Özil’s Here, Now What?

Arsenal’s 2013 summer transfer window was a roller coaster ride. You start riding up the hill thinking that it will be great, then start regretting the moment it starts falling, but at the end, all is good. The club had a lot of players linked to it, and with the £70~100m transfer war chest, a great amount of world class players were linked with it. Up until even the morning of September 2nd, it seemed like we would ultimately not spend this tho. Until we finally landed the Real Madrid gem, Özil.

So we didn’t get Higuain, nor did we get Suarez. We missed out on a lot of talents including Fellaini, Begovic, Jovetic, and more. But the truth is, if you look at the list of players that made moves this summer, Arsenal just might have nicked the player that can improve a team the greatest over the course of a season.

Özil is no Bale as he won’t make ridiculous runs or shoot a screamer out of nowhere. He doesn’t have the flair of Neymar. He also doesn’t have the goal scoring skills that Falcao and Cavani have. Özil certainly doesn’t have a wack hairstyle like Fellaini. But guess what? Özil is very, very good at helping others be very, very good and that is where the Gunners will really use his services well.

Arsenal Ozil Formation 1

This is the formation that Arsenal will deploy most of the time. Özil is centered here and “surrounded” by the attackers and the midfielders. This type of positioning allows him to drift freely and give passes. As you will never see the opposition close in from more than three angles, this type of positioning will allow Özil to have at least two different options to consider. A quick back pass to either Ramsey or Arteta to free himself up for the next pass is a viable option, while he can also thread balls to Walcott or Cazorla.

My initial thoughts on the Giroud-Özil link-up isn’t a good, as if you look at the role Özil had in Madrid, when he was supplying assists, it was more for the wing forwards (eg. Ronaldo) than center forwards (eg. Benzema). Hence, if Giroud was to get on the scoresheet more often, he will need to drift to the sides from time to time, mixing it up with Cazorla and Walcott, so that he can strike from the side when Özil makes the passes.

If the above was the more general Arsenal formation, another formation that I think is very viable, especially against teams that will just park the bus is as below.

with_ozil_2

What is peculiar about this formation is that it puts Ramsey and Özil on the same line, but by doing this, it also isolates Cazorla and Walcott to some degree, as they will have usually two and at maximum three options to play to ball. However, against teams that will lock it up and defend, we’ve generally struggled to break their defense open. However, with this type of formation, it allows the three midfielders to push the line up a bit, which also makes both full backs push up at the same time. With more resources in the final third, it gives the team three potentially long range shooters (Özil, Ramsey, Arteta), three playmakers (Cazorla, Ramsey, Özil), and four potentially wing players (Cazorla, Gibbs, Walcott, Sagna).

Long range shooters and wing resources will force the opposition to spread their defense and stretch the field, and this will eventually create gaps between the defense. This gives a perfect opportunity for the three playmakers to more easily make the through passes to Giroud, Walcott, and Cazorla (assuming it is Ramsey or Özil that is making the pass). More recently, the club has lacked genuine wingers, so when our side players tried to stretch it, they couldn’t do it. This would not help out the two playmakers at the time, as all that the opposition defense had to do was lock the two players and that was it. With the addition of Özil, even if the wing play will be more or less similar to that of last year, an additional player that can pull the strings will be of great pressure to the opposition.

Of course, before any of these formations even remotely start to work, Özil will need to gel with his new teammates. However, I have every confidence in him that he will transition into the team very quickly, as he has always done from Werder to Madrid and to the German national team.

What are your thoughts on Özil’s position in Arsenal? Have your say by commenting below or in the Arsenal forums!

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