Can Unai Emery get the best out of Mesut Ozil consistently?
Playmaker ran the show for Arsenal against Leicester
After Arsenal’s emphatic 5-1 win against Fulham before the international break, some wondered whether there was space for Mesut Ozil in Unai Emery’s strongest side.
Ozil missed the game at Craven Cottage as his teammates tore the hosts apart. Emery set his side out in a 4-4-2 system in West London, which had no obvious spot for the German.
But the 30-year-old answered any doubts emphatically with a sensational display in Monday’s 3-1 win over Leicester City. He wore the captain’s armband and scored the first goal, was heavily involved in the second and carved the Foxes open to create the third.
It’s the sort of display he hasn’t produced often enough during his time in England. Can Emery get him to hit those heights more regularly?
One of the main criticisms of Ozil is that he doesn’t offer enough defensively. But asking him to track full-backs or mark a man closely takes away from what he is good at. He’s one of the best creative players in the world. The bigger issue is that Arsenal’s system couldn’t accommodate Ozil’s free role without being too open at the back.
The arrival of Lucas Torreira may be the answer to that problem. The Uruguayan is the sort of player Arsenal have lacked for too long. He wins the ball back in the middle of the park and moves it on quickly.
A midfield duo of Torreira and Granit Xhaka provides plenty of defensive protection, which means Ozil can be left to orchestrate the play higher up the pitch.
Runners off the ball
While Ozil is an incredibly gifted player, he relies on his teammates to make use of his gifts. His vision and passing ability are useless without players to pick out.
Under Arsene Wenger, the Gunners would dominate possession, but they often found it hard to break down defences that sat deep.
Emery wants his team to play at a much higher tempo, which helps to move the opposition around and open up space for Ozil to exploit.
The full-backs also push up very high, allowing the World Cup winner to play them in behind. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s ability to drift into space from the left is proving very useful too. Aubameyang is 8/1 to finish as top scorer.
Time to deliver
Arsenal have been some way below the very best sides for much of Ozil’s time at the club. But there’s still a sense that he could be doing more.
He really stepped up against Leicester after Arsenal went a goal down. But he’s good enough to be doing that more often.
Arsenal look to have a more secure system now under Emery. And the club secured his future with a bumper new contract earlier in the year.
Now that he’s 30-years-old, he doesn’t have too long left at the very top. Emery’s side are 6/5 to finish in the top four now. Will he lead them there?
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing