What To Do with Ozil and Laca? Near-Future Starting 11 Without Them

To my view, the game has moved backwards… I don’t mean that in terms of some sort of grand cultural statement, but as a tactical/strategic one…

If I had the heat maps or screen captures (or any diagrams at all…) I could probably illustrate things very simply. Alas, I only have my words (and those, I know, put people to sleep)…

Surely, high back lines have been played since the offside rule came in–GN5, history lesson please–and this must’ve increased with the 3 points for a win rule as better teams pushed further and further forward to compress the field. Now with VAR and computer diagramming (linesman/woman is really just a jobs program, isn’t it?…) teams can compress their opponent, that much further.

This, of course, means that there are many times in a match when a team has the ball and all (or maybe nearly all) of the players are in their own half… Counter attack heaven if the other team hasn’t retreated just a bit… So, coaches like Mourinho and Emery say lure ’em forward and then we’ll spring on the break…

(In reference to 10 men maybe being better than 11 for Arsenal, at least against a “top” opponent, like Chelsea, who maybe thought, “OK, up a goal, at home, time to run up a tally,”maybe it IS true, as what is a bigger lure than that sort of hubris?…)

But where does this leave the traditional creative attacker types, esp. those who play central (where turnovers are most damaging for teams as they try to break on us)?…

They are only going to persist at the top, top teams…and, they’ll need to punctuate their “head’s up” passing play (assist making) with plenty of selfishness and head down/magical individual goals. At Arsenal, we’ve got two very fine players (IMO) in Lacazette and Ozil, who are actually working really (really) hard, but are struggling with Arsenal’s downward trajectory as a club (we’re hardly a “top” team, let alone, “top, top” team).

Traditionalists will say, well then let ’em feck off to where the game is for softies (i.e., the rest of Europe) and ALWAYS complain about their lack of defensive abilities/willingness to risk injury and the like.

And, so, maybe Arsenal *should* get rid of them (and their high salaries, etc.)…

I disagree (of course, which, if you’re still reading this probably comes as no surprise) and I would (continue to) counsel patience. As the group grows in self-belief, and we recover from the negative tactics of the Emer-periment, I think those guys will “come good.” It may not be enough to outscore all the opponents all of the time, but I have some genuine hope…

(…Which, of course, will be the thing that kills me…)

In the meantime, indulging in fantasy ideas for a split second, move AMN to left Back, Saka to #10, Mustafi into DM–at least until we replace the curly boys (see below) and move Xhaka to CB…

We can sell Ozil, Lacazette (and, of course, PEA)… And then buy ourselves a real keeper who can save like Leno AND come off his line and (actually) get to the ball (which, btw, might’ve kept us better than level in BOTH matches against the Chavs…) not to mention (the next, if not the guy himself) Virgil Van Dyke. Personally, I’d also sell on the curly duo (Luiz and Guendouzi) and buy the most awesome deep-sitting mid in the world (names, please_…

The team thus looks like this…

What do you think fellow BKers?!

By 17HT

29 thoughts on “What To Do with Ozil and Laca? Near-Future Starting 11 Without Them

