play the killer through-balls to the front three. However, it is clear that Ozil is a man who really divides opinion amongst fans, and this is simply my opinion. Let us know in the comments, do you want Mesut back in the lineup? Do you think there is a way he can get back in the lineup? Or should Arsenal continue to freeze him out and be done with the never-ending saga when he leaves on a free next summer?
Header Photo: Ronnie MacDonald, firstname.lastname@example.org