Arsenal Find Balance, Özil Finds Form

Arsène Wenger firmly defended record signing Mesut Özil in his pre-match press conference yesterday.  The Arsenal manager, along with the always-loyal contingent of Özil fanatics, stuck by the German through his extensive dip in form; this shred of loyalty paid off today at Villa Park.

The obvious and correct assumption to make about Özil’s excellent performance today is that playing him centrally makes all the difference.  Starting underneath Danny Welbeck, Özil’s license to roam the pitch was returned to him.

In recent matches, Özil would start on the wing and still drift into the middle of the park, but starting him here makes a huge transformation.

This way, Özil was able to pick up the ball in the middle with 360 degrees of options with which to choose from, as opposed to being bogged down on one of the touchlines.  His movement off the ball was fantastic as well, maintaining a certain level of fluidity with his playmaking mate Santi Cazorla.

Early on, it was evident Özil was enjoying himself.  His first touch was astronomically more confident than it has been since the start of the season, and a side that lacked Arsenal’s two best players from last week’s 2-2 draw benefited as a result.

However, the positional shift is just part of the reason why Özil enjoyed such a fruitful afternoon.  Without Alexis Sánchez and Jack Wilshere in the side, more space was allocated in the middle for the German, and as a result, there was much less congestion in the area of the pitch he is most dangerous in.

Wilshere had been arguably the best Gunner in the past two fixtures, but he can’t play every game, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Aaron Ramsey on the bench next time out for Arsenal.  He needs a rest, and his dip in form has reached boiling point.

Similarly, Alexis’ exclusion was also necessary, as the Chilean has been tireless in his recent performances which have yielded three goals in four games.  Cazorla deserved his start today, as did Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has been a spark plug in each of his substitute appearances for Arsenal.

 Without a doubt, though, the confidence Arsène Wenger instils in his players was on full display today.  Özil, so often criticized both fairly and unfairly in his Arsenal tenure, has always had the support of his manager.

Patrick Vieira, captain of the Invincibles side from 2003-2004, claims that the French manager’s biggest strength is his trust in the players.  Through thick and thin, Wenger has trusted Özil and made sure he keeps the billing as Arsenal’s biggest and most important signing.

Wenger could have subbed the German later on, but opted to leave Özil on the field; he was simply enjoying himself too much to be taken off.

With regards to the match, Aston Villa were lauded for their early season form, but Arsenal had other ideas.  Playing Özil underneath the striker had a lot to do with it, but the balance that Arsène Wenger found in his side was phenomenal.

Today, Arsenal featured a side without one player appearing out of position; something we’re not very accustomed to seeing.  It isn’t necessarily about getting all of the best players on the field at once, it’s about getting the right ones, something Arsène Wenger nailed in today’s statement win on the road.


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