Arsenal’s Premier League season is like a limp flag flying at half-mast – and makes Mesut Ozil’s exile even more baffling.
I don’t pretend to know the reasons why Ozil has been banished from the Gunners’ 25-man squad.
But I do know when Arsenal were camped around Tottenham’s box for long periods of last weekend’s north London derby, they were crying out for a locksmith who could unpick Spurs’ defence.
And I also know Gunners fans who dare to look at the Premier League table must feel like weeping to see their club marooned in 15th place.
I’m not calling for Mikel Arteta to be sacked – he has not even been in the job for a year. But the problems at Arsenal run deep.
They have scored only one goal in four league games despite dominating the ball in most cases. That shows they lack creativity, cutting edge, end-product.
Look at the big guns in the top half of the table and they have one thing in common: A No.10 pulling the strings.
If Arsenal were ticking over nicely, or there were convincing signs of improvement, at least Ozil’s exclusion could be justified.
But at a reported £350,000 a week, all he’s done this season is to dip into his huge salary to save club mascot Gunnersaurus from being laid off. Look at the stats to illustrate Ozil’s influence on Arsenal under Arteta.
By almost every measurement, they have performed better with him in the side.
In Arteta’s first win, against Manchester United back on New Year’s Day, Ozil ran further than anyone in the Arsenal side. So much for him being a passenger.
I know what it’s like to be banished to train with the reserves. It happened to me at Birmingham, and it’s soul-destroying.
Maybe the club had their reasons, maybe the manager was trying to make a point, but even at my lowest ebb, I knew I had something to offer the team.
All that Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat at Spurs achieved was to make the fans miss Ozil even more.
I’ve heard the whispers about his work-rate and his tracking back without the ball.
But when cross after cross into the Tottenham box was being devoured by Toby Alderweireld and Eric Dier, Gunners fans must have been crying out loud for Ozil’s needle and thread.
To me, the solution is simple: Either put him back in Arsenal’s 25-man Premier League squad next month, or sell him in January.
Arsenal fans deserve better than 15th in the table, and they deserved better than four Spurs attackers bearing down on only two defenders for Tottenham’s second goal last Sunday.
I thought Arteta had cured those defensive meltdowns, but obviously he has some way to go.
Winning the FA Cup in August gave Arteta a fantastic platform to restore Arsenal to the top four and, at times, they have looked a more organised unit defensively.
But scratch beneath the surface, and how much has really changed? In his first 11 games last season, Unai Emery collected 11 points – over the same distance this year, Arteta has taken just 15.
If Arteta is going to raise Arsenal’s standard high over the capital again, he has some big calls to make.
And the first of them should be to extend an olive branch to Ozil – or sell him.
Should Arsenal recall Ozil? Have your say here.
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