Arsenal’s starting XI against Sheffield has yet to be released, but Mesut Ozil is tiptoeing back into the picture and this might be his chance to get back to it.
Those of you who are familiar with my time here at Pain in the Arsenal will be familiar with my stance on Mesut Ozil and his prolonged stay at Arsenal. I rarely, if ever, advocate for him being used more. I’ve quite enjoyed not having to worry about him over the past few matches. Not going to lie.
That said, with a few necessary questions being asked of this defense, particularly in the context of facing Sheffield United in the FA Cup, it may be time for Ozil to step back into the mix to, at the very least, remind everyone that he doesn’t belong there.
Arsenal has had some specific problems coming out of this midfield. In particular, we’ve struggled creating chances. We’ve struggled breaking down defenses and turning that into viable threats, and we’ve particularly struggled against teams that sit deep and bunker down.
Sheffield United are a strong team with a ton of defensive solidity. If they sit deep and wait it out, looking for their chance to strike back, the Gunners will need someone who can make the most out of possession.
That isn’t Dani Ceballos right now. He’s not creating a lot. Xhaka and Guendouzi have the ability to break through lines, but rarely in chance-creating opportunities.
Mesut Ozil is nothing if he’s not a guy who can keep the ball and break down defenses in areas where it can actually do damage. And I realize he hasn’t done a ton of work to accomplish that on a consistent basis, the fact that he can still do it gives him a fighting chance in matches like this.
Of course, the big caveat is if we can’t protect Ozil, none of this matters. Sheffield’s success is not from bunkering down and doing nothing. They understand their identity and they thrive in it. That’s more than we can say.
Ozil did inch his way closer to a start by appearing on the bench against Southampton. He never featured in the match, but he did actually make an appearance on the bench. Silly as it sounds, that’s a big step towards getting something.
I rarely, if ever, advocate for Ozil to get more time on the pitch. He’s had plenty of time. But this match may be a great opportunity for him to make a difference.