  • Pb, I have copied your comment from previous postL

    17HT, I think we are not doing bad on most positions.
    The Leno/Martinez tandem look capable to provide high quality goalkeeping services for years to come. Yes, they are free from flaws, but I wouldn’t trade them for Kepa, and he is considered to be TOP5 GK, so in this case common knowledge is overrated.
    With regards to fullbacks/wingbacks we are not doing bad either. Bellerin and Tierney are top of their trades, and when there deputies (Kola and Saka on the left, AMN and Chambers on the right) are no longer game-losing liabilities.
    The center back is a tricky position and a sensitive question. I believe (or hope) that Luiz has a good year and a half in him to compete at the highest level, while I don’t think we will be seeing the best of Sokratis again. And while from many aspects Mustafi is a world-class defender, I have to agree with those that it doesn’t compensat properly for being a time bomb. So from next season we will have Luiz, Holding and Saliba, Chambers will be available again, and we’ll see how Mavropanos, Ballard and Medley turn out, but we might be looking for the superman CB you mention (however I would still wait for a year and recruit him in 2021 when we say goodbye to Mustafi, Sokratis and Luiz).
    The (defensive) central midfield is the neuralgic spot. Contrary to many pundits and fans the Xhaka-Torreira partnership is awesome. They complete each other perfectly and have the fitness to play even 3 times a week. On the other hand we need an extra pair of legs in DM in case of injury, suspension (both of them are prone to be booked) or rotation. Guendouzi is not there yet (Elneny neither and he is likely to be sold in the summer) and Willock is not suitable for this position. So we face the dilemma here that we need a competent DM, but we cannot promise many minutes for him. TA covered this problem in a post a few weeks back. Maybe the rumored signing of Bruno Guimaraes can solve this problem?
    In the 2 DM + 1 OM scenario we need player(s) in the #10 position. Ozil is doing it now, and not bad at all (albeit far from the effectiveness and class of his partnership with Sanchez or Cazorla), but he is ageing, and makes too much money to have his contract renewed. I saw Ceballos as his potential successor – with less surgical passes, but with more dribbles and pressing – however Arteta doesn’t see him flourishing in this position, so it’s either the inexperienced Emile Smith-Rowe or the next marquis signing in the summer. Maybe Arteta will give a chance to Mkhi in the pre-season, but he is no long-term solution either.
    On the wings we need no reinforcements. While Liverpool (Mane + Salah) and Manchester City (Sterling + Mahrez/Silva) are ahead of the league, we are not far behind. Pepe, Nelson, Martinelli and Saka will give Arteta the good kind of headache as to whom must he leave out from the starting XI.
    That leaves us with the strikers, where we have world-class players up front as well as inexperienced but undoubtedly talented youngsters. I’m not keen on selling PEA, but he is 30+ has 18 months on his contract and he has significant market value which will only go down from now. Lacazette is younger, skilled in hold-up play and has a year more on his contract, but Arteta’s tactics don’t match his strengths – at least this seems to be the case. Besides Nketiah we have Balogun and John-Jules in the queue, but all of them are finishing strikers, without the finesse Aubameyang brings to the table.

  • Cheers Seventeenho for your succinct and thought-provoking post.

    In a nutshell:
    1. We are a big team but have to recover from Emery’s mutilations: we have a big football ground, spend loads of money on new players every season, seldom sell our best players now and pay the salaries to keep attracting the best… we may lack quality on the BoD though…

    2. Ozil and Laca are vital to our team and I would keep them for years to come

    3. I like your team a lot though and can see that as one for the (near) future.

    Leno…. I like him and don’t see a need for replacement, but Arteta knows what he will need in goal and I trust he will make the right decision..

    AMN left back? A possibility. Let’s see how Tierney develops and Saka may well get that role permanently even though I agree he will be more useful higher up the pitch.

    Xhaka L-CB… He looked naturally there on Tuesday and could become a Beckenbauer/Koeman type of Ausputzer. Could work.

    Beast of a CB is always welcome but we have some internal options for next season.

    Bellerin and AMN cover for the RB position.

    Midfield: Torreira Yes, Mustafi an option, but there is also AMN who could become awesome there gradually. We need extra cover for Torreira, which is my nr.1 priority this TW

    I like your attacking four and would love to see them play together like that. Ozil and Laca are needed for their experience and class but Saka in the hole is a very exciting thought.

    Still not sure about Pepe on the right, Nelson seems to fit better with his close ball control and superior passing ability. Could Pepe play as our CF instead?

    — Nelson———Saka/Willock————–Martinelli/Saka


  • Thanks for the articles, guys.
    Even when we are short on comments there is a lot of interesting stuff to read. 🙂

  • Now I’ve read the rest of you post 17.

    It will take radical changes to get Arsenal back into the upper echelon of the EPL and I feel you have indicated a way to move away from the status quo.

    I cannot agree to letting Guendouzi go as he one (IMLTHO) of our youngsters that will become the bedrock of the new Arsenal. The positioning of AMN also concerns me as I feel he is more of a mid- fielder than a wing back – but I have no idea where he would fit in.

