An Analysis of Arsenal’s options of elite midfielders to replace Mesut Ozil

Arsenal’s New Ozil? by AI

It is no news that Arsenal finished 8th in the 2019/2020 EPL table from a lack of creativity as much as erratic defending. Mesut Ozil, once the very best at creating chances in football has been sidelined, falling out of favour with his coaches and the hierarchy. Homegrown midfielders such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi have been sold. Almost all the quality through the middle in the attacking third is gone.

Everyone at the club recognizes the problem; we need another elite midfielder.

But who? Arsenal are not exactly awash in funds at the moment and not a lot of quality attacking midfielders are available at the moment. European football’s ballooning transfer fees are not helping self-sustaining clubs like Arsenal who want to compete at an elite level. Arsenal have to be smart and very efficient in the transfer market if they are to remain competitive at the top.

Currently, we lack creative midfielders. Emile Smith-Rowe is the only clear option at the club and he cannot be relied upon week in week out. And since Mikel Arteta most likely wants to play a 4-3-3 next season, we cannot rely on Smith-Rowe as the only creative substitute next season either.

As such, we need two creative midfielders, even if we sign Ceballos. One that is good enough to slot immediately in the first team and another to rotate with Smith-Rowe.

Depending on how ambitious Arsenal are, we could go for someone like Buendia at Norwich and call it a day. But that is not enough for a club of our stature. Hence the links to Houssem Aouar of Lyon.
Sadly, Aouar could cost far more than we should pay and Arsenal might need to look at some other alternatives.

Jack Grealish could be an option. Although no Mesut Ozil, he has extensive ball carrying abilities, versatility and is English. Despite all the rumours that link him to Manchester United he won’t play a first-team role there and Arsenal are attractive enough. But he might also be too expensive, depending on Aston Villa’s valuation of him.

James Maddison is another English player that could come into the first team immediately. He’s younger than Grealish, already in the national team setup and is one of the best offensive midfielders in the league. Acquiring Maddison has the added bonus of him weakening a possible rival and as Chelsea’s negotiation for Ben Chilwell has shown, Leicester can be persuaded to sell for a reasonable sum.
Otherwise, if Arsenal plan to spend big on an attacking midfielder, James Maddison is less of a risk than Housemm Aouar who is less motivated and average in league matches.

Casting the net further, Papu Gomez at Atlanta is another option. Gomez was one of the best attacking midfielders in Europe last season but he comes with significant risks. At 30, Arsenal would have to replace him in the next couple of seasons. Atlanta play with a very specific system and their players are often unable to reach their previous heights in Gasperini system. He could also be a bit expensive.

Dominik Szbozlai at RB Salzburg is more of a risk than the others. Cheaper and younger, he is not proven outside of the Austrian Bundesliga. His performances in the Champions League have been decent but nothing too spectacular. He is a better fit as a substitute midfielder who can adjust to the Premier League while rotating with Emile Smith-Rowe. But his numbers suggest he might be a first team hit immediately. A good punt for Arsenal, if you ask me, as long as he’s not immediately first choice.

Dani Olmo at RB Leipzig is the better version of Dominik Szbozlai. A bit older and more experienced, the exciting midfielder can play on the wings and through the middle. Delightfully reminiscent of Eden Hazard with the ball at his feet, he can be the perfect blend of youth, potential, and immediate talent. But he only recently transferred to Leipzig and it is difficult to see them let him go so quickly.

Julian Brandt at Borrusia Dortmund is another attainable option. Very clean with the ball at his feet, he’s capable of playing both as an 8 or a 10. A significant player in Dortmund’s title-hunt, he’s still young enough and has a high ceiling.

If Arsenal want the closest thing to Mesut Ozil, they could do worse than Matheus Pereira at West Bromwich Albion. Once one of the most highly rated youngsters some years ago, the Brazilian has bounced around a bit, found his feet at West Brom and was one of the best Championship players from last season.

Capable of Ozil-esque defence splitting pass and also working hard, he’s expected to play a crucial role in West Brom’s EPL season and could very well be worth a lot more than what he was bought for by the end of the season. However, West Brom are unlikely to want to transfer him since they only bought him permanently this season. A player to watch in the EPL.

Unless Arsenal pull out a miracle and sign a top performer for cheap or Smith-Rowe becomes an instant revelation, they will likely need to shell out at least 50 million euros to have a good chance of obtaining a quality attacking midfielder. That’s what you get for not planning ahead well.

