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A Career Low Stats – What Should Wenger Do About Mesut Ozil’s Lazy Displays?

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With 2 back to back defeats in the Premier League in this festive period, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal have come under severe scrutiny for sliding down the points table close to the New Year yet again. The defeat at the Etihad came as a big blow as Manchester City moved past the Gunners in the points table, leaving Wenger with a lot of work to do if he is to challenge for the title this season. As if the defeat was not painful enough, one Mesut Ozil felt the wrath of social media as not long after the final whistle; videos of his taking a walk in the field during the game were circulating thick and fast.

The German playmaker has always been criticised for the lack of his defensive contributions to the side since his move to the Premier League. This season, he has made a career low of 0.7 tackles in the English domestic league and is ranking the lowest in players playing in a similar position for other teams around them in the points table. Philippe Coutinho, Dele Alli and Theo Walcott have all made twice the number of tackles this season per game as Ozil and this has been the spotlight in the press after the back to back defeats for the Gunners.

But there are more than a couple of reasons why the Arsenal playmaker does not deserve the criticism from the media around the country. A playmaker in every sense of the word, Ozil, is one of the hardest players to defend against. His returns in the previous few seasons in an attacking role show what he is capable of and though his tally of just two assists this season is not that great, his disappointing performances in the last two games is what is haunting him.

Arsene Wenger also spoke about this issue in his recent press conference and seemed to agree that the last two performances have been blown out of proportion but he was also quick to say that he is not immune to the dirty work. Wenger also previously spoke about Ozil’s weakness in a defensive role but the 67-year old has to take most of the blame for the lack of defensive discipline from the German. In his system, Wenger wants his full-backs to play deep and help his full backs out while his defensive midfielders provide cover to the center backs. Ozil and Sanchez, the heart of the attack in the side, are ready to pounce on a small opportunity, and this has worked like a charm so far this season.

But in the previous game, Arsenal failed to keep a hold of the ball and Guardiola’s side, who are always confident on the ball, took their time to break them down. There was not much happening in the final third leaving Sanchez and Ozil alone in the final third which has turned the spotlight onto their defensive performances.

Against weaker teams in the league, Arsenal are accustomed to keeping the ball for long periods which reduces the defensive burden but in such games, Ozil has been one of the best players defensively in the league. With possession galore, Wenger’s side love to press high every time they lose the ball with his midfielders and center backs pouncing on anything loose. In such games, The German has won the ball back 16 times and is second to only Eden Hazard (18). Alexis Sanchez, whose blistering form is also a factor in this criticism, is level with Ozil at 16 while Kevin de Bruyne, Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane, and Dimitri Payet are all ranking far lower.

Ozil has been unplayable at times this season and Wenger should be happy that his players excel in his system. In crunch games, the German has usually had tough times, but he is a quality player who can make a difference and just two ineffective games do not make him a liability. If anything, Wenger should make sure that his side plays to the strengths of the German and the Chilean at their helm to get the results. Do you think Ozil deserves the criticism from the media lately?

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