    I’m really impressed with the attitudinal changes that Mikel has been able to instill in the players in a few short weeks. However I still believe that he needs the remainder of this season to make the in depth changes in personnel and style of play that are needed to move us up to the level that the club deserves.

    Here are 20 of the current players (mostly youngsters) that are on our books that have a high potential – along with the right senior players to become an integral part of our future.

    Hector Bellerin Defender
    Calum Chambers Defender
    Rob Holding Defender
    Konstantinos Mavropanos Defender
    Zech Medley Defender
    William Saliba Defender
    Kieran Tierney Defender
    Tyreece John – Jules Forward
    Reiss Nelson Forward
    Edward Nketiah Forward
    Nicolas Pepe Forward
    Bernd Leno Goalkeeper
    Dani Ceballos Midfielder
    Matteo Guendouzi Midfielder
    Ansley Maitland-Niles Midfielder
    Bukayo Saka Midfielder
    Ben Sheaf Midfielder
    Emile Smith Rowe Midfielder
    Lucas Torreira Midfielder
    Joseph Willock Midfielder

  • Hi GN5,

    Did you export the list from an alphabetically ordered excel sheet or does your mind work that systematical?

    I really like Sheaf, but it is unlikely that he will join the first team from League 1 at the age of 22. Among those who are also on loan Ballard and Osei-Tutu (CB and RB) can make the cut as well as Burton, Olayinka and Smith (all midfielders) from the current squad.
    (And in the next age group we have Balogun, Cotrell, Hein, Greenwood, Azeez, Patino, Cirjan, Lopez, so as long as they get proper coaching, minutes and chances, our Academy looks bright.)

  • Hi PB,
    I have an excel spread sheet on Arsenal’s 2019/20 squad. I do have a logical thought process but the player data was sorted by position and then surname from excel to make it more readable.
    I’ve also got an entire data base of every Arsenal player from the very beginning – I just need to update the last few seasons.

    You appear to have a deep knowledge of the squad – do you get to watch them or do you gain your knowledge from reports. Personally my viewpoint is based on only those players that I have seen playing.

  • Oh my TA… I really was JUST KIDDING about making those comments into posts…though, of course, I stand by my point that the game has gone towards these “moments of transition” and trying to make things happen very (very) quickly on the counterattack. The better teams (not Emery’s Arsenal, which we can only hope to slowly unwind with Arteta at the helm) also can do things with the ball, when they break through the opponent’s lines, often by playing Pep-style Rondo football and winning 3 v 2s… Still, there’s very little attempt (by any teams) these days to “walk the ball into the net,” the great criticism which was routinely leveled at Wenger’s football.

    That said, I’m going to try and make some time today to watch Wolves-Liverpool to see what those two teams (and their managers) are trying to accomplish.

    Maybe it’s just being back in front of the big screens (and fine satellite signal) but I feel at least somewhat enthused to be trying to watch a bit of footie again. Or, maybe it’s just seeing my team waking up from all that negativity which seemed SO important. Emery, I believe, sold ownership/management (meaning Raul Sanllehi…) on the idea of undoing just about all of Wenger’s approach, and his promise to stop offering big contracts to #10s (Ramsey’s offer was rescinded, Ozil, of course, he tried to freeze out). “Playing without a midfield,” as I liked to say, was probably a step too far, but I think it also was a pretty good way of describing Emery’s approach.

    Onto the (couple of) comments…

    I REALLY was joking about that fantasy squad and selling all those players and I think PB and TA have a much better assessment of where we stand in terms of quality at the various positions. That said, I note that Liverpool really became an elite club when they spent big on VVD and Allison, while ManCity struggled (for a minute or two) trying to use a shot-stopper (Claudio Bravo) and when their CB superstars (first Kompany, now Laporte) have had their fitness issues. It really does begin at the back these days, I think, and Arsenal have some significant issues there. (Now that I’ve got my links from GN5 on the offside rule, maybe he–or others who watch/follow the youths–can report on Saliba’s loan spell. I fear we need our superCB sooner than later if we hope to get back to the top tier of teams…)

    Anyhow, as much as I DIDN’T want those comments reposted, it’s good to be part of the conversation again. I’ll be back at noon-time (here in California) to try and watch some of that “neutral” football, if anybody wants to stay at it…


  • 17HT,

    Your tongue in cheek comment to TA actually turned into a good post as we really do need some radical re-thinking and re-alignment to take place at Arsenal. That does not only apply to the coaches and players but to the management and ownership also. The Kronke family need to stop treading water and unlock the family vaults to invest in Arsenal’s future.

