Ozil, Wilshere, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi and Xhaka: How to fit in all No. 10s?

TO WENGER: Please No Contradiction Between Art and Science!

Mario Zagallo took over as the coach of the Brazil 1970 World Cup team from Joao Saldahna who was sacked for daring to publicly consider dropping Pele from the squad. His reason was that they had a team made up of too many brilliant No. 10s. Mario Zagallo instead chose to use his best players in his starting eleven, and so ended up with a team with five No. 10: Pele, Jairzinho, Tostao, Revelino, and Gerson.

The result was football at its best! Brazil waltzed through to World Cup glory. But that was 1970; can such a team triumph in this present era in which starting elevens are painstakingly balanced with complementary specialists?

The current Arsenal team is also brimming with No. 10s. Is Wenger trying to reincarnate the Zagallo phenomenon? He has Ozil, Wilshere, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi and, stretching it a little bit, Xhaka: all No. 10s.

Zagallo’s 1970 amazing team had a loose structure. But 48 years after Zagallo’s mesmerizing display, football has shifted, relatively speaking, from individual inventiveness to collective disciple and structure. It has moved from being more of an art to being more of a science. Or is art a form of science and vice versa? I doubt whether for Wenger there is any contradiction in the two.

Ramsey is back fit. Wilshere has held fort for him admirably. Iwobi has found his form again. Ozil is un-droppable. Mkhitaryan has joined. Xhaka has impressed further up the field. Even Lacazette, whom we thought was simply a poacher, has come up with combination plays that No.10s should cast envious eyes at. Surely something must give. We will watch and see.

One thing is certain, though. These potential No.10s, a good six of them – Ramsey, Wilshere, Iwobi, Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Xhaka – must now all be on Wenger’s weighing scales. They cannot all be squeezed into one team. The weighing scale says very little to help a decision but does highlight the critical box runs of Ramsey, the dribbling skills and ball surges of Wilshere, the quick passing of Iwobi, the spatial intelligence and creativity of Ozil, the versatility of Mkhitaryan and the distribution of the instinctively deeper lying Xhaka. That is the pretty thing. There are enough differences to build a wholesome unit, the snag being that it is wholesome only when we have the ball. Without the ball in comes our new delight Elneny at the base of Wenger’s adventure in No. 10s. That man must be having a ball.

Elneny brings the number to 7-qualified-to-start midfielders where only three or four or five (depending on the formation) can start. Who starts; or is it better to ask: who gets dropped? Your guess is as good as mine, as good as TA’s, possibly even as good as Wenger’s. But whatever the combination Wenger chooses as his starts, football lovers world over are guaranteed the intriguing drama of ‘Art versus Science’ in our matches.

By Pony Eye.

24 thoughts on “Ozil, Wilshere, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi and Xhaka: How to fit in all No. 10s?

  • Excellent post, Pony Eye. Love the link back to Brazil 1970. I guess we need to look at it from a style of play point of view. I am hoping we will go back to a 4-5-1 style of football in which we dominate midfield and play football the Arsenal way. For this, we need to have plenty of nr.10s, or creative-attacking midfielders in the squad, so I reckon we will see a lot of rotation from game to game without it having an impact on the team performance.

    We could see midfields of:
    A) Kola – Jack – Elneny – Mesut – Maitland-Niles
    B) Iwobi – Xhaka – Rambo – Mkhitaryan – Nelson
    C) Mkhitaryan – Jack – Xhaka – Ozil – Rambo

    C for the top matches – A and B alternating from game to game (non top matches).

  • I think the emergence of Maitland Niles and the progression of Elneny will become really important parts of how we are able to accomadate such attacking quality. Loved Elnenys midfield/defender job (against Chelsea)and I think they both have quality in there passing to keep our game flowing. I’m really excited about the squad at the moment.

  • i’ve never been very good at predicting good ol’ arsèneknows’s line-ups, but …
    i can’t figure out how he could not pick the following:

    Chav refugee
    Mes(merizer)-Jack- Henrykh
    Alex L.

    very sorry for Alex I. and El Mo (and Ollie, and Dan, …), but don’t it look yummy??

  • There are a lot of parallels between that Brazilian 1970 World Cup team and Wenger’s philosophy. Wenger was a young impressionable 21 year old at that time, and that was a team that is still regarded by many authorities as the greatest national team of all times. Their coach busied himself more with their physical conditioning and general man management. He is quoted as having told the players that they were all fantastic players and what they needed to do was go to the field and familiarize themselves with each other. That’s Wenger.

