24 October 2014

Maybe we should sell Özil...

What a waste of money. He's been nicking a living for some time now, What's more, he's starting to come across as a flat-track bully, what with his only goal and two assists coming against our weakest opponents to date (an assist in the 4-1 win over Galatasaray, a goal and and an assist in the 0-3 win over Villa, for those keeping score at home). A peek beyond those two performances suggests that Özil might be bred for finer (read: more-delicate) environs than the Prem. His style, his strengths, and his weaknesses may not be a good match for Arsenal or, for that matter, the Prem. For the right price, maybe we shouldsell him—just so long as we sell him at a profit and send him far, far away.

I know full-well that such a suggestion, coming as it does after the arrival-cum-betrayal of Fàbregas, might reek of capitulation. After all, for as much as we might revel in van Persie's petulance (and putrescence), we still have to cope with the notion of a drool-inducing creator who, on the verge of fulfilling his promise, bolted. It would seem like rank hypocrisy to have passed on Fàbregas because we have Özil. However, my concerns lie at a deeper level.

First off, set aside your "what about Fàb?" remonstrations. Yes, he's doing fabulously well, but who wouldn't given the set-up that he has? Chelsea's squad is so deep that he'd be a fool not to deliver the assists that he's credited with to this point. It's almost ludicrous. Put me in the role of deep-lying playmaker with the likes of Hazard, Costa, Oscar, and Schürrle to pass to and I might come up with a half-dozen assists. Long story short, I'm not offering a comparison between what was, what could have been, and what could be.

On that level, Özil might be superfluous to our needs, as the saying goes. On paper, he might be more valuable than Wilshere or Ramsey or Cazorla. Then again, on paper, he might be our most-expensive bauble. We have a fair few creative types who'd fancy an extended run in the middle of the pitch, and, yes, Özil is one of them. However, by contrast with Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla, and (dare I say his name? I do), Diaby, he's ill-fitted to our current style of play or that of the Prem itself.

One of our Achilles' heels has been our finesse. Rivals, be they Chelsea or Stoke or anyone in between, know that they can rough us up and ruin our attack. On this level, Özil is offered as Exhibit A. Perhaps no other player in our squad—scratch that, in the Prem itself—depends on finesse to the extent that Özil does. He dances. He pirouettes. It's pretty, no doubt about it—when it amounts to something. All too often, however, it's style without substance, all the more so when a rough shoulder or studs-in tackle crumples Özil.

Were that all, I might rest my case. After all, we can't do a whole lot to mitigate how the orcs of the Prem play. Instead, I'd ask that we look closer to home and how we play. Simply put, Özil is superfluous, at least to our current style of play. We've been building up a slow attack with patient passes, clever passes, dinking it around the box in hopes of a perfect pass. Özil, for richer or for poorer, is no better and no worse at this sort of pass than anyone else in the squad. His strength, his reputation as King of the Assist, comes from his ability to thread that longer pass in behind the defense for a fleet-of-foot, clinical finisher (read: Ronaldo). What good is it having someone like Özil when there is rarely more than 10-15 yards behind the defense to pass into? Opponents have long since figured out that they can frustrate Arsenal by setting up to defend in numbers. Unless and until we adapt our tactics to that, a player like Özil is almost certainly extraneous.

Crossing from the pragmatic into the perhaps-heretic, it's possible that Özil was never quite the maestro that we'd assumed. Playing for Real Madrid and Germany, two of the world's most-domineering sides at their respective levels, Özil was bound to inflate his stats to some degree. Coming to the Prem, he was bound to suffer. This begs the question: was he ever the player we purchased in the first place? After all, much of his reputation was borne of his time at Real Madrid, where scoring less than 100 goals in a campaign would be seen as shocking. Yes, Man City and Liverpool scored 100 goals last season, but each felt like more of a parody than a paragon. Beyond that, the Prem hasn't seen a 100-goal season since Chelsea did it in 2009-10. I don't mean to say that Özil is rubbish, but it is worth remembering that goals and assists are a bit harder to come by in the Prem than they are in La Liga. Any player coming from Spain to England will his stats suffer.

It may be that Özil's strengths and weaknesses mean that he'd be better off playing for Bayern—if only because their style of play and the quality of the opposition maximize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses. Therein lies the rub(s): sell him away from the Prem. Get a pretty penny. Invest said penny wisely.

Given the number of creative, attacking players we have at our disposal, let's say we manage to sell Özil at a profit. Call it £45m, a modest return on the investment. If we plough part of that money into a proper defensive midfielder to replace Arteta and/or Flamini, would this not make sense? Alexis on the right, Walcott on the left. Wilshere and Ramsey exchanging in the middle. Who's behind them, shielding the defense? Carvalho, Schweinsteiger, and Pogba want to know...

What do you think? Fuel the fire by commenting below the fold!