    It has been proven with the examples of Chelsea, Man City and now Liverpool that investing in the best players is the way forward. The biggest trick of all is having the personnel at the club who have the skills and foresight to expose the right targets.

  • Hah Seventeenho, you know I appreciate your thoughts and you made some good comments worthy of putting into a post! More than worthy!! 🙂

    Your team could well be close to a team we will see in the near future. Arteta accepted the job partly because of the very talented youngsters he could work with…. so with a few signings this summer we are likely to see a changed first 11 going forward..

    I will watch the game too, if I can get away with it (watched the sorry Mancs get beat yesterday). Wolves may well have the answer to Pool’s dominance. I bloody well hope so.

  • Let’s not forget the possibility of Emile Smith Rowe catching up– to his peers already seeing the pitch regularly. He’s got ‘so much Ramsey in him’ — I really want to see him succeed– and become that MF who adds goals the the needs from other than forward spots. He presses as well as anyone we’ve got in the squad presently.


  • HT … I caught on quickly to your post and fully confimirmed the ‘tongue in the check’ when you talked about the super keeper who’d save like Leno. Even wondered with a chuckle if some were aimed at my out of the box ideas like benching Laca for Martinelli in the Chelsea match which you were critical of. But do you know something …. I like that your line up. If it ain’t working try something.

  • 17ht, your superclass keeper can only be Ter Stegen. I do not know of any other keeper that can be as good as him. Maybe the PSG keeper?

    Anyway, we are playing well, and given Mustafi’s antics again, we did well to fight. We should do so for every game from now onwards. And not sit back and relax.

    Moving Mus to DM is a possible thing. At least his brain explosions will not cost us too much at that position.

    However, we need to note that Luiz is pairing well with Sok, so we need both of them to complement each other. Thus we can do well in defense and attack.

    Here’s to Ko Henry and those who celebrate the Lunar New Year. Happy New Year everyone.

  • Hi GN5,
    I try to follow the Academy (well, the U18 and U23 teams). I watch the game highlights, and sometimes full games, but they are rarely available. So apart from 3-4 games a season my opinion is mostly based on the 4-minutes highlights of the PL2 and U18 championship games and the blog & tweets of Jeorge Bird. Neither are representative, but not systematically biased either.

    I have faith in Mertesacker, he seems a capable guy to manage the Academy. My faith in Bould is weaker though, but I hope he’ll prove me wrong.

  • JW1, in my eyes Emile Smith-Rowe is an Ozil-type playmaking midfielder.
    Not too muscular (possibly even fragile) and loses most physical battles, but has a vision that prevents him from these duels. He is technically gifted, has good left and right feet, and reads the game exceptionally. He is good with free kicks and other set pieces too. I really hope he can be Ozil’s successor some day.

    Check out this video:

    Especially at 1’20 and 1’56.

  • I fully agree, TA. But his goal against Atletico Madrid in the pre-season 18 months ago showed that he was – and still is – special.

  • This thread seems to be running out of steam. Maybe I should put up a post with some, you know, actual ‘intent’ behind it… 😉

    I was able to watch the Wolves-Pool match, sorta-kinda, while taking care of other business. Both teams looked calm, organized and committed to their ideas. Wolves–mostly through Adama Traore–were able to get balls into the Pool penalty area (and their single goal, on the break of course, was very nicely executed), but Liverpool got the extra goal, Salah drawing attention, dropping the ball to Jordan Henderson (who had also scored the first, set-piece goal) who then one-touched it to Firmino where he could operate and bury the winner. Impressive, I thought… That said, with Mane limping off, they aren’t quite as dangerous on the break…for the moment… AOC (the player, not the politician) looked serviceable as a deeper, wider mid, but I’m not missing him too much, esp. with Saka in the frame…

