Awful Villa defeat shows Arsenal needed Ozil in midfield not Elneny

We Shouldn’t Be Playing Elneny At Home To Aston Villa! By Dan Smith

When writing about an article based on Joe Willock, I felt the need to reference Elneny as an example how a section of our fanbase tend to overreact. I wanted to write it before the Aston Villa game so I wouldn’t be accused of being wise after the event.

It was predictable after the win at Old Trafford that Arteta would make the mistake of carrying on with the Egyptian starting in the League. Let me clarify, he was very good in Manchester but United away is a different scenario compared to Villa at home. They are two fixtures which require different qualities.

Away at a ‘top six’ side, maybe you need that extra hard-working player in midfield, but do you need that at the Emirates against opponents who had just conceded 3 and 4 goals in their two previous games?

If Leeds and Southampton can make lots of chances against Aston Villa, then so should we. Yet creativity is proving a real issue and that’s not something you usually associate with Arsenal.

Most seasons you would count on us to at least score in a game, especially at our own ground. It’s now though been 4 games since we last scored in open play.

Our manager has over complicated things because Xhaka and Ceballos were not doing anything wrong to warrant both being dropped. You could trust one to start deep with Partey as both have a range of passing that can unlock a defence.

You don’t need an Elneny/Partey partnership at home, it’s way too negative. It’s not Elneny’s fault. He always gives 100 percent but that’s never been questioned. Nothing has changed from now to before he went to Turkey. He will run round, win back possession and pass the ball sideways. Qualities you don’t need when you are Arsenal at home.

It’s almost patronising to the player to be patting him on the back for not being rubbish. This is a professional footballer who earns a reported a 50,000 pound a week so let’s not act shocked that he can kick a football.

I promised that I wouldn’t mention a certain individual every time we lose a game, but I’m sorry I think losing 3-0 at home is fairly extreme and deserves questioning. I think our joint heaviest defeat at home in the Premier League allows me to question the balance of the squad?

Elneny, Partey, Xhaka, Ceballos can all play as your holding midfielder. Do you need 4 options while claiming your only creative player couldn’t make the list of 23. Bear in mind that Maitland Niles, Chambers and Luiz could also play DM.

When readers ask me where I get the theory that it’s non-footballing reasons why Ozil has been frozen out it’s nights like Sunday. Because for footballing reasons, you don’t select Elneny and not Ozil.

When you need a goal, you don’t choose a Pepe or Nketiah as being any more likely to change a game.

When he was first hired, Arteta spoke about certain standards and not accepting when they are not met.

4 defeats in 8 games.

2 home defeats in 4.

Our joint heaviest defeat at home in the Prem era.

We cannot accept those standards.

If Elneny can make the squad but Ozil can’t, we should ask ourselves why.

If Elneny is the answer, then the question is worse than I thought.

Be kind in the comments…

Dan Smith

Tags Elneny Ozil Xhaka


  1. Yesterday we needed fighting spirit. Players underestimated Villa and looked lethargic.

    So you think Mesut Özil is the player to bring fighting spirit and will to that match? Or is it his defensive prowess that would’ve helped us prevent those goals conceded?


    You can have the best players in the world in your team but when you play like we did yesterday, you won’t get anything out of the match.

    1. We have the most expensive front three in the league but they are firing blanks. If we won against Villa we would be 4th equal. Just have to trust the process now until January.

      1. Dan
        I don’t believe the personal killed the game for us it was the formation
        As soon as party went off we got over run
        Partey seems to make up 2 players in the middle
        We had chances but the forwards didn’t take them
        Lacca is a dead man 🚶‍♂️
        His movement and positonal play has become so bad
        Defensively we became the old arsenal again
        One defeat descent definie our season and I am sure he will get it right
        Keep the faith
        As for ozil…please let’s move on from that subject

      2. As if playing with 11 pieces of wood isn’t bad enough and now you want 10 pieces of wood and a piece of paper?

    2. Dan you write brilliant articles, but this one is absolutely madness, no caps, LOL. Mesut would be swallowed alive like the whale swallowed Jonah in that midfield of McGinn, grealish and barkley, A fast paced bullish game and you throw a weakling as Ozil there, you must be going mental bro. Even Partey as strong as he is was having a hard time, ozil? Great player, but Heck No. You want us to get a 7-0 mauling?

  2. Ozil is not playing not for footballing reasons. The club is saving some money by not playing him. Arteta cant tell us that.
    If you dont want to play Ozil, then Play Pepe in the number 10 role or give more game time to Smith Rowe.

