Paul Merson: Mesut Ozil can play for Arsenal because of Thomas Partey protection
Paul Merson believes Thomas Partey's inclusion in the Arsenal midfield should allow for Mesut Ozil to be reintroduced to the team.Ozil was left out of Mikel Arteta's squad for the Premier League and E
Paul Merson believes Thomas Partey's inclusion in the Arsenal midfield should allow for Mesut Ozil to be reintroduced to the team.
Ozil was left out of Mikel Arteta's squad for the Premier League and Europa League group stages this season, and has not played a minute for the club since March.
The 32-year-old, whose contract runs out in the summer, can only be re-registered to Arsenal's Premier League and Europa League knockout squads after the January transfer window, but Merson says the German's skillset is perfect for the Gunners, as long as Partey is playing.
Here, Merson also insists Arteta is hampered by not knowing his best XI, and was saddened by just how fast Tottenham have overtaken his former side in spending and performances.
Arsenal crying out for creativity: Ozil has it
For me, Mesut Ozil comes back in the team if Thomas Partey is fit. Partey gets around the pitch, dominates the midfield and dictates the game. Him playing opens up a chance for Ozil.
At the moment, Arsenal have nobody in there to provide the forwards. You can make runs all day long, but if you're a centre-forward, your runs are only as good as the players playing behind you.
When these Arsenal players are getting the ball in midfield, with time, is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang making the run? Is he confident they are going to see his run and are capable of getting that ball through the eye of a needle? I'd say no, so they need creativity. Fernando Torres made runs when Steven Gerrard got the ball. They didn't even have to look.
Teams are sitting back against Arsenal, and they don't have the creativity in midfield to break them down.
If Partey doesn't play, Ozil can't play. Without Partey, Arsenal are not going to dictate the midfield, and then can't afford to play with 10 men. But if Arsenal have the midfield, and Ozil is playing behind Aubameyang, with two flying wingers. You ask the back four to stay still, including the full-backs.
You'd play Granit Xhaka next to Partey, then Ozil in front, then have Aubameyang central, Bukayo Saka on the left, and try and get a tune out of Nicolas Pepe. Get the ball to Ozil, and before you know it, if you make runs, he'll find you.
Is Arteta to blame for Ozil's exclusion? I don't know if it's Arteta or the club. I'm not sure. Arteta has been in the game long enough to know when a player is or isn't a good player.
You never, ever know when you're going to need a player. The name of the game for so many top managers is to keep the players who aren't in the team happy. Because they know, one day, they might need that player.
If you treat them badly, and all of a sudden you have a few injuries and you need them to play, it's bad news. If you treat them well, they'll run through a brick wall for you. You will need them.
Arteta doesn't know his best team
They just make change after change. Arteta's job is safe, Arsenal have a plan. There's a project there. Arteta has done some good things.
So he can pick a team, with his coaches, and say: 'Right, this is my best team.' Play it for five games; if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. It's two, three, four changes every week.
Players get to know each other. Look at Leeds, the team plays every week together, and they all know what they're doing. A ball is flicked around the corner, without looking, and someone is there. They all know what they're doing because it's the same team every week.
For these players to come in and attempt to hit the ground running so fast, it's impossible.
Willian and Aubameyang... what's happened?
I don't know what's happened to Willian. He was unplayable for Chelsea at times last season, and then Arsenal sign him and you think: 'What a signing this is. On a free transfer!' I can't remember him having a good game yet. I'm a massive, massive fan of his. He's just not got going.
And at the moment Aubameyang is not playing. You can't play in a football match and touch the ball six times in a half. You've got to go and get the ball, get involved, whatever happens.
Spurs miles ahead, and fear factor has gone
The saddest thing for me is how far, and how quickly, Arsenal have fallen behind Tottenham. Tottenham have just built one of the best stadiums in the world. I thought they were going to be selling players left, right and centre. A bit like Arsenal after they built the Emirates. Every year a star player went.
Tottenham are spending more money than Arsenal! Tottenham have a team there, and are in that group where they can win the league. You look at Arsenal, and they're in the group with Leicester, Southampton, Everton, West Ham, a few others.
People used to say 'The Arsenal'… 'How did The Arsenal do today?' 'Who have The Arsenal got today?'
That's gone. They just say Arsenal now. It was such a top club. Some of the teams they've had over the years have been phenomenal.
I think it sums up the situation at Arsenal that Wolves can experiment in that game, and play a load of attacking players. That fear isn't there anymore with Arsenal. I know Wolves played a back four the previous week, but let's get one thing straight: Conor Coady wasn't available in that game. This was Wolves experimenting.
Pitch to Post Weekend Review podcast
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Jasper Taylor is joined by Ben Ransom and Gerard Brand in the latest Pitch to Post Review show to discuss just that (07:55), as well as Eric Dier's form as he ditches the 'versatility' tag. Spurs are top, but what happens if opponents out-Jose Jose? (13:48)
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