The return to action of record signing Mesut Özil has the potential to give Arsene Wenger a real headache when it comes to team selection, with the German playmaker a tricky player to fit into our current lineup.
His preferred role is, of course, the No.10; a position Santi Cazorla has been operating in to devastating effect in recent weeks. Rotation is to be expected, but to drop the Spaniard at the moment would be total madness.
Arsene Wenger has a habit of crowbarring the two players into the side whether they fit or not, and has often pushed Özil out onto the wings. With Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott fit and firing however, is there really any space for the World Cup winner out on the flanks either?
Even without the presence of Walcott and Sanchez, you could argue that he is not best suited for a wide role. His defensive work-rate and ability to track back are non-existent, traits that can be vitally important in the modern game.
- [Match Highlights] Arsenal 1-0 Newcastle – All The Highlights & Best Bits
- [Player Ratings] Arsenal 1-0 Newcastle – Ozil Wonder Goal Saves Boring, Boring Arsenal
- [Confirmed Lineups] Arsenal v Newcastle United – Wilshere & Lacazette Start In 4-2-3-1
Our full-backs like to push up the pitch, and are largely responsible for creating width. If our wide forwards are unwilling, or unable, to perform their defensive duties adequately, then we are consequently left with gaping holes in our back line.
The former Real Madrid star is absurdly talented, but his well-being does not come above the team’s. A balanced side is vitally important, and it is far better to field the right players in the right positions rather than forcing a square peg into a round hole purely because this particular peg cost us £42.5m.
So with Cazorla and Özil clearly both benefiting from being played through the middle, is it possible to fit both of them into a midfield trio?
Earlier in the season I would have said no. Even a few weeks ago I would have been strongly against it. Our recent performances however, and our 2-0 win over Manchester City in particular, have convinced me otherwise.
Neither Mathieu Flamini nor Mikel Arteta are capable of performing the defensive midfield role on their own, with both men requiring the likes of Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere to support them. Francis Coquelin, however, may fare a little better than his experienced teammates when weighed down with the heavy burden.
The young Frenchman seems far more positionally aware, and injects some much needed energy to our midfield. He is disciplined enough to hold his ground when required, and offers superb protection to the back four.
Defensive duties are obviously not taken up by just one man, and the entire team have to be able to defend and attack as a unit. The player who seems to need the least protection however, is certainly the 23-year-old midfielder.
The emergence of Coquelin could prove to be the key to fitting both our talented playmakers into the side, but Santi Cazorla’s work-rate is also an important factor.
The Spanish international put in an incredible shift against Manchester City the other week, and was constantly harrying Manuel Pellegrini’s men. You expect moments of brilliance from the diminutive midfielder, but his willingness to track back and throw himself into the challenge was absolutely superb to see.
The 30-year-old also has excellent ball retention skills, his quick feet making it almost impossible for the opposition to dispossess him. This is something the likes of Wilshere and Ramsey cannot boast, with both players guilty of losing the ball in dangerous positions regularly. The pair are unquestionably two of the most talented young players around, and more often than not have the ability to dribble or pass their way past an opponent. On the occasions when they fail to do so however, they put the defenders under a huge amount of unnecessary pressure.
All these skills mean Cazorla is perfectly capable of operating slightly deeper if needs be, while the defensive nous of Coquelin would allow him the freedom to get forward regularly.
Against some of the bigger teams, and in away games especially, this may prove a defensively exploitable tactic. For the large majority of our matches where we dominate possession however, this lineup could prove devastating.
If Ramsey were showing the kind of form he displayed last season, then there would be no question over his inclusion in the side. With the way the Welshman is performing currently however, his position in the side might be up for grabs.
Here is what I believe to be our best XI against Aston Villa this weekend:
What do you think Gooners? Should Aaron Ramsey make way for Mesut Özil in midfield?