    Pepe has to be starting games week in week out. He can either replace Lacazette upfront or play behind Aubameyang in the number 10 role.

    We have to discontinue the 3 at the back. if we are to play 3 at the back, then David luiz has to play. His long balls were missed yesterday. Also, Arteta should give more freedom to the players.

    Bellerin Gabriel Luiz Thierney

    Xhaka Partey

    Willian Aubameyang Saka

    1. Yes I agree, I was suprised yesterday as Xhaka is a more interesting player than Elneny, Elneny is a perfect back to Xhaka or Partey, and is maybe a bit faster than Xhaka, but in a game like that, Xhaka has the leadership, attitude and vision to drive this team. Anyway, also same with Pepe he is our most creative player, he should be ahead of Willian, Arteta is over complicating, let’s see after the break…

  3. I tend to agree with most of your article, but tell me one thing. As always, where can you fit MO in the lineup? Villa dominated our most solid partnership, cranking down hard on Mo and TP had to run and intercept and tackle so much that he got an injury. The basic idea of MO playing is all well and good, but I don’t think he can play in any of MA’s lineups. Even if we constantly switch to a 4 at the back and play Ozil as the furthest midfielder, he would get pressed hard by Douglas Luiz and the other Villa mids and defenders. Now MO has good close control, but he needs someone like Santi to help him, and no one in the current team can give that help. So I think it is based more on practicality to exclude MO from the lineup, considering all the financial and PR angles on top of footballing reasons. And we created around 3-4 clear cut chances which fell to Lacazette and Willian, and some half chances like that Bellerin run inside. So our focus should not be on midfield creativity immediately, as we cannot do anything else until January at the earliest. I think we need to question why can’t our forwards take the chances which are afforded to them, because even if MO supplies 4-5 through balls every match, we won’t score any at our current state, and people will revert back to the I told you so arguements about MO and his assists, chances created etc etc.

    1. Then Pepe should replace Lacazette in the striker role or he plays behind Aubammeyang. Lacazette needs an apartment on the bench at the moment.
      And i dont understand why Mikel Favours Nketiah ahead of Martinelli

    2. You are spot on Sid imo, except I think there is a parallel agenda, if not, why sideline him completely. Forget Pepe, you just won’t get consistency from him and young ESR who is a creative player probably doesn’t fit in MA’s style of play. If we are depending on creativity from Willock, Elneny & Ceballos (overhyped) heaven help us. We have to accept MO is finished as an Arsenal player and MA does not want to replace him with a similar player, the style of football has changed and in my opinion for the worst, it’s become boring especially without the crowds. The only game, so far, worth watching was the Man City v Liverpool match. I didn’t watch us against Villa and it looks like I saved 15 quid! I had hoped MA was going to bring Pep’s style of football with him, but maybe he needs some more time before we judge him. I fear though he may only have till the end of the season!

      1. I agree. Though I hope rather than Pep, MA tries out the Bayern way. I guess then we can have a mix of hardworking players as well as creative players, though we need very good finishers, which only Pepe and Aubameyang are at the moment.

    3. Play him where you played him December – March when you lost one game ?
      That kind of proves it works
      Plus when mr Wenger played him ( not treating him out Emery did ) we were not finishing 8th or losing 3-0 at home to Aston Villa

      1. I guess the change in football style along eith influx of many new managers has made the league more competitive. That said, I dont think we played any strong opposition pre lockdown, with only Everton and ManU being what you call strong opponents as well as them being home games with fans in the stadium. Our game post lockdown has seen a drastic change, and it would take longer for it to settle into a clear style. As Arsenal is a big entity, so is its culture to play in a certain way which evolved to high quality attacking football with somewhat less defensive capabilities from 2006(being influenced by Barca) till around 2017-18 after which it became something of a formless hybrid under UE. Then since MA came over, we focused on the defensive aspect. Regarding the unbeaten run, I believe we also drew many games and one problem that people had was that our guys could not run the whole game and they were empty after 60 minutes. All these factors resulted in the formation change for more solidity. I also think that this team would definitely suit MO and help us win, but MA has already excluded him from the squad and plans to use the LWB as a third midfielder whoever that is AMN or Saka. The complains of creativity are justified but so are the issues of finishing. I don’t think the inclusion of MO would solve our problems upfront. A through ball would again be checked back and then lost to the opposition, or the chance will be missed and the resultant opposition counter pressure would be difficilt to handle as MO is not used to defending as much as what is required of MA’s team now.
        Sorry for the long reply, just wanted to clarify my thoughts on the situation.

