After watching most of Arsenal’s recent matches, I’ve started pondering as to whether Arsenal are over-reliant on Mesut Özil and, to a lesser extent, Alexis Sanchez, to provide the main creative impetus for the team going forwards.
It seems that the majority of attacks come from a Özil pass or a defensive clearance from Santi Cazorla and, quite often, a darting run from either Alexis or Cazorla to get on the end of the pass. To me, it feels as if the other creative talents in the team aren’t working hard enough to create chances and through-balls and are leaving a lot of the creative inputs up to Özil, Alexis and Cazorla, which, to me, seems a little unfair.
Granted, a number of our more attacking threats like Ramsey, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rosicky have all had combinations of lack of form, selection issues and injuries this season, but I think, with our run-in that includes matches vs. Chelsea and Liverpool quite soon, where we have to pick up points to ensure qualification to the Champions League and finish as high in the league as possible to assist in our co-efficient for the Champions League, that all of our creative talents must work together to achieve results for the team. I included The Ox in that list as his direct running at defenders opens up space for other players to then get into goal-scoring positions.
Opposition teams, however, have started to attempt to man-mark Özil out of matches to try to lessen his impact on the pitch. Take, for example, the recent games vs. West Ham and Monaco – Özil had at least two players marking him within a few seconds every time he received the ball. Surely that should be ringing some alarm bells for Arsene Wenger? Arsenal seemed to have a good attacking balance in the first half vs. Newcastle on Saturday without Özil – possibly because the makeshift Newcastle defence had no clue who to mark with Özil not being on the pitch!
Now, before you start throwing your hands up and shouting at me, I’m not in any way suggesting that Özil be dropped from the match squad, especially not for the important matches – what I am suggesting is that the other creative midfield talents need to lift their games and make fewer errors in and out of possession to take pressure off of Özil. Players who must improve now are Ramsey (played well vs. Newcastle and Monaco, a trend which I hope will continue, after a pretty terrible season marred by injury and poor form). Oxlade-Chamberlain (must work on his ball retention and needs to look up for the earlier pass) and Rosicky (this is more from Arsene Wenger’s side – Rosicky needs to come on earlier as he almost always makes an impact when he plays). It may also be a good idea to keep Özil on the bench for a few of the upcoming matches, especially against the relegation scrapers like Hull, Burnley and Sunderland.
I know Arsene Wenger does not like to alter his sides if he can avoid it, but I hope that he does – Özil has played almost every match when he hasn’t been injured and could probably use a few matches as a sub to recharge his batteries. The same could be said of Alexis too, but I have no idea who we could bring in – Theo Walcott’s contract situation means that Wenger is less likely to risk him, possibly wanting to move him on in the summer, while Dan Crowley and Gedion Zelalem are, in my opinion, not yet ready for first team action and Serge Gnabry is still recovering from his knee injury, which has kept him out of the first team for a year now? The difference between Alexis and Özil’s situations are that we have fewer options to call on for Alexis if he were to get rested, while there are options in place for (slightly) resting Özil.
What do you think? Let me know!
Thanks for reading!
The first time I saw Dennis Bergkamp play was in 1996 – I started following Arsenal properly in 1998 after the World Cup. When Arsenal then signed Thierry Henry – a player I had seen in that World Cup win by France – as well as already having Vieira and Petit there, plus several English stars like Tony Adams, Martin Keown and David Seaman just cemented Arsenal as the club for me. There was very little football coverage in South Africa during the 1990s as rugby was (and still is) the dominant sport here.
I was not really ushered in any specific direction in terms of which club to support – I chose Arsenal myself. It’s only over the last 3 years that I have been able to watch matches regularly – we get excellent TV coverage of European football now and I try to watch all Arsenal matches live.