Is Arsenal star Mesut Ozil a luxury passenger – or a mercurial talent who could be the key to beating Chelsea?
With the Gunners winning just two of those – and suffering poor defeats to Liverpool and West Ham – some fans are crying out for the German playmaker to be brought back into the team.
Others, however, believe Arsenal boss Unai Emery is right to keep Ozil sidelined.
The recent poor run of form, coupled with Manchester United's resurgence, has seen Arsenal's chances at getting into the top four at the end of the season slip.
The north London side are now level on points with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men and six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea – against whom they play in a massive clash on Saturday evening.
So, should Ozil play against the Blues? We asked two SunSport reporters to have their say…
NO, Ozil is the biggest luxury in the Premier League – Phil Thomas
IT seems the most ludicrous thought in the world.
Three defeats in the last six league games, season on a knife edge, top four challenge in the balance and a clash with one of your biggest rivals around the corner.
A time when your club’s superman flies to the rescue, hauls you off the floor and makes everything right with the world.
A man like Steven Gerrard, like Yaya Toure of old, like even Paul Pogba if he carries on the way he’s been playing since Jose Mourinho left.
Certainly not a man who could lay justifiable claim to be the biggest luxury – some would say passenger – in the Premier League is the one to turn it around beggars belief.
Yet listen to some Arsenal fans and that’s exactly where Unai Emery should turn ahead of this weekend’s visit of Chelsea…to Mesut Ozil.
The same Mesut Ozil who has played just 155 minutes of first-team football in two months.
The same man whose last appearance saw him hooked at half-time against Brighton “for tactical reasons.”
The same player who gives the impression that, had he been in the trenches, would suddenly have discovered his boots needed tying when the whistle blew to go over the top.
There is no doubt that Ozil is the most gifted player on the books at the Emirates.
Just like there is no doubting the fact he is also the most ill-suited to an approach based on work rate and pressing, as Emery’s is.
Yes, Ozil can unlock the tightest of defences, and true, at times he gives the impression he has a magic wand rather than a football boot at the end of his left leg.
But that has been very much the exception. The norm has been a frustrating figure who has had such a periphery role, he could have been sitting in the stand with a cup of Bovril and a pie.
To Ozil, a football pitch is an artist’s canvas, which is all very admirable. But when your gaffer views it more as a boxing canvas, that ain’t much use. And Emery very much does.
One of the major criticisms of Arsene Wenger was how he stuck with players through thick and thin, whether they were playing well or having a beast of a time.
That’s not something you could level at Emery, and that’s why it is unthinkable the Spaniard will suddenly look to Ozil to drag him out of the mire against Chelsea.
Emery has memorably said he likes to “provoke friction” amongst his players to get the best from them. He could hardly claim it’s worked in this case.
Ozil himself posted Instagram pictures this week of him lifting kettlebells in the gym with the message “no matter what…put in the work.”
If only he’d taken that attitude out on to the pitch with him in the past, he wouldn’t be hoping to see his name on the team-sheet.
He’d simply be wondering who the other ten would be besides him.
YES, Arsenal are crying out for some Ozil magic – Wally Downes Jr
IN times of austerity everyone loves a little luxury and Arsenal need some Mesut Ozil magic this weekend.
The fifth-placed Gunners are a worrying six points outside of the top four but can slash away at that gap with a win against Chelsea on Saturday, with the Blues perched in fourth.
Unai Emery, along with tough-tackling midfielder Lucas Torreira, has firmed up the soft underbelly that got flabby under Arsene Wenger.
But there is a distinct lack of spark in the new-look Emirates side, so much so that Aaron Ramsey leads their assists stats for the season, despite just eight Prem starts due to his contract wrangle.
Under Wenger, with the emphasis always on style and attacking football at all costs, Ozil’s languid approach and aversion to tracking any member of the opposition was a regular defeat sentence.
But now Emery has grafters like Torreira, Granit Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi scurrying around the midfield putting out fires, it is time for their £350,000-a-week man to burn bright.
When Jose Mourinho was getting a symphony out of the German at Real Madrid, he insisted it was because he allievated him of all defensive duties. You do not use a Rolls-Royce to spread manure and Emery has enough tractors at Arsenal now.
Playing two strikers against Maurizio Sarri’s side at the weekend will play into their hands, especially if they line up without a recognised forward in their side and pack the midfield.
And Ozil, with his bulging trophy cabinet and wallet, should be able to get up for this game more than most others.
Watching the mercurial playmaker mooch about in the Europa League dead rubber against Qarabag in December was painful for those few Arsenal fans that bothered turning up.
But a clash with London rivals – even if it is a chance for him to sell himself to a late January suitor – should spark him into life.
With his retirement from international football, following a disastrous World Cup, club football is the 30-year-old’s only outlet for his undoubted talent.
If Emery cannot trust Ozil to reproduce the form that made him one of the most coveted talents in the world, or fit into his system, then he has to get him off the wage bill ASAP, especially with Ramsey Juventus-bound.
But if he believes he can man-manage the midfielder back to his once-dazzling best then Saturday evening is the perfect stage.
And an Ozil vs Eden Hazard duel of footballing wizardry would be one for all football fans to savour.
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