Bloody hell Leicester, that’s one way to put ten men to the sword, eh?
Last night their battering of Southampton felt in very stark contrast to the two pretty terrible football match that our players have delivered in the last week. It was ruthless, free-flowing and an example of a manager who has given his team clear instructions, knows just what he wants and it delivering, which is certainly more than we can say for our Spanish Bruce Rioch.
Sky delivered a goal fest on the TV and yesterday they also delivered some snippets of interviews with Emery talking bout Mesut Ozil, instead saying “Now is not the time to speak of this” when asked why he isn’t in the team. Ozil will clearly not play any more football this season as long as Emery is in charge and now we find the manager basically dismissing any discussion.
I am not going to leap to Ozil’s defence today though. He hasn’t delivered when he has played for some time and he’s been at best ‘good’, at worst ‘absent’ in games. However, the ostracising him is something that I just don’t understand. The reason ~I don’t understand it is not because of the individual, but because of the type of player he is, because we just don’t have somebody who links the midfield to the attack like he does.
But we have to accept that he isn’t getting near the first time any time soon. We have to accept that as long as Unai picks the team he isn’t going to be our connector. I can accept that. But if that is the case what I want to know is:
Who else are we going to have as our number 10?
who else have we got in our squad that can find those through balls that split defences? Who else have find pockets of space that enable us to transition across the park? Who else will we have further up the pitch who can link play or deliver balls to our excellent strike force. Because it is an excellent strike force. We have Pepe, Auba and Laca who, if provided the opportunities, have shown they can deliver. But this season has been an over reliance on individuals to produce the magic. On Thursday it was Pepe with his dead balls. Against Villa it was Aubameyang. If I go much further back this season we’ll probably find goal after goal that has relied on an individual moment of brilliance.
So if Emery is ditching Ozil, fine, but what exactly is he going to do to change the poor build up play in this Arsenal side? Right now it looks like his plan is to rely on a select few individuals who he has favour with. I’ve listed below our midfield options in an attempt to work out how we get that creative link back into our play.
We’ve ben told that he can play as a ten but he hasn’t had that many minutes in that position. Ceballos is a maverick player, a ‘free form jazz’ type and whilst he can travel with it at his feet and there’s no doubt t he has ability, he isn’t a passer in between the lines. I haven’t seen his vision split a defence yet and we also need to remember that he is still adapting to life at The Arsenal. For me he is a better option as a deeper lying midfielder and that’s where we saw him excel against Burnley earlier in the season.
A player whose potential we’ve all seen, but somebody who likes to run with the ball. He’s a guy who will travel over yards in the middle of the pitch and who can drive us forward from deep. He’s one of those that you can see snaffling the ball up from an opposition attacker or midfielder and then quickly transitioning us forward, but when he gets in to the opposition half I feel like he’s the type who then needs to be able to look up, see a number ten who he can release it to, then give it and help to support the play. Kind of like Aaron Ramsey used to do. So he’s not that link player we need.
I’ve seen some people suggest maybe Guendouzi is pushed forward and I can totally understand that. He’s better going forward than he is defensively, he’s one of the players who has had some stand out performances, but also the partnership of Xhaka and Guendouzi at the base of our midfield hasn’t really worked so far in my opinion. But he’s not a guy who splits defences with his passing either. He’s somebody who always wants it at his feet. He’s a player who will drive at teams – like we saw on Thursday with Pepe’s second goal from the free kick, which came as a result of a Guendouzi drive – and who will be happy to move the ball around, but again he’s hardly produced defence-splitting passes all season, has he? He got one in the North London Derby but that’s pretty much all I can remember from this season. So for me I just can’t see it at the moment.
Potentially this could be a position that Smith-Rowe could evolve in to, but we just haven’t seen enough of him. He’s been pushed out wide in his Arsenal career so far, got a few goals last season and looked like he was good when on the ball, but is he a connector? I honestly have no idea because I don’t think we’ve seen enough of him, but doesn’t that give you enough of a word in itself, given that I’m starting to run out of options already and questioning whether Emery uses a young player with little playing time under his belt as his replacement for a player who we’ve had in our team for the last five years?
This one really is an outside bet because much like Smith-Rowe, we just haven’t seen Maitland-Niles there, in fact I don’t think we’ve ever seen him play as a number ten. In any event his form seems to have dipped to such an extent that I couldn’t see that happening anyway and on Thursday I think it’s fair to say he had himself a bit of a shocker. So that’s a non-starter.
So there we have it. That’s five options that I can see and I could have gone to six with Lucas Torreira, but that is so obviously not his skill set and favourite position for him to be the most effective, that I don’t really see the point in talking it up much. Yet that’s what Unai Emery has done this season, further adding to some of the baffling decision-making of a man who is increasingly looking like he’s desperately clutching at straws to find some form for his beleaguered team. Right now though it doesn’t feel like it’ll be coming any time soon.
Catch you guys tomorrow.