Our recent win over Bournemouth highlighted a few things about our new direction under Unai Emery.
Firstly, the Spaniard is not afraid to wield the axe, and this has been evident throughout the season really, with Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all feeling the wood on their cheeks from sitting on the bench,
We also saw that Emery is adept at switching formations, with our tactics switching between a 3-4-3 and a 5-3-2 when it demanded it.
This switching of formation also had a casualty though, and one that could have ramifications for our star player.
Mesut Ozil warmed the bench for this game, and much was made of his omission - so much so that Emery’s post-match conference was dominated by questions regarding the German.
Emery touched upon Bournemouth’s physical approach that meant Ozil wasn’t best suited for this game. We all know that the Cherries aren’t physically dominating however, and play open, expansive football.
So why did we leave our star playmaker out of the lineup?
The answer goes back to our formation.
With a 3-4-3, there is no spot for a conventional number ten. This is Ozil’s favoured position and one he is best suited to. He is central and can see everything in the hole, but out wide?
Our number ten covers plenty of distance, but defensive efforts aren’t the most strenuous from Ozil. So playing as one of the two behind the sole striker isn’t the best option. It requires a lot of width, and there is the other problem with fitting into this system.
Ozil can’t be held to one position. He needs to go where the ball takes him, and pull defenders out of position in order to create the postage stamp of space for a runner to exploit, then BAM, Ozil finds him. If he is restricted in movement, then he is restricted in his genius.
A criticism often levelled at Ozil is that he lacks the fight and desire, his body language is the main reason people think this. It couldn’t be further from the truth, the stats point to him running himself into the ground regularly. Just because he looks disinterested, doesn’t mean he is.
Physicality though, is not his strongest suit, but Bournemouth was not the game for him to miss out on. The formation dictated his omission, not the opponent.
It may give him the reminder that no player is indispensable, which might help bring back his best form.