After the 3-1 win against West Ham, much of the talk was about the absence of Mesut Ozil from the matchday squad. Unai Emery said the playmaker was ill but had recuperated enough to enter the dressing room before the game. Any other player and it could have slipped under the radar, however it was Ozil.
Prior to the game it was reported that there was a rift between the German and the coach regarding demands that Emery had of Ozil. The former PSG manager denied any rift in the press conference after the game. However, when Emery was asked if he planned to play Ozil in a different position, the Spaniard’s reply was a terse and instructive ‘maybe’.
After Emery took over from Arsene Wenger, he spoke about the need for more intensity in pressing and the need to be more defensively aware. In the three games the coach has managed, there has been measured progress and sparse semblance of what he demands. However, it seems Ozil hasn’t added to the process as much as he needs to.
Ozil was oft criticized for his apathy towards the defensive phase of the game during the Wenger years. In the post-Wenger era, the German has not shaped up to Emery’s demands either. Ozil has attempted just two tackles all season and doesn’t seem to be bothered with defensive duties. Emery claimed he took Ozil off in the 68th minute at Stamford Bridge because of Chelsea’s ease of progressing with the ball.
Emery has shown that he will not give Ozil extra privileges despite the German being the highest paid player at the club. Ramsey filled in for the 29-year old to great effect, at least from the defensive perspective. Emery would have been pleased with the off-the-ball pressure that Ramsey offered. Ramsey had 448 defensive points in the game against West Ham, attempting a game-high seven tackles.
Before he was substituted against Chelsea, Ozil attempted a solitary tackle and earned just 181 defence points. However, as much as Ramsey fits into Emery’s system, he isn’t the elite creator Arsenal need. The Gunners in their last game struggled to break down the opposition without Ozil between the lines. Ramsey didn’t create many clear-cut chances in the game, playing two key passes against West Ham.
Emery’s men constantly shifted the ball to the full backs trying to break down the Hammers; they could find it even harder against a team that is likely to play deep. Cardiff are yet to score a goal in the Premier League this season but have earned two draws from three matches. Ramsey’s industry and lungs might not be the best tool to down the Bluebirds; Ozil’s gossamer touch, exemplary vision and scalpel-sharp precision seem the proper fit.
Ozil could return to the starting line-up against Cardiff City, and though the Bluebirds will not pose much of a threat to the Gunners, Emery will hope to see a change in disposition to defensive duties from Ozil. It is not overwhelmingly clear if Emery will play the German in the hole behind the striker or off the central striker on the right, however the coach will expect to see Ozil knuckle down, press and harry opponents off the ball. It might not sound exactly like a brief expected of the creative genius but it is one he will have to fulfill because it is the sheriff’s order.