Does Giroud hold Ozil back? Part 2.

In this earlier post from TA, entitled:

‘Are Arsenal Getting The Best Out Of Ozil – Is Giroud holding him back?’

Happiness is a warm Gunner!
Happiness is a warm Gunner!

And from within the text, followed with this:

Three things are clear to me:

  1. Ozil is learning to play with OG as our ‘holding striker’ and has some way to go;
  2. OG is not the sort of striker who can take full advantage of Ozil’s vision and passing ability.
  3. There is potential for a clash of styles here and, as a result, a risk of frustrating/not getting the best out of Ozil in the process.

And these questions:

  • Which formation should we play?
  • Should they play together at all?
  • Who should play around them to get the best value out of both players – do we need to buy or is there a solution within the current squad?

This was my first response:

TA – Fine post, much needed. Thanks.

I cannot be very original in my response as much has been said already. So take it as read that, time (to get know player’s preferences), first season (different challenges from a more competitive league), and changes in personnel (altering the balance of the side, as well having different contributions to make) are a given ….

But then as I continued my reply, I quickly realised this post raised some really deep, fundamental questions that needed to be answered, but too much for a simple reply, even the length some of my replies run to? So this post was born. Hopefully answering some of those questions, and raising others. I began with this:

I query the question Ozil and OG playing together less well, than say, Santi and Ozil, but that too may work out in time. The trouble is, in this season and the position we are in – i.e. being TOTL and being hard pressed by two of the moneybags clubs: One who spent heavily at the start of the season with their changed manager already at the helm, as with Man City; and the other, whose new manager inherited an expensive set of players, but is now retuning, by buying and selling in this January transfer window, Chelsea. – Whereas we haven’t really got the time to work through mini clashes of style, at the expense of possibly losing valuable points?


So to answer these questions I ran through the following arguments.

What will liven up our attack will be the introduction of Ox, Gnabry and Draxler (JD) (WHEN) he arrives. I don’t believe there is much of a problem with OG, that other threats on goal, particularly in and around the box, will not cure. Mostly when we play, OG is isolated. In the Villa game a few times we saw a typical example when the high ball is played forwards they had two or three players close in quickly for an easy turnover ball, because he had no immediate support. JD will be the player that AW has in mind to be the CAM who will be near enough to help out, as he has the speed and dribbling ability to get past defenders so that, if my theory holds good, they will not be able to put more than one on Giroud. That will change the whole dynamics up front?

Gnabry is the player we have, who, as the audio commentary team reminded everybody, played second striker (to Akpom) last season, which is probably more his natural position. Even AW since has said ‘the middle is where he (Gnabry)will end up’. Also, it might become a double threat with JD on the left and SG on the right in the future?

We have now played Fulham since TA’s original post, and I believe it showed how the side might develop as the players get more time together? It still had the same problem that TA alluded to in his post, that Ozil struggles to make key passes when those around him are not moving into viable spaces, and particularly where such passes would lead to goal opportunities. It is not Giroud’s strong point to drop a shoulder, twist turn and dribble on his way to score. We know that. Another reason is partly due to the amount of bodies wanting to be in the central area, from our own players pulling in defenders? Even when the opportunities did come, the lack of clinical finishing meant the chances went begging.

However, in the first half there was a lot of movement from our midfield, as well as with Giroud. A lack of composure from young Gnabry, and a not so sharp Giroud meant the score stayed at 0-0. The real point to me was, probably for the first time, the whole of the midfield was involved? The heat map of Gnabry showed bright spots on the left and left centre, but the heaviest involvement was centre right and right wing. But he also had his moments deeper helping the defence. Ozil’s heat maps usually show a similar pattern, but with less emphasis on the central area. Whereas, Wilshere would have shown a distinct bias in a broad central strip.

In this game Cazorla was the main beneficiary, whereas in the Villa game Ozil had more say in pulling the strings.

So who will be the Chief Puppeteer?

Wilshere had a third game where he showed his best form, and he is also key to how this master plan unfolds. The reason why his game flourished in the Fulham game I think is twofold. One I think is his ‘maturity’ in getting a ‘true’ feel for being a creative midfielder, rather than trying to carry the team single handedly. Others are there now, so he can concentrate on what he can do best? What I basically mean by that, he was playing a supportive role, rather than trying to be the conductor? Secondly, operating straight down the middle, to play and receive balls, he did not displace Cazorla from doing his creative work in the same area, and so they complimented each others play. Which works well as long as others moved around intelligently, which they did. Ultimately, it was Santi’s interaction, with Wilshere in particular, across the box that enabled him to get the two snap shots away that produced the winning goals. Perhaps that is the one thing Ozil does not do often enough, as he enjoys providing for others. That is a subtle difference between them?

