Having seen the Mesut Ozil bear the brunt of the post-game pundit criticism following the Stoke defeat, Ian Wright came to the defence of the playmaker this week. Speaking to Sky Sports Debate show, he was asked if he understood the frustrations people had with him, and said:
What, the one that’s already created 10 chances for his teammates when he’s supposed to be having a nightmare?
“If I’m Arsene Wenger, I’m saying ‘When he gets the ball, I just want you to back him up, and if he loses it you get it back and give it back to him to let him get on with it again’.
He suggested the midfield balance was wrong, with players not in place to do the kind of work Ozil needs other people to do for him to be at his most effective. In general I agree with this. People getting angry that the German doesn’t get stuck in or make crunching tackles are expecting things from him that are just not part of his game. That’s not to say he couldn’t do a bit more, but it’s not why we bought him.
We bought him to make those chances, the 10 he’s created thus far in the Premier League – more than any other player – that we have failed to finish. With better finishing Ozil was in man of the match territory against Stoke, but is in many ways a slave to those he’s providing for. When he lays it on a plate for Danny Welbeck to head home with just the keeper to beat and sees the ball clatter off the striker’s shoulder and over the bar, it’s not his fault is it?
It wasn’t Ozil who was standing miles away from where he was supposed to be when Xhaka lost the ball, that was Ramsey – clearly playing to instruction from Arsene Wenger, by the way, and I think the former Real Madrid man is too easily scapegoated when things go wrong for us. His style lends itself to accusations of laziness – something that has been disproved countless times by his running stats, distance covered, sprints per game etc.
In the podcast this week we talked about the need for a more defensively minded midfield player to offer a more secure platform, to which @spaceludes on Twitter reacted by wondering if even if we had that player, would the manager not play him in an advanced role anyway as he could just as easily ask Ramsey or someone like Coquelin to sit deep in that kind of system. It’s a fair point.
Arsene Wenger has a long history of having hugely talented players but not getting the maximum out of them because of either the system or the players around them. The obvious one to me is Cesc Fabregas, the most talented midfield prospect in Europe who should have been the heartbeat of this club for years and years, yet having to carry the likes of Denilson and Song season after season drove him mad.
Disagree all you want with how he left, but don’t be under any illusions as to why. When the best team in Europe, the club you grew up at, come calling and say ‘Come play with Messi, Iniesta, Xavi etc’, it’s very hard to resist when you look around the Arsenal dressing room and see what you’re being asked to play with every week.
You have to wonder is it something similar that affects Alexis Sanchez when he throws his gloves down in frustration. A special talent, who must of course take his share of responsibility for how our seasons end up, but when he scores 30 goals and makes 14 assists and we still finish 5th he must ask himself what more he can do. I think he and Ozil have better players to work with than Fabregas did, but I still believe that with Ozil in particular we lack that specific something that gets the best out of him.
Again, this is not to absolve him of responsibility, nor am I blind to the flaws in his game. They’re obvious, which is why I think the manager must be aware of them too, yet he hasn’t done anything to really address that situation. You either consider them too great to contend with, and replace the player, or you do more to support the player. Allowing the situation to continue without any meaningful effort to make it better falls back on the man at the top, not the one on the pitch.
Anyway, that was a bit rambly, but it is what it is. Anyone looking for any transfer news this morning will be disappointed. There’s talk of another £35m bid from Chelsea for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, my position on this remains unchanged from when the story first emerged last week.
Lucas Perez appears no closer to a move back to Deportivo la Coruna with Arsenal unwilling to grant financial favours to a club which insisted on every penny they could get when they sold him to us. I have my issues with our transfer business, but it’s curious how so many insist we should just let him go for a nominal fee yet at the same time bemoan our ability to get market value for the players we sell. We’re looking for around €15m, they’ve kind of offered €12m, and €3m is almost €60,000 a week that could be used for our wage bill next season so it’s not an insignificant amount of money that we should just write off because it’s a bit awkward at the moment.
Then there’s Man City preparing a £70m bid for Alexis, which I’ll believe when I see, and as I’ve said all summer if we let him go after being so strident and forthright about how he’s going to stay, we might as well just give up. I can’t see it happening at all and City are said to be ‘pessimistic‘ anyway.
Finally, exciting Carabao Cup news as we face Doncaster in the Carabao Cup which is sponsored by Carabao and is a cup called the Carabao Cup.
The manager meets the press ahead of our trip to Anfield on Sunday, so team news, any transfer updates and other press conference snippets will be found over on Arseblog News. Tim Stillman is here later on, and I’ll be back tomorrow with an Arsecast.
Until then, have a good one.