Can Arsenal afford to keep leaving Ozil out?
They looked short of ideas without him
Unai Emery stuck his neck out with his Arsenal team selection against West Ham United on Saturday.
The big talking point before kick-off was that Mesut Ozil had been out of the squad entirely. But the bold call didn’t work out as the manager hoped.
Arsenal limped to a 1-0 loss at the London Stadium. They didn’t even manage to hit a shot on target after Declan Rice’s goal early in the second half.
With a top-four spot looking increasingly distant at 5/1, they have a crucial game against Chelsea this weekend. Is it time to bring Ozil back into the fold?
Why has he been left out?
Ozil is one of the most gifted creative players in world football. But he needs the licence to roam to be at his best. The issue is that Emery wants Arsenal to play as a solid unit, with everyone doing their bit defensively.
The Gunners aren’t solid enough at the back to carry anyone defensively, no matter how talented they are.
The ex-Paris Saint-Germain boss gave the playmaker chances to impress in the first few months of the season. He even named Ozil as one of his five dressing room leaders.
But it seems like he’s now seen enough. The former Real Madrid star was left out of the squad for the Carabao Cup quarter-final with North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. He was hauled off at half-time in the Boxing Day draw with Brighton & Hove Albion too.
The 30-year-old doesn’t provide what Emery wants, so he isn’t being picked.
Time to think again?
If the thinking behind leaving Ozil out is to make the team more secure, it doesn’t seem to be working.
Arsenal have only kept one clean sheet in their last 15 league games. Even that was against Huddersfield Town, the lowest scoring side in the division.
And if they can’t keep goals out at one end, they need to be scoring them regularly at the other. But the team looked desperately short of ideas on Saturday, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette both isolated.
In theory, Ozil appears to be the ideal player to change that. He’s blessed with exception vision and passing ability. But the World Cup winner hasn’t provided Emery with much evidence that he actually would make the difference.
The World Cup winner has only set up one goal in 13 league appearances this term. He’s drifted through too many games without making an impact.
To win his place back, he either has to buy into Emery’s collective vision or play so well that the manager is forced to make space for him. It doesn’t currently look like he’ll be doing either soon.
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