But there hangs the dilemma. With the rise of Cazorla’s performance, Ozil became more of a peripheral figure as the game wore on. Not that he was not contributing, but there were only flashes of his genius to make key passes?

It will take time I think, for him not just to link with specific players, but get more familiar with the space, and for the others to get to know that same space where the ball is played? I would guess that is why Ramsey can do well playing with Ozil. When he is high on his confidence and simply playing intuitively, he too can see the same space. This is what we need more of, as well as see the whole midfield working as a complete unit?

Gnabry, in just two games, has improved no end with his off the ball movement. So, with his dribbling skills and shooting with both feet will be a joy to behold by the time he is 20. But in the meantime he is still another option to be developed into a goal scoring threat. As it stands at the moment, he may not be enough of one to drag defenders away from Giroud, but that will change?

The Ox too, could play this role, but he too will have to get up to speed. The key to all these players, OG included, is how well they will link with Ozil? Podolski has not got the goals he has by being a duffer either. I agree with those suggesting it has been a fitness issue that may have kept him out recently. The calf wrapping shown in the training photos before the Fulham game lends support to this? Also AW has an aversion to doing early substitutions, so rather than start a game, I think he will do more ‘last half hours’ for the time being?

That then is the case for the attacking threat. We have the players, and are likely to add to it before the transfer window ends. Who ‘they’ are, if more than one, or even less than one, we will know on February 1st.

Ozil, ideally needs quick thinking players who have the necessary pace around him, and then his true value to the team will surely blossom. So, the combinations that work well with Ozil are; the ‘mutual admiration society’ candidates Rosicky at the head; Ramsey, playing on ‘instinct’ higher up the pitch; Wilshere in his ‘mature’ mode, but still a work in progress; Cazorla on the evidence of the last game also still needs work on how to involve Ozil more when playing together? Ox, as another creative, attacking midfielder, will like Gnabry become the alternative scoring threats, and will only get better the more they play?

However, the fundamental question asked was, should we change our current style and bring in a striker who fits the requirements of Ozil, but changes in quite a big way, the whole set up of the way we are playing at the moment?

The case for Giroud, who is our main striker, and as such would be expected to be our main goal scorer. The fact that he is not a quick, nimble footed striker, he does not fit the natural mould of what sort of player Ozil would like to play key passes to? But does that make him redundant? Do we really need to find a replacement, as TA’s post asks?

I do not think AW is looking to replace him, going by the intention of getting Suarez, or indeed, the ‘new RVP’ in JD? I support that view. I will now try and answer the ‘BIG’ question – Does Giroud hold Ozil back?

The lack of natural fit is a hard one to argue with, regards the Ozil/Giroud combination. But I will deflect that by looking to see if that is who Ozil should be interacting with regards to getting goals?

I have a slightly radical idea that Giroud is not actual a proper No 9. Instead he is more an atypical false No 9, and would do a lot better if he were to drop back 10 or 15 yards? Basically, to where such false central player would play? Now instantly you will think ‘he ain’t going to score many goals from there’?

True, but what he does well is hold up play, and give knock downs and flicks to others if the options are available. By being that bit closer to our midfielders he should not only have more options, but also be less heavily marked. He is, by and large, our main outlet ball from our goalkeeper, be that free kicks or long punts up field. But he does not have to be the furthest player forwards to be effective?

So I believe the right striker, should we get one, or JD, or both, or the Ox, the Gnabry, would be the ones to drive forward in the middle. But should another winger materialise, then a knock down ball to Ozil could have a field day spreading passes out wide? Balls cut back should still find Giroud in space, and with the right one-twos and movement in the box Giroud could be deadly with his best weapons, his feet, whether assisting or scoring?

Where are the Jack’s, Santi’s, and Ozil’s when we switch to attack. Perfecting what they did in the Fulham game. Pass and Move. Pull defences out of shape. Make the openings for a number of bodies to score. Since Giroud has been with us we have scored more goals overall that in the RVP year of being the ‘one man band’. Let us not lose sight of that fact. Giroud does not score many goals with his head, so have him pulling defenders away from the keeper so others can? On set pieces we have Mert, Kos, Sagna, and even Ramsey can all put the ball in the net from headers, as well as knock it back for people like Cazorla, Wilshere, Gnabry, Ox, and yes, Giroud to score from slightly deeper positions with their feet.

The key is finding space. That is what Ozil is about. If we get JD, fine. We will have a player who can make use of his skills. If we get a striker who is also quick, and maybe able to head the ball, that too would be a bonus. But above all, we want players that compliment our squad, because the players we are developing, in time, are likely to be better than those available now, JD excepted, as he too will develop along with them. But all will appreciate having the unselfish Giroud and Ozil doing what they do best.

We should too?

So, my answer to the statement in the previous title;

‘Are Arsenal Getting The Best Out Of Ozil – Is Giroud holding him back?’

