There is much to be positive about as an Arsenal fan. After a tricky start to the campaign the team are winning consistently, if not flamboyantly and certain individuals have been key to that. However the two players who have not been integral to the turnaround are still the two players being most discussed in the media, which is frankly dull. No matter how good Ozil and Alexis are, or should I say can be, they have not played the most significant part and in the German’s case, any part in the improvements.
If either player truly wanted to be a part in Arsenal’s future we know they would have signed up to be and that they have not done. The Club/Wenger elected to keep both players, ultimately, into the final year of their respective contracts and that decision whilst, in part, showing some strength in the summer, is not looking the best, in all aspects at least, in October.
The team have been winning without the player who, to all intents and purposes, is supposed to make them tick. And whilst Alexis has been playing and has re-found some form his efforts seem increasingly ‘soloist’. His individual brilliance can create for himself and others but his contribution to team shape and in defensive work, so evident earlier in his tenure, is lacking now. Admittedly the new role in a two behind Lacazette is not the same as his wide role in the previous system and hence he is not required to work back in support of a fullback but none the less his desire to track back and win the ball back, so much a feature of his play, seems to have lessened.
Uncommitted Brilliance or Committed Quality?
As long as both players are at Arsenal in the last year of their deals, the headlines and speculation with not only not go away but will increase week on week up until January 1st when it will be open season. For this reason Wenger must be considering his options and pondering if he can win without one or both of them. Even if he is not yet at that point I am sure I and much of the fan base are at that point. It is hard to quantify perhaps which will contribute more to the team ethic and performance? Two brilliant players not necessarily fitting perfectly into the team structure and not mentally 100% due to their indecision of lack of commitment to the club? Or two good players, who do fit into the team ethic and structure and who are wholly committed to the cause?
Therein lies the problem facing the manager in the coming months. He has a returning Danny Welbeck, who runs himself into the ground for Arsenal week in week out and gives the opposition no rest, but whose finishing and final pass are far from consistent. Welbeck also has the form incentive of knowing a place at the World Cup is at stake. He has a brilliant, yet flawed genius in Jack Wilshere, desperate to reclaim a first team place, a new contract and a also place in Southgate’s squad for Russia. A man with the ability, like Ozil, to unlock the tightest of defences with a telling pass but also with the burst to beat a man and create space. He has Alex Iwobi, still young and raw but with obvious talent, able to carry and retain the football superbly and who he constantly praises and reaffirms his faith in. Then of course he has the enigma that is Aaron Ramsey who he has also toyed with playing further up the pitch, where he may not have the incisive passing or creativity of his German peer but he does have the timing of his runs and eye for a goal. In addition of course he has the ultimate enigma in Theo Walcott who has been playing behind the striker in Europe this season.
Playing for the Badge on the Chest!
There will always be Arsenal fans who will automatically want to see Alexis and Ozil line up against Watford this weekend and I really do understand that. Technically they are our best two individuals and when they play well we should have a better chance of winning the match. I get that but I am and Arsenal fan and that is Arsenal the club and the team not the players, so I want to see a team with 11 individuals all pulling in the same direction. Ultimately if Wenger decides he can continue to win therefore, without one or either of the ‘stars’, in favour of 1 or 2 of the five mentioned, I personally will not have a problem with that at all.
We all want Arsenal to win but in essence, it just feels that little bit more special winning with players who genuinely want to pull on the famous red and white and who when they kiss the badge we know or at least hope they mean it.
Wenger just needs to keep us winning far more than we lose until January and then the picture should become much clearer.