    Catching up with a comment or two…at least the ones addressed to me…

    PE: I’m glad that you and I can give each other a bit of grief, w/o things getting mean-spirited. That’s how people do it face-to-face and not at all how things are (usually) done on the internet. In general, when it comes to chopping and changing and moving players from one position to another, I (usually) just have to shake my head at some of the ideas that pundits (bloggers…) suggest. I most definitely believe that Lacazette (and Ozil) are fine players (and much needed by Arteta as we climb back towards decent football…) but that they are being asked to do things which are tough for them–mostly because of the extreme negativity that has crept into the team over time–first from Emery’s (negative) tactics, and now just because we are soooo weak defensively. Note that we’re not losing games by big margins but we certainly aren’t putting up any goal totals of our own. (Under Arteta, neither we nor our opponents have topped 2 goals in a single game…and, even under Freddie, there was only the 3-1 win at West Ham, and the game where we limited Man City to “only” 3 in the home stadium.) To me, this suggests–all hands (are) on deck–with “deck” meaning our (defensive) half of the pitch. Tough on guys like Ozil and Lacazette, who would really prefer the final touch (or three) into the opponents’ goal…

    By that same token, I’m not at all sure how JK can have much belief in the Luiz/Sok CB pairing. (It sure seems like Arteta doesn’t, playing “disasters” like Mustafi and the now injured Chambers instead…) On balance, Leno is a better keeper than these guys probably deserve but, boy oh boy, would it be a bonus, if he could play a bit of sweeper/keeper as well–and make decisive moves to claim things in the air (inside his posts and out to almost the 6 yard line). He’s really good at reading from where the shot is going to come (and then stopping and often catching it…), but his style means we need at least one real “playmaking” (tall, mobile, good leaper…) at CB or we’re going to concede A LOT of shots (and goals, at times, at least). I don’t watch enough neutral football (or read/believe in transfermarkt) to know whom to buy in these positions, but, it seems obvious (to me) that we are really compromising the rest of our game (i.e., attack…and/or even just holding some possession and driving the opponent into their own half) by being so soft in the middle–directly in front of goal. (Emery’s) Playing around the back only exposed the deficiencies in this area…IMO, of course… At least, of course, the (new) manager plays the best DM pairing–Xhaka-Torreira–but how often does the former (Xhaka) have to slide back so it’s almost like (little) LT is playing the one in a 5-1-3-1?…which, of course, leaves that front group VERY disconnected from those at the rear…

    That’s why I ask about Saliba…but, instead, I get some reports on ESR… There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, and maybe attack IS the best form of defending… But, perhaps, it does reinforce my argument that the game (these days) really does “begin at the back,” (or that football, generally, has a lot of opportunity for superstar CBs to emerge and lift teams) and that this is where Arsenal (really, truly) need help…

  • HT–
    Arteta’s not choosing to play #20– per Sky Sports:
    “Sokratis has returned to full training for Arsenal after missing Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea in the Premier League due to illness.”

    There is simply no one else.
    Would take any wager that both Papa and Holding start on Saturday.
    They have in the past, when healthy, paired well.

    After assisting on Chelsea’s first goal by proxy?
    #20 had the best standing-room-spot in the stadia– for Cesar Azpilicueta’s go-ahead tally:

    When #20 continuously appears in the crime-scene photos…
    Pretty sure Mikel is aware too.


  • Hey, I agree, J-Dub… (And, if you need me to, I can say, “you were right…” And, for his next big mistake, if I happen to be live-blogging it, maybe I’ll use ALL-CAPS )… Still, I think (and I know you know) that you’re beating a dead horse…

    Leno almost got that shot (from Cesar with the tongue)…What about the first goal in the reverse fixture (a complete howler, no?)…And (could it be?…) that Arteta (coming from a club that requires a sweeper-keeper) TOLD Mustafi that he had EVERY right to expect Leno to (be positioned further forward and) get that back-pass, weak as it might have appeared to every narrative-making Gooner who wants to beat a particular drum?…

