ARE Arsenal better off without Mesut Ozil in the side?
The simple answer is no.
After two clean sheets on the bounce away to Chelsea and at home to West Brom, links have been made between Ozil’s absence from the side and Arsenal’s defensive balance.
The Gunners did manage to keep their opponents at bay in both games, however the decision making and efficiency in the final third suffered in the German World Cup winner’s absence.
The 28-year-old is often the scapegoat after Arsenal succumb to a heavy defeat, and it’s fair to say he doesn’t always cover himself in glory.
But you don’t buy or play Ozil for defensive balance.
Yes, he needs to work hard for the team, and his running stats will prove he does cover plenty of ground.
But you don’t have Ozil in your side to make tackles, track back and block shots – you have him to assist and score goals.
In fact, the German has the level of quality that you build an entire side around.
He’s not going to take a game by the scruff of the neck, and he will rarely dominate it, but he can make everybody else tick.
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Ozil has the ability to make the other players around him play 10-15 per cent more effectively through his accuracy of decision making and execution – a skill more valuable than any individual brilliance (with the exception of a the obvious few).
So it’s the task of the manager, Arsene Wenger, to build a balanced side around the playmaker which allows him and the team to flourish.
And there have been some positive signs recently.
The draw away to Chelsea was a stray from the norm. Arsenal set up tactically well with minimal space between the lines, both full-backs confronted their counterparts high up the and the front three pressed the ball in tandem, communicating well.
Aaron Ramsey’s positional discipline during the game was a major plus point, along with the tactical discipline of the wing-backs.
Hector Bellerin, who was keen on a Barcelona return this summer, showed glimpses of why the Catalan side were interested in bringing their La Masia graduate back, with a performance close to the levels he was showing in the 2015-16 season.
New signing Sead Kolasinac was equally as impressive on the other side, giving the Gunners width and speed on the flanks, with each full-back playing on their natural sides.
The challenge now for Arsenal is to marry the creative flair and attractive football that they are so famous for, with the defensive steel they showed away at the Champions last week.
There’s no doubt in my mind that, in order to achieve that goal and have an opportunity of competing this season, they will need Ozil in the side.