  • TA,
    I like your (c) of Mkhi, Jack, Xhhaka and Rambo say in a 4:2:3:1. Still I see several more equally potent combos. Wenger’s pleasant headache.

  • Thanks Don,
    With you. Elneny’s security in possession is without equal. We tend to forget that he joined us at only 24 yrs of age and from a much lower league and has not really been given a lot of opportunity to grow. He looks perfect for the 4:1:4:1 formation which might have been what we changed to in the 2nd half against Chl.
    Niles is all set to be a great. He is already quite good with the ball and he has the qualities for being excellent without the ball. He only needs to grow his defensive and positional awareness which normally comes with a lot more exposure.

  • Le Gall,
    That’s a decent eleven from you,though I feel the pivot would be lacking a bit on the defensive side. You know … Xhaka’s lack of athleticism and Rambo’s penchant for the box runs. My choice in a 4:1:4:1 (my choice formation for the personnel we have) would be;
    Bel, Musti, Kosh, Nacho
    Ozil, Rambo, Jack, Mkhi

  • Pony, nice post, great subject to explore and discuss.
    Not to be a downer, the 2 best number 10’s are not signed yet for next season. And Ramsey has one year left after this one……. but….., I believe Jack will extend. I even have a very hopeful, optimistic view that Ozil could possibly stay, though my practical side disagrees.

    Please don’t count Iwobi as an option. To me, he is just eating minutes that could be used for Reiss Nelson or Amen AMN. Maybe even Ntekiah. They would all have more impact from the bench than him. In my opinion.

    Good rumblings coming out of Germany in the past hour or so.

  • Looks like Ivan is gonna bring home the bacon Jonnie.
    Apparently Barcelona were really impressed with his negotiating skills when he did business with them during the Alexis transfer.

    Smith-Rowe scored a cracker for the U23’s vs Sunderland, it’s worth a look if you get the chance.

  • Jnyc, If you see how Iwobi worked in his past 2 matches you will see what he can do. Just his positioning awareness is a little lacking but how hard he had worked on that to keep Willian in his pocket.

  • PE, nice read, that Brazilian team was a brilliant side, Tostao was a bit special.

    Still think that Holland 1974 take a bit of beating and they had a few No.10’s as well.
    Best team never to have won it.

    Funnily enough, arguably the best two teams not to win the World Cup, Hungary 1954 and Holland 1974, has to watch the Germans win it instead.

  • Interesting parallels PE.
    Complimenting deployments in the A/B/C sets. ‘C’ the one set defensively (likely why you’ve designated it as the top-tier line) to give substantive support to a back-4. Though a 4-back line seems a bit ‘Pool-ish? It’s exactly what Wenger would want to do if he had the right 4-back line to man there. (Monreal – Monreal – Monreal – Monreal could work. 😉 )

    In concept, see where Pep and Jurgen (and Arsene!) have a similar vision in attack. Both teams with sets of attackers, all deadly on their day– sometimes the same day. Doesn’t matter that Pep and Jurgen spent (the GNP of Lichtenstein) on defenders– neither set is world-class. But Pep’s have a system that remains organized. And Fernandinho. And the nonpareil Kevin DeBruyne.

    No pair of Can / Wijnaldum / Chamberlain / Henderson will make the back-4 of Robertson / Van Dijk/ Matip / Gomez good enough, consistently enough to win the PL.

    This is the conundrum Wenger faces in trying to match attacks like City and ‘Pool. Can he support his back-4 more like City– or roller-coaster along like ‘Pool?

    A ‘Did you know?’
    That Klopp started Ox as his No. 10 vs Swansea (pulling him for Adam Lallana after 67′). That was the height of folly after the momentous ‘W’ over City — eight days earlier. Complete buzz-kill; reeking of hubris. Then Klopp starts possibly his best-XI in the FA Cup vs WBA.


  • Kev, I remember how exciting it was for me when we got Alexis. I remember liking him in serie A.. and really believed he was an explosive talent that needed room to flourish, and be the man …. away from Barca.

    I think it’s a little hypocritical for fans to hate on him now. He worked hard, was capable of miraculous plays. We don’t know how bad he was as a teammate, and never will know. But I kind of understand his bitter disappointment when we didn’t strengthen enough, or succeed in winning the league 2 of the last 3 years. And our performance in Europe was extremely embarassing last year, and very bad the year before….
    All of this was underachieved with him, of course, but I still can see his point of view.

    Nik, I am not convinced by Iwobi latest performances still. I would rather see the players I mentioned get most of his minutes.