    (I know, I know, the 2nd goal in the reverse fixture was ALL the fault of the Shkrot, and how can you defend him?, Blah, blah, blah… I’m just trying to suggest that there are some other elements, notably, that a stick-to-your line keeper requires a different sort of CB…)

    Watching, Liverpool yesterday, they gave up PLENTY of crosses into their box, only the one being deadly (and the one which broke their ridonkulous un-scored-upon streak) and, my takeaway was that, I’d trade ANY of our CBs not only for VVD but for a (VVD coached?…) Joe Gomez…

    Not to mention the calmness of their overall approach to defending and playing it out of the back… (Of course, Pool spent some 150 pounds to get Allison and VVD and that is NOT something I would expect from our ownership/management…)

    My (even grander) point is that a bit of pace plus a bit of size (or playmaking ability beyond their size, if you know what I mean) is priceless in a CB (and keeper…) these days and we’ve got none of that. But, then you need decision making abilities, which could also be called “mental” abilities, too…

    Let’s do a matrix… Or at least check some boxes…

    Mustafi: Size (no); Quickness for making plays (check); Decision-making/mental abilities (NO!!); Ball at feet/starting the attack (pretty good)

    Sok: Size (no); Quickness/playmaking (no); Mental (OK, if you don’t mind falling over, faking injury, etc., after all his sneaky fouls); Going forward (no)

    Luiz: Size (maybe, but only if you count the hair), Playmaking (no); Mental (no); Attack (yes)

    Holding: Size (no), Quickness/Playmaking (no), Mental (Yes, at least when he’s playing against Costa and with the BFG…), attack (maybe OK)

    Chambers–Injured, out for a year…

    Mavropanos–on loan

    Saliba–Well, that’s my question, right?…

    Sorry, but this group, with Leno wanting to do everything from his line, ain’t gonna earn any CL (or even EL) football this season, I don’t think…(But, then again, I set my expectations low, and I’m always happy to be surprised…

    But, then there’s Xhaka and moving him backwards, whether on the team-sheet or just as the game plays out…

    Let’s check him (as a CB): Size (as tall as any of them, so no…) Quickness/Playmaking (no), Mentality/Decision making (no), Attack (sure, why not?).

    So, the sneaky answer is to play 3 CBs, even if you (Arteta) always list Xhaka as a MF…


  • 17ht, it seems like Arteta had learnt from Wenger that a DM can be a centre back to aid the defence when required.

    Wenger did it with Elneny, and Arteta did it with Xhaka. So i say, it is perfectly normal.

  • ” Half of all Premier League clubs have betting firms as shirt sponsors, with the figure rising to 15 in the Championship. The Football League itself is sponsored by Sky Bet. ”

    BK is approached regularly to see whether we want to be paid for advertising betting companies on the blog. Last year the co-owner/CEO of BET365 earned £250m alone on this dirty business. Of course placing a bet now and again is utterly harmless but there are large numbers of people out there who have become serious addicts and are ruining their and their families lives in the process.

    Therefore, I am glad to read about Sports Minister Nigel Adams’ announcement to go and address this issue:


  • friends,
    looks like we got ourselves a new cb; Pablo Marí, who has just won the copa america with flamengo – he had a very short spell at mcity, or so i’m told
    what i find interesting about him is that he’s left-footed, granit’s cameo as left-cb against the chavs did prove it might be very useful
    talking about CBs – i couldn’t watch the chelsea game live, i watched the re-run yesterday; maybe it was because – knowing it would end happily for us – i was relaxed, but i was very impressed with shkrodran’s performance, after his initial (terrible) blunder
    should it actually take place, mari’s signing will most likely draw the curtain on shkodran’s arsenal career: i, for one, feel very sorry that such a nice lad should leave us this way, he’s not as formidable a cb as we supporters would like all our CBs to be, but he’s a very good defender imo and i sure hope he’ll find his feet again in a club where supporters will … well, support him.

  • TA, 9.05;

    Respect to you for not sullying your blog with ads, unfortunately you are in the minority but your stance is refreshing…

  • Cheers, Kev. I am not entirely against ads but the truth is that there are very few decent adds to be had, and yes they would sully the blog.

    Hope you are keeping well and London moving?!

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