Question: Do you get a perfect 10 if you fill your team up with 10s?
Answer: No doubt we will find out soon, once Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Granit Xhaka, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi line up in the same team. Obviously, they can’t all play the same role in the same game, so Mkhitaryan had better be prepared to be a winger. That’s the place where Wenger places players that he wants to fit into the team, but can’t without putting square pegs in round holes. It doesn’t always work: ask Andrey Arshavin.
Right now, no one is going to be able to displace Ozil. The Germany international is undoubtedly the most talented number 10, at the club. I’ve often heard it said that Ozil could walk into any team. I think ‘walk’ is the operative word here, as I’m sure the German wouldn’t want to strain himself too much. In fact, his languid style may not always endear him to the fans, but I’ve maintained (most of the time, at least) that Ozil is an essential member of this current Arsenal team.
Without Ozil, chances are always at a premium. A striker, assuming there’s room left in the team once Henrikh Mkhitaryan is drafted in, will have much more goalscoring opportunities presented to him if Ozil’s in the team. However, a worrying aspect about the future is the fact that Ozil still hasn’t signed a new deal. Although TeamTalk called Arsene Wenger’s comments about the German playmaker’s situation a ‘bold statement’, it sounded more like something ‘the Riddler’ from ‘Batman’ would say.
Wenger, reportedly, said that the deal to keep Ozil at the club is ‘not close enough to be optimistic and not far enough to be pessimistic’. It reminds of the riddle: what is always on its way here, but never arrives? Answer: tomorrow’s new signing.
Meanwhile, Wenger’s masterplan of playing as many number 10s as possible in the same team will move a step forward once we see Mkhitaryan and Ozil lined up alongside each other.
The question is will Mohamed Elneny be sacrificed for the new arrival? It sounds like a foolish sacrifice as, so far, the idea of making the Egypt international the only defensive midfielder has worked against Chelsea and Crystal Palace. Moving forwards, it looks quite a risky policy to leave Elneny out of the team.
Let’s face facts: Chelsea were unlucky not to get a better result than they achieved in the League Cup semi-final second leg, while Palace managed to pull a goal back in the second half against an Arsenal defence that only can be relied upon to leak. Therefore, the defence needs protection from midfield and, so far, only Elneny seems capable of providing that.
Nevertheless, the signs following two victories on the spin are encouraging: Switzerland’s number 10 Granit Xhaka, freed from defensive responsibilities, managed to score against Chelsea. Not only that, the Swiss didn’t even pick up his obligatory yellow card!
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s actual number 10, Jack Wilshere continues to stay in the team. The England international, who may have earned himself a recall to Gareth Southgate’s squad, is tenacious and certainly adds something creatively.
The same applies to Alex Iwobi. The much-maligned Nigeria international is incredibly skillful, and can play the odd incisive ball forwards, but like many of the Arsenal team, is not averse to giving the ball away in his own third with a stray pass.
Iwobi was not the only one guilty of this cardinal defensive sin against Chelsea, but Arsene Wenger needs to coach this bad habit out of the team. Of course, if you litter a team with number 10s, you have to expect poor decisions defensively; that’s the price you pay for incision going forwards.
Ultimately, I’m not expecting a massive improvement in the league for Arsenal, as Alexis Sanchez’s departure and even Theo Walcott’s means there are less goals in the team than previously. It’s no good Wenger telling the fans that the team is creating more chances than any other, if those goal opportunities are not being finished off.
Personally, I think the team needs more balance, if the primary objective is to win rather than entertain. Losing isn’t much fun for the fans, unless they don’t mind hearing the old excuses trotted out after every defeat.