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Arsenal no closer to solving conundrum of misfiring Ozil


Mesut Ozil struggled to make an impact on his return to Germany against Borussia Dortmund. Photo: Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images

Mesut Ozil struggled to make an impact on his return to Germany against Borussia Dortmund. Photo: Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images

Bongarts/Getty Images

Mesut Ozil struggled to make an impact on his return to Germany against Borussia Dortmund. Photo: Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images

There was an announcement at Dusseldorf airport yesterday morning that was entirely in keeping just now with the reaction to any Arsenal defeat.

A flight to Rome was departing and, over the tannoy, came the call for a missing passenger by the name of Mr Ozil. It got a few smiles, as presumably did Bild's description of a player "not earning his money", but the now stock response to any poor Arsenal performance - blame Mesut Ozil - has become sufficiently predictable as to be facile.

Yes, Ozil was largely anonymous in the 2-0 defeat against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday and, yes, it is not the first big game in which he has failed to deliver, but he is hardly alone. Aaron Ramsey - a player almost beyond criticism following his performances last season - was just as bad and he was playing in his proper position. The same could be said of Mikel Arteta or either of the two young full-backs. Graeme Souness said that Arsenal played like they had "no midfield" and his principal concern was the central positions.


The left-footed Ozil had been asked to start wide on the right in front of a rookie teenage full-back by the name of Hector Bellerin. Ozil duly lasted 62 minutes before manager Arsene Wenger realised his baffling selection mistake and the World Cup winner's starting place is surely in jeopardy against Aston Villa on Saturday.

A swift reaction is needed by the whole team if Arsenal really are going to justify their own expectations of being genuine contenders this season in both the Premier League and Champions League.

"If you make the mistakes that we did, against top sides, we know that there is no chance," Arteta said. The problems did not start with Ozil - he was hardly brought to the club for his ball-winning capabilities - but it is his future use that will surely be causing Wenger most thought in the coming days.

Ozil's advocates are quite clear about what needs to happen and that is for Wenger to abandon his flirtation with a 4-1-4-1 system that crams Jack Wilshere, Arteta and Ramsey into central midfield and squeezes Ozil out wide.

Go back to 4-2-3-1 with two deeper-lying central midfielders and Ozil can return to his preferred No10 position. That would then mean choosing two from four out of Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini. Injuries may ultimately simplify things, although Wilshere's twisted right ankle on Tuesday is nothing serious and he will be available to play Villa on Saturday.

"I'm fine," he said. It all leaves a big decision, with Wenger having reasoned that Ozil could flourish from a wide position as long as he was given sufficient licence to cut inside. "I give him freedom to play outside and inside and he likes that - it is not easy but Ozil is a team player and he takes it very well," he said. Although Ozil has also been moved out wide for his national team - including in the World Cup final - the sense in Germany is that Wenger risks wasting him.

"I think that he is a player of the centre - on the wings he is not half as good," says Lars Wallrodt, the chief football writer of Die Welt.

Ian Wright, the former Arsenal striker, echoed that assessment on Twitter yesterday. "Arsene, get Ozil in the middle, get the team to play around him," he wrote.

The argument is not that Ozil was anything other than peripheral against Dortmund, just that we are in danger of missing the point if we expect him to diligently provide protection to a full-back. Ozil has never been the engine of any football team. He simply provides the luxury oil. To get the best from him, so the argument goes, you need to build the right machine around him.

Yet the team that Wenger has constructed is at risk of breaking down when it is counter-attacked with pace by elite opposition.

Arteta has done an admirable job over the past three years but does he now have the mobility and presence in holding midfield against the very best? The simple truth is that Ozil himself is unlikely to ever be a player in the mould of a Roy Keane, a Patrick Vieira or, even, a Gareth Bale, who can single-handedly take a game by the scruff of the neck.

But surround him with one or two who can and he is still likely to underline his status as one of the best No10s in the world.

Of the two potential goalscoring moments for Arsenal on Tuesday, one was a brilliantly weighted pass from Ozil that, but for just a few inches, would have played Alexis Sanchez onside and put them into the lead. Yes, he did little else and the longer-term concern is whether his confidence could fade.

So, does Wenger now drop Ozil, persist with a system that is yet to click or does he rearrange his team to utilise his playmaker through the middle? It must surely be the latter. Only then we will really find out whether Ozil was worth it. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent