Ozil or Ramsey or RamZil?



Rambo is an interesting study. Though a versatile player, it has been difficult identifying a best role for him. Ramsey must do the late runs into the box, irrespective of the role assigned to him. Nothing can ever stop that. Nothing. He is a maniac as far as wanting to get at the end of every offensive move is concerned. Against Lincoln, from the midfield, he had the highest attempts at target (tied with Walcott at 6) and walked one of them into the net. That’s his orgasm.

Is he a pain in the neck? Absolutely, if he has been given a role that is undermined by such runs. Are deep runs into the box necessary? Absolutely, because they cause sudden overload that catch the defense flat footed. Clearly then Ramsey can be a great asset or a liability in equal measure depending on the role he is playing. Unfortunately, roles are so interdependent that one wonders if there is a place in the team that can accomodate his intractability.

Rambo has a monstrous engine. He is technically very gifted, but lacks speed and agility. He loves to be involved, never one to hide but gets too sucked to the ball at the cost of spatial awareness particularly in the defensive phase of the game. He is like a precious stone that has defied polishing. Should it be thrown away, locked up in the safe, or hung on one’s neck with pride? Little wonder opinions are so split about him. He is good, he is bad, he can be ugly.

Rambo has little regard or discipline for structure, and a guy like Pep Gourdiola wouldn’t tolerate him, but in fairness to him he compensates mightily with his huge lungs. Ozil operates best in freedom, but his freedom exists within a tactical framework. Rambo’s boarders on licentiousness and to be forgiven, he has to pay with tons of sweat. And does he?

Rambo is an enigma who divides opinions but even for those on the negative side of the divide, there remains a vague sensing that there must be a right role for him. Obviously not #10 as Ozil is there already and Aaron doesn’t quite fit the description of the man in the hole. A member of a midfield three?  Or does he pair as a double #10 in which one is a creator, the other a jack of all trade with a penchant for getting at the end of things? What about a hybrid of all of them? A midfielder, a creator, a goal scorer. Frank Lampard who was the very best of his generation comes to mind. He was a midfielder who was always there in the box banging in goals. Lampard is the all time leading goal scorer for Chelsea and has a career total of 193 goals. No midfielder had ever scored more than 150 goals. Lampard is a precedence that gives hope that Rambo’s box runs can become an invaluable asset to the team. Clearly a double pivot does not provide the security for such unfettered runs. A three man midfield does.

Rambo’s presence in the middle 3 of a 4:3:3 is particularly interesting because of the energy in his will for upfield verticality, which his special lungs are able to sustain over the course of a game. In comparison, our 4:2:3:1 offensive capacity (i.e. 4 attackers) is not compromised number wise because Rambo invariably joins the attack while our defensive shape remains uncompromised as there are still two midfielders manning the spaces.

However, the 4:3:3 has its ripples. The #10 role vanishes. The centre of the front 3 is the striker, and that’s not a role for Ozil who likes to play with men in front of him. Move him wide right, and Walcott is displaced. Move him wide left and he becomes an orthodox winger which amounts to a gross misuse of his creative talent. What then? Is he out of the team in a 4:3:3? It is pertinent to note here that when Wenger played 4:3:3 against Bayern, Ozil was indisposed. Again against Lincoln, Ozil was on the bench. Can £42.5M be sat permanently on the bench?

In the Lincoln match Ozil came in to replace injured Oxlade in the 27th minute and almost instantly the team started playing more intelligently. Did we revert to our more accustomed 4:2:3:1? Wouldn’t that have been too risky, even against lowly Lincoln, with Rambo in the double pivot role? Ozil played deeper and in the process gave cover to Rambo’s upfield “pilgrimages”. Ozil actually played in a midfield three!

Ozil cannot tackle. He is not at home with brawn and power. But defense is not all brawn, it is also brains. He knows how to quietly take care of the abandoned spaces housing the opponents attacking corridors and passing lanes. That, technically is an important part of defending that would be lost on many but a few with keen eyes. Ozil’s ego never on parade on the field sets him apart. Sometimes when am watching a match, I see just egos scuttling around the field. Egos that come in different shapes and sizes but non that I have seen amongst them goes by the name Mesut Ozil. One of his most amazing quality is his paranomic view of what is in front of him. He is able to see the whole as well as its details in one flash of a vision. The more of his men in front of him, the more dazzling his creativity. Maybe one of the errors in our formation this season is in pushing Ozil further up the field in the attempt to turn him into a goal scoring #10. We wanted him to reflect our own egos, to be made in our own image. This is why he is being nailed to the cross. Nobody understands him and everybody is asking a different of him.

Likely too, one of the reason that might have also informed pushing Ozil further up the field is his inability at aggressive defending. The irony in this is that in today’s football, the final third of the field is the area for the most aggressive defending (high pressing) while the middle third tactically requires the least aggressiveness and therefore best suited to Ozil’s more passive style of defending. Everything seems to be pointing to Ozil playing a deeper role.

Ozil and Ramsey together in a midfield three, demands that the remaining of the combo 3 should be the deepest lying. For sure that’s a 4:1:2:3 formation, with Rambo and Ozil being the 2. While Rambo moves vertically up and down his default position, Ozil, more or less, adjusts horizontally to the dynamics of the game. This arrangement tallies with what Arsenal played when Ozil replaced Oxlade in the Lincoln game and quietly, without any high drama, brought back intelligence into our game. Throw away all the formation models and the gist here is Ozil plays in a position where he has more of his mates to targets and where at the same time his presence frees Rambo to make his box runs.

This arrangement does not exclude other combinations of our midfield players but Ozil deeper than where he has been playing this season is the cue, irrespective of the label assigned to it.

By Pony Eye

15 thoughts on “Ozil or Ramsey or RamZil?

  • The beauty of Ozil and Ramsey in a midfield 3 is that it is an arrangement that maximises their talents. Rambo’s box runs for example is a talent fueled by his absolute belief on the exciting potential in each attack, as well as a conviction that that his presence upfield would come of use in realizing that potential. That’s what I call “will”. To back that will up, is his capacity (lungs) to sustain the numrous runs. His faith and capacity are the key to that unique talent.

    The otherwise excellent Rosicky missed the greatness tag because his will for the box runs was poor. This Rambo’s uncommon gift must be maximised and 3 in the MF does it for him and for the team.

  • Am convinced also that with the intelligence of Ozil around, and the presence of Rambo who is always showing himself for a pass le Coq’s greatness would resurface.

  • Interesting stuff, PE… And sorry I wasn’t around yesterday to comment on it…

    Later this morning I’ll be trying to work up the energy for a match preview…You seem to have plenty of that quality–energy and enthusiam, that is–esp. as it comes to solutions to our midfield troubles. A week ago it was ROX (Ramsey, Ox, Xhaka) now, maybe because Ox strained his hammy and Ozil is recovered from the flu, it’s a different take…

    As much as we’d like to take some ideas (and momentum) away from the Lincoln match, I think we must acknowledge that, after a spirited start, the opponent (slowly) crumbled away when they had their one great chance saved and then gave up a goal on the stroke of half time. The Ox-Ozil change was a key for switching the balance of the game but it probably would have happened anyhow. Ozil (and Xhaka) quarterbacking our attack looked very promising indeed and there were long periods when Lincoln couldn’t get the ball–and, when they did, they couldn’t get it out of their half. PL teams will do much better, both in keeping our attackers from surrounding the goal (playing a higher back line) and in being ready to spring on the counter.

    That doesn’t mean Ozil cannot play deeper and Rambo cannot play more forward and I appreciate that such an approach would probably help us keep our shape a bit better. Ramsey played as a free wheeling #10 for Wales and folks were impressed. To me, the international game is a lower level but he did well, esp. with a runner (Bale) who drew a lot of defensive attention on his right and a false nine (Robson-Kanu) willing to give him plenty of space for his forward runs. Theo (on the right) is no Bale, I fear, while whomever plays up front (Alexis or Giroud) are far bigger presences in that role than Robson-Kanu who we might see (probably as a late sub) for WBA tomorrow.

    Whether you write it up as a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3, I think, doesn’t matter too much. Ozil will always drift back if Ramsey gets forward. Unfortunately, that leaves two non-tacklers (Ozil and Xhaka) back there if we lose the ball… Unless, of course, you choose to play Le Coq who seems almost completely defensively minded.

    The bigger problem, for me at least, is that Alexis and Ramsey both want free roles. On the left (if Giroud plays up top) Alexis mostly pouts then gets the ball and goes whichever way he pleases. Up front, such an attitude is more useful and his skill level can really shine. Still, if Ramsey is in there–no matter where he’s supposed to be stationed–I’m always left wondering if there’s enough pitch for the both of them. IMO, there isn’t–Unless one stays back (and towards one side or the other) while the other makes those forward runs you’re talking about.

    So, in the end, I think the issue isn’t Ramsey and Ozil but Ramsey and Alexis, both of whom (if not all three) might be gone in the summer. I think it would be a (far) healthier situation if only one of them left (probably Alexis, unfortunately) but it likely hinges on what the manager decides to do. Can everybody get along for the run-in? Maybe, and for us to avoid dropping into an even deeper malaise, they will probably have to. It all starts tomorrow at WBA (then we–blissfully, IMO–get a little break) but then there are a pair of matches with Man City and others with ManU and Spurs, not to mention all the other matches we “must” win. Overall it seems a tall order, I fear…

    Sorry for the long-winded (and pessimistic) response…

  • HT, your comments raised some fine points. It’s my inclination too that using Ozil and Rambo goes with Coq as the DM. One can simply see it this way: Ozil + Rambo = Carzola as far as pairing with Coq is concerened and Rambo’s inevitable forward runs when we are attacking still guarantees the 4 attackers format in a 4:2:3:1 system.

    Another way to look at it is Ozil as a deeper lying playmaker, Rambo as B2B and Coq as DM. This is retooling our midfield once again with the Ox out. From ROX to ROC.

  • Hey PE…

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s all interconnected and that maybe–even when he’s positioned as our center forward–Alexis plays like a (central) midfielder so maybe we cannot then accommodate so many (Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis) who all might want to get forward. Overall, however, I agree that Ozil has the best eye for our fore-aft balance and will cover backwards if the other two are competing for the forward spaces…

    Personally, I think AW’s big vision is for a midfield that can control possession, hence buying players like Xhaka and Elneny (most recently) and Ozil and Santi (beforehand). The fact that we cannot do so means that we’re often playing on the break and/or bypassing MF entirely with long kicks out of goal (route one tactics)… To me it’s all kind of sad, but you have to dance with who brung you, as we say over here (or play to the strength of the players we’ve got…)

    Anyhow, that’s all for me (for now)…

    I’m hoping that (busy, I suspect) TA will make good on his promise to comment on your post and that maybe some others might. Like many have noted, it’s awfully quiet around here lately, but maybe that’s how it goes if you’re searching for positive vibes around Arsenal these days. Of course, we have another referendum on the manager and his team tomorrow at noon-time so maybe folks want to play it as a wait and see sort of thing. On that note I’ve written my match preview so you (TA) should feel free to post it as you see fit… Cheers….

  • 4-1-2-3 is in many ways very attractive, PE. But it will only work with Xhaka playing deep, rather than Coq. Also like the thought of Rambo and Mesut playing in the two and Ox and Iwobi, and Jack of course, are excellent back ups in such a formation.

    Having said that, I still reckon we need to be stronger in midfield defending and a combo of Xhaka- Elneny – Ozil goes a long way for me.

  • TA, your options are quite exciting but I worry about Xhaka as DM. His first 4 strides (acceleration) are nearly as slow as Giroud’s. Not good for tackling and that’s why he is so often late with his. A 4:2:1:3 with Xhaka as one of the 2 looks better to me. I feel that a midfield 3 will resurrect Coq’s game.

  • It is all about positioning and reading the game and very quick and crisp passing from the back. I reckon Xhaka is great for this, PE.

  • Hey TA, I get what you’re implying re: Busquets. I doubt AW would have bought Xhaka for 35 million pounds without thinking something along those lines…

    The problem, and I think it’s been the flaw in the entire 2nd part of Wenger’s career at Arsenal, is that we play in England and not in Spain/Europe. It’s also very likely at the heart of why the English teams are having such a hard time in European competitions over the past 8 or so seasons as is currently being much discussed in the media.

    For awhile there it looked promising for things to work the other way around and for the Continental game to move towards the good parts of the game in England–more action and pace, less flopping, etc., etc. It probably peaked the year (2008) that ManU beat Chelsea in the CL final. I remember a lot of overt talk about refs giving yellow cards for simulation and playing the advantage rather than whistling early and stopping the action–even during the CL matches from that era.