Agboola Israel


  1. ESR will replace Ozïl. Thank me when you see him play🙂.
    Btw we have a number of players in quarantine as do Chelsea and some other teams. Maybe just because of returning from holidays but who knows🤔

  2. l thnk Maddison can be perfect considering his premier league experience. But Oaur is @ another level can be a grt player as well. its crucial we invest all we can now to be back in the champions league.

  3. ESR should be given a chance because our recent youth players has shown they are ready to push for glory. COYG

  4. Madisson signed an improved extension to his contract 2 or 3 days ago so you can forget about him and Grealish too both will cost way more than Aouar.

  5. Szbozlai is a gem and unlike aging footballers they tend to increase in value with age.This lad is a real talent and would not be a high risk signing in my opininion.He has everything you need as an attacking midfielder and unlike so many others, he is an excellent finisher .In the 1950’s Hungary was the finest team in the World and there are signs that they are at last beginning to rise from the ashes.Szbozlai is considered the finest young player to emerge since the Puskas era, and he would be an excellent long term acquisition for Arsenal.

      1. What clean slate is that ozziegunner?
        The one before he said no to a pay cut, when he played every premier league game in 2020 before the coronavirus?

        If we sign Gabriel and Partey, then we will be able to give ESR an extended run, in order to find out just how good he really is – in fact, if we keep AMN and fail to sign Partey, we can have a look at these two players…along with Saka and Martinelli.

        There is so much talent at the club, even though I understand a signing like Partey would strengthen us, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if only Gabriel was signed.
        We will have completely strengthened our defence, the first priority for me, so let’s not be too disheartened if it’s only two new faces (Willian and Gabriel), as the consensus seems to be that MA needs three seasons to be challenging for the league / CL.

        1. ken, should Arsenal sign Thomas Partey as box to box CM and Amadou Diawara as DM, both to do his tackling and ball winning for him, Mezut Ozil will be able to take his rightful place as CAM in the Arsenal midfield.
          When his contract runs out at the end of this coming season, he can leave on a free to reap the adulation of Turkish crowds he has saved his money for.
          Hopefully Emile Smith Rowe, having filled in during Ozil’s absenses due to injury and illness, will be ready to take his place. Alternately Ozil’s departure will free up sufficient funds to bring in an adequate replacement CAM.

  6. Pat, the glaring deficiency in Arsenal’s midfield has been the inability to adequately replace Gilberto Silva with a specialist DM.
    It is difficult to create chances from midfield if every time a player loses the ball the team is on the back foot and bullied in midfield.

  7. ESR should be given his chance to play regularly in the 1st team. You say you can’t rely on him to produce week in week out but which player does produce week in week out. Back in the 70’s a young Liam Brady didn’t produce week in week out but we still played him and thank goodness we did.

  8. It’s not the players who are to be blamed for the lack of scoring chances. it is the tactic which is reliant upon possession of the ball but even more significantly playing out from the back. That system has led to the ludicrous situation where by the goalkeeper gets more passes from his teammates than the striker. Remember the objective of the sport is to win by scoring goals. conversely you cannot win by passing the ball backwards for 90 percent of the time you are in possession of the ball it does not make sense nor does it work whoever you have playing in midfield, which is why Ozil’s numbers tell away so drastically. If Mr Artetta is not tactically more dynamic he will end up in a similar situation as Emery and he will do the same thing,, blame the players

  9. The importance of midfield creativity in the modern game is over-rated, in my view. Jurgen Klopp has clearly demonstrated that creative fullbacks are just as effective as midfielders in terms XG opportunities or other data. Let’s also not forget, we played our best games last season, by essentially parking the bus, and playing high balls over the midfield to Auba.
    So before going out to acquire pricey or elite midfielders, again, we need to first determine our preferred strategy or style of play. And this must form the basis for our scouting and recruitment efforts going forward. Sorry for being the skunk at the party…partey.

  10. The truth is staring you at the face. The most economical way and most productive is to reinstate Ozil, give him a role that will help him succeed and be productive and let Smith Row learn from him for one year. Look all you want Ozil is the best there is still. Just forget about the pay cut because it ain’t happening.

    1. Without two strong midfielders, like Partey and Diawara to do his tackling and ball winning for him, Ozil would be a waste of space.

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