  • Again we forget that Iwobi is only 21 yrs old. He is very difficult to disposes. He is a quick passer and he is beginning to show improvement on his positioning when we don’t have the ball. His ball technique is quite good. All these mean he has the ingridents for developing. Most growths or developments come in sudden bursts separated by periods of stagnation. Iwobi needs just one more leap and he is there. We must show more patience with him. A managers work is most delicate because he has to think of today as well as of tomorrow. Otherwise we should never give opportunities to the likes of AMN, Nelson, Willock and co.

  • Sanchez is now history to me. To be candid his turnovers frustrated me to no end. It is well established that teams out of possession expend more energy than teams in possession. He lead the league in turnovers last season. Can we imagine what that means? The tons of sweat the team expended trying to regain possession due to all his turnovers. If it can be quantified we’d be shocked.

    Possession is an important part of our defensive strategy and there was Alexis undermining that regularly. Sanchez was extremely valuable in the box, but he couldn’t be restricted up there because he loves engaging. He is un-coachable. His assets are accompanied with a lot of baggage. Auba would make us a better team, and from the noises around it seems we are nearly there.

  • I promise… If I am proven wrong about Iwobi, I will admit it, and be incredibly happy in his success.
    Right now, he looks slow, and passes sideways and back way too much for my liking. I see more promise in others.

    It’s very possible that there may be subtleties that I am missing, that le proffeseur Wenger appreciates. I know he sees much more than all of us combined.

  • Iwobi is at least as good as Oxlade the Dipper ALREADY and he is only 21. He has great ball control, good eye for a defence splitting pass, football intelligence, a team player and he can stay focussed throughout the game. His final ball/shots on goal need to improve a little which is to be expected at 21. If he can do that, Iwobi will be an awesome player.

    Re Sanchez…. He went to whom paid the most and that says it all. A self-centred and self-glorifying footballer who wanted to land the best possible contract before he disappears into oblivion. He will not be loved/remembered by any of the clubs he played for once he is retired (a bit like Mark Overmars). As far as I know, none of the current Arsenal players have publicly said goodbye to him. There seems to be a sense of relief in the squad, and even if we did not bring anybody in for him the team would still play better. We got Henrikh in a straight swap and PEA will probably follow. IF that works out we sold Theo and Ox for £60m and got PEA back for it, Henrikh comes effectively for free. Then we are just a signature of Mesut and Jack away from being a fecking brilliant team (and one or two defenders in the summer are needed too). Even though I believe Wenger cannot lift the team to the next level anymore, that would be some team to go into next season with.

  • In the: “Arsenal & BVB have all but reached an agreement…” stage.

    Will the protracted haggling keep OG in London? OG and Dzeko from Chelsea?
    Tune in tomorrow for the next episode of: ‘As The Window Closes.’ 🙄


  • The Guardian says agreement has been reached over Auba but move will be sanctioned only once they get a replacement. Chelsea’s Batshuayi going there on loan mooted. I have a very bad feeling this means Giroud going to Chelsea. 😦

  • Great post. Love the link with the 1970 Brazil team and I think Wenger has referenced them many times over the years.

    But I’m afraid if the Auba deal goes through, you’ll have to tear up these notes and go with a 442. Akin to the style we played back in 2007-08 with Flamini (Elneny/AMN), Cesc(Ramsey/Xhaka), Hleb (Miki/Wilshere) and Rosicky (Ozil/Iwobi) in midfield, and Adebayor (PEA/Giroud) and RVP/Eduardo (Laca/Welbeck) up front.

    Too attacking? Maybe. But I think our defense will improve if they don’t feel the need to constantly join in the attack. Regardless, I think all out attack gives us our best chance to move into the top 4 rather than trying to fix defensive issues mid-season.

    PS. Keep Giroud please!

  • Can’t tell how much weight to give this one, but– Burnley want Rob Holding on loan till Summer. Could be an investment in Holding too good to pass up. Several months in Sean Dyche’s scheme of defending might do wonders.


  • Honestly can’t see how we can allow OG to go to Chelsea– fee notwithstanding.
    If this retooling has been done on-the-fly with the ideal being top-4 this season? Then realistically there are 2 top-4 spots for the taking. Arsenal must claw over 2-of-3 of CHE/LIV/TOT to get there. All three clubs have been showing signs of cracking– and the CL hasn’t yet cranked-up.

    Can’t possibly fortify one of those clubs– with exactly what they require– for £30-35M.


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