Arteta: Chelsea win was vital for Arsenal
Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil is said to have impressed his team-mates in training of late as he bids to give Mikel Arteta a decision to make in a month’s time. The German has not played a competitive match for the club this season having been exiled from the 25-man Premier League squad but can be reintroduced to the Gunners’ options after the January transfer window. However, the Boxing Day win over Chelsea at the weekend may have exhausted Ozil’s hopes of Arteta reversing his decision.
Having gone on a seven-game winless run in the league, Arsenal named a youthful eleven that produced a rejuvenated performance to carry them to a 3-1 London derby win at the Emirates.
Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli both impressed with the north Londoners scoring twice or more in a top-flight match for the first time since a defeat of Sheffield United in early October.
Sticking with a 4-2-3-1 formation, Arteta started Smith Rowe as the No 10 with Martinelli out on the left as Alexandre Lacazette started up top, captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang only fit enough for the substitutes’ bench.
In the central creative role, Smith Rowe found the right areas of space to offer the kind of outlet Arteta’s side have often lacked this term and was also brilliant off the ball.
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While Martinelli, one of Arsenal’s stand-out performers last term in just his debut campaign in England, was similarly tireless in both putting pressure on Chelsea’s back-line and helping out left-back Kieran Tierney in addition to being typically lively in the final third.
The performances of the duo, particularly with the possibility Arsenal’s attack only improves with a fully fit Aubameyang, may mean Ozil’s chances of a return are in tatters.
The main case for his return was obviously the lack of chances Arsenal created, with statistics showing that Ozil – in recent seasons – has been by far the club’s most creative player even as his powers have waned.
The Telegraph say Ozil has been working hard in training and has made quite the impression on his team-mates at London Colney, with the squad split in half as to whether or not he should be brought back into the fold.
His treatment is said to have been a major point of contention behind the scenes with the former Germany international a popular member of the team.
And Ozil has made it clear, via social media, that he is still keen on getting back on to the pitch, saying in a recent Q&A: “Of course I would wish I could help the team especially right now, but as long as I don’t get the chance I just hope that we get better results very soon again.”
The common counter-argument against Ozil’s return has been that the World Cup winner does not offer sufficient energy and effort out of possession to fit in under Arteta.
Arsenal’s turgid recent performances suggested that might not matter so much, but the tempo was much improved against Chelsea thanks to the refreshing youthful exuberance of players like Smith Rowe, Saka and Martinelli.
With Ozil in the team over the former, would Arsenal have been able to play with such zest? The answer is of course unknown but evidence suggests the answer is more likely to have been no, for all the qualities the veteran No 10 does offer.
Smith Rowe does not have the class and experience of Ozil. But still only 20, the Croydon-born playmaker does have plenty of quality of his own and looked more than comfortable in the senior environment against Chelsea.
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Picking up the ball in pockets and interlinking with his fellow forwards, Smith Rowe helped Arsenal’s frontline look more cohesive against the Blues – as the scoreline showed.
Unfortunately for top earner Ozil, the fact his contract expires in the summer of 2021 combined with the fact Smith Rowe is a player for the future who has stated his case to be handed more minutes in the league surely means a recall is highly unlikely.
Arteta has been shown that the way to look forward and to get Arsenal out of their current rut is by putting trust in the Londoners’ plethora of young talents.
They shone in the Europa League, albeit against lesser opposition, and have now proven they are capable of offering more than the ageing first-team regulars such as Willian can too.
In the likes of not just Smith Rowe but also Saka and Martinelli, Arteta has the solution to Arsenal’s problems in attack – and that means Ozil’s Gunners career may have to peter out in sorry style as a result.
Perhaps his post-match tweet after the win over Chelsea, “really happy for all our youngsters today – playing with pride & no fear”, indicates that he wouldn’t feel too aggrieved with that, provided Arsenal’s performances and results improve in tandem.
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