The answer is No, but Giroud is not the problem.

The answers to other points raised:


Q.- Ozil is learning to play with OG as our ‘holding striker’ and has some way to go?

Answer; Should read learning to play ‘around’ OG, and that has some way to go?

Q.- OG is not the sort of striker who can take full advantage of Ozil’s vision and passing ability?

Answer; True, in the direct sense. But vision and passing ability is Ozil’s department, and he should be using it in more appropriate areas, eg out wide, or in the box, to players that can benefit?

Q.- There is potential for a clash of styles here and, as a result, a risk of frustrating/not getting the best out of Ozil in the process?

All players get frustrated when their efforts are not rewarded with an end result. However, by focussing on Giroud as his only outlet for a successful conclusion is where this observation is misplaced, and Ozil’s if he feels that?

And these questions:

Q.- Which formation should we play?

A.- That depends on two things; Who is available; Where they can best be used. But a variation within 1-4-6? That allows for a variety of patterns to be formed according to who is bringing their strengths to the game. Our usual 1-4-2-3-1 may be adjusted to allow and extra body up front?

Q.-Should they play together at all?

A.- If the ‘they’ refers Ozil Giroud together, I believe the strength’s of both can be used very effectively.

Q.- Who should play around them to get the best value out of both players – do we need to buy or is there a solution within the current squad?

A.- This is the bigger question. From the above I have argued for both points. We do need a player who is a threat in the box. Ideally that player will be quick, nimble and score goals(JD), but in time, both Ox and Gnabry could become that type of player.

Time, in this season we do not have, so buy is the likely option. A different type of striker is also a possibility, but that depends what else he can add to the squad. I should also add, that should Bendtner recapture his best form, he too could benefit from any addition, and has the addition of being a good header of goals?

But that is only half the problem. At best, with Giroud and Ozil playing it leaves just 3 players to fill the remaining places. One B2B, two creative/attacking MFs, so getting the right balance will be the most important. Should a solid DM be on the shopping list, then possibly 3 rather than 2, out of the 7 or 8 possibilities to choose from? AW is going to be very creative to keep all parties happy, and more importantly, fresh and ready to start when needed? But any kind of pecking order will lead to frustration if over used?

Combine that with who works best with who, and you have a balancing nightmare if all stay fit?

If AW was prepared to play Ozil twice in every three games, not that strictly regimented, but say, over a period of ten games, he starts in six of them? Then, I would say alternate Ozil with Cazorla, based on recent evidence. Similarly, Ramsey and Wilshere. Rosicky, as I have said already, will work around whoever else starts. The younger pair, Ox and Gnabry, and to some extent Podolkski, would have to take their chances as they arise. Mostly from the subs bench I would guess, except when the need for width arises. But may be this is where new signings may also compete?

None of this is set in stone, but it is going to take a great deal more flexibility within the squad for all to maintain the unity that the smaller squad offers?

However, for this to fully work with this many MF’s committed to attack, you need a holding DM behind them to slow down attacks to allow the proper defensive lines to take shape? This is covered as long as we have both Arteta and Flamini fit. If Frimpong goes out on loan, we have the returning Frances Coquelin to assist. He is quick, but also likes to get forward. The replacement we need is someone who ‘commands’ that space behind. A ‘Presence!’ no less. More importantly, if we are continuing to use our FB’s as wingers/wing backs, a single DM allows us a more dynamic midfield, but probably neither Arteta or Flamini are capable of doing on the their own? However, if wide attacking players are used, then the need for advance FB’s diminishes? That could at least defer the need for the SQ DM until a suitable one is available in the next window?

In conclusion; Ozil will find his space no matter who else is playing, but how effective he is depends on how well they all work as a team. If you play Cazorla in the free central role, the ‘Arshavin’ best position, working across the line of opposition defenders, it will bring the best out in his game. Ozil can pull the strings with the wider players and create spaces for the central bodies to work better. You then have Rosicky and Ramsey for energy and drive, Wilshere for the central support. Gnabry and Ox for width, and Podolski as an alternative frontline striker, unless we get other options in this window?

Such are the complexities within our midfield, that the best combinations will gradually be found. But I also think having the one of the most creative midfielders around, we should not get to be too reliant on just his input in every game? We have talent to spread the load, we should use them?

We are, as it stands at the moment, reliant on Giroud to be our ‘holding striker’, and he is very capable of scoring many more goals this season. But if we can share that burden with whoever is available to play for us after January 31st, then he too will find life a lot easier?

Nobody said managing a football club was easy. Thank heavens we have got somebody who has practical experience running our club, rather than my theoretical aspirations to what might work?

Comments will be appreciated if they go beyond one liners. But on the fundamental question of changing our approach to accommodate one player’s needs, is very much open for discussion?

Thanks for reading.

Written by: Gerry.