    Since more or less that time (and note how it matches up with the global economic crisis and, perhaps, with the rise in backward looking politics…) Arsenal have been stuck at the “Top-4, Round of 16 and out” level, yet AW still tries to bring in the most highly skilled guys at almost all positions. Le Coq, for example began as one such guy (and is fairly well skilled, IMO) but he really only cemented his role in the team by putting those elements on hold and becoming a defensively minded (and vocal) MF who rarely leaves his spot ahead of the back line. According to Wikipedia, he arrived at Arsenal as a 17 year old and currently commands a salary of about 14,000 pounds per week. Other blogs say it’s more like 20K/week and some suggest his new deal is worth up to 75K/week. If that figure is correct, he has certainly won himself an important role at the club…

    My point is that Coquelin is willing to play in the English style (destroyer?) while Xhaka has clearly struggled (each time he’s left his feet…) trying to imitate him. At least he hasn’t hurt himself trying to do so (like Wilshere has) and he (maybe) makes fewer mistakes in bad spots on the pitch relative to guys like the Ox and Ramsey (or even Alexis). A corollary point might be that maybe the game has changed but AW refuses to do likewise. Would Busquets make it in England? Hard to say. A (much) more athletic version of a similar player (Paul Pogba) is having his issues… Even Cesc Fabregas, a player who looked so promising early in his career (during the aughts…) and had lots of experience in England, is only a (super?) sub at Chelsea.

    Anyhow, it’s probably a better topic for a post of its own but I’m a bit laid-up at the moment (ski injury) so apologies for all the words when your one-liner was just as good… It’ll be interesting to see who (Xhaka or Le Coq or maybe both…or neither, perhaps) plays at WBA…

  • Cheers Seventeenho 🎯😀⚽

    Xhaka is still adjusting and maybe he is better suited for mainland Europe, but I also think Wenger wants him to play in the b2b position, well at least initially, but that’s not for him imo.

  • Really interesting post PE. While offensively I like the idea of Ozil and Ramsey in the CAM roles in a 4123 setup, practically their lack of defensive discipline and unwillingness to track back would expose Arsenal’s back four to counter attacks from opponents.

    While there would still be a lone CDM to attempt to screen the defence and the most likely candidate Xhaka has a reasonable combination of defensive and distribution skills, his defensive skills aren’t good enough for Arsenal to rely on him as the sole protector of the back four. Xhaka’s deficiencies in that regard are further compounded by his lack of mobility.

    While Arsenal’s other genuinely defensive CDM option, Coquelin is better than Xhaka defensively, his deep lying distribution skills, which is essential for that role, aren’t good enough and would likely result in Arsenal losing possession deep in their own half.

    So while a 4123 setup would likely suit Ramsey and Ozil if they were deployed in the CAM roles, overall I don’t think that system would ultimately deliver success for Arsenal because of its defensive shortcomings.

    For me, Arsenal need to establish a solid deeplying defensive platform in central midfield if they are to genuinely mount a title challenge. By that I mean Arsenal need to deploy three geunuinely defensive CDMs who are naturally inclined to sit deep, have the tackling and interception skills to protect the back four and possess the transitional passing skills to move the ball forward through long range passes (as opposed to forward dribbles) so as not to compromise Arsenal’s defensive structure.

    If that sort of defensive platform was in place I think Arsenal could successfully deploy any of the following attacking trio and give them the space they need to turn Arsenal’s current offensive threat into an avalanche of goals.

    CAM: Ozil
    LS: Alexis / Walcott
    RS: Perez


    LW: Ozil
    CF: Perez / Walcott
    RW: Alexis


    LW: Ozil
    CF: Giroud
    RW: Alexis / Ox

    That said, i don’t think that central midfield setup is possible with Arsenal’s current midfield cohort (i.e. Xhaka, Coquelin, Ramsey, Elneny, Cazorla, Wilshire, Ox). With the exception of Xhaka, Arsenal simply don’t have the midfielders with a natural combination of strong defensive and transitional passing skills and positional awareness and Wenger is not the sort of coach to drill that sort of discipline into his existing midfield options.

    Between now and the end of the season I fear Arsenal’s performances will continue to be fragmented and impotent. Hopefully in the offseason Arsenal, with or without Wenger, will target the likes of Gonalons, Demme and Illarramendi to provide that strong central defensive midfield platform Arsenal desperately need for their attacking players to flourish and ultimately to bring Arsenal success.

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