        1. Respect your opinion buddy
          But I would suggest the 9 defeats post lockdown might suggest this new style isnt working

  4. Yesterday Niles could have done a lot VS Grealish who made a mess of our right side of defence creating almost all the three goals.Niles’s very fast, agressive and wont be out samarted like what happend Yesterday.True he is not that creative but the priority is to keep paitent, prevent conceding goals,then victory would have come.

    1. And Arteta should have made that call earlier in the second half. He should have brought in AMN for Bellerin. Also, i dont get it why Arteta does not substitute Aubameyang. There is no law that states Aubameyang has to start and play for the whole 90 mins. I hope Arteta learns from his mistakes. He got it wrong yesterday

      1. But Auba is not a left winger why in heavens name is a player who hit over 20 goals in the last 2 seasons and won the Golden boot before that being played on the left ? Someone help me understand

  5. I miss a player who can rally the players when things are not going positively. Anyone Guendouzi ? The only player that had the balls to challenge Arteta’s static system was shipped out because he did toe the line. There is something fundamentally wrong when your midfield is being picked apart because of a lack of creativity. I won’t bang on about Ozil because he can’t play till January but fellow Gunners any idea who should be the creative focus of our team ?

  6. Hahaha!

    So the guy who never assists, scores, and or even creates clear cut chances, we needed to open Villa up?

    1. Was working between December – March when we lost 1 game in Leauge
      Since we dropped him we lost 8 !
      So that tells me Ozil’s not the problem yet only one who gets dropped

    2. Nope that wasn’t my point we looked flat yesterday and Guendouzi is a player we need to disrupt other teams, get in their faces, didn’t see that yesterday we were insipid. Watching us yesterday I was aghast at how slow, lazy unimaginative we looked. In a squad of 25 we have not one single creative midfielder. I pine for the days of Hleb, Rosicky and Fabregas and to a lesser extent Flamini.

  7. Ozil has been too inconsistent in the last three seasons and Arteta doesn’t seem want to play with a CAM. If a common fan like me can predict Ozil’s role in the field, imagine how the opponents can easily mark him

    However, Willock’s role in the Dundalk and Molde games was more unpredictable, hence he could make a lot of crosses from the right side and penetrate defenses with his dribbles. We just need to use our tactic in Europa League to play against small teams and just use 3-4-3 for big oppositions

  8. Having to read an Ozil or Martinez article whenever we have a poor game is now more disgusting than the poor game itself. Make no mistake, I still firmly believe that Ozil should have been registered as an EPL player, if not for anything, to have him as an option in certain games and situations. But FFS, the Ozil and Emi ship has already sailed.

    What is now even more disgusting is the idea of stereotyping certain players and constantly using them as scapegoats. Yes, Elneny had a poor game last night but who else didn’t? That horror show I watched last night was so bad all round, Ozil wouldn’t have done zilch in that team. Why are you picking on Elneny? He’s been one of our most consistent performers this season.

    The entire frontline (Auba, Laca, Pepe, Willian) has grossly underperformed this season and yet has cost the club ridiculous amounts on wages and sign-on fees, yet it’s poor Elneny that you chose to slander.

    4 losses in 8 games is crazy. What’s even worse is the way we lose without any real fight. Not even sure what the problem is right now – the coach or players or tactics or something else? BTW, Emery has Villarreal on 2nd spot on the La Liga table after 9 games, so maybe it’s not really a coaching problem.

    1. “The entire frontline (Auba, Laca, Pepe, Willian) has grossly underperformed this season and yet has cost the club ridiculous amounts on wages and sign-on fees, yet it’s poor Elneny that you chose to slander”

      Gospel truth spoken

    2. I wish Dan Kit can read your last paragraph right now. Apparently emery to him was a bad coach. I wouldn’t even want to play Villa Real in the Europa league right now

  9. To me arteta is really getting it wrong. Yeah it’s really good to bring discipline into the team, but too much of everything is bad. What the team needs is a good result, for you sanctioning your key players (ozil nd matteo guandouzi)makes no sense bcos it will later fall back to you when you don’t give a good result. We don’t ask you not to discipline your players but let it not be too ash.
    Guandouzi was missing in yesterday’s match immediately partey got injured nobody was there to hold on the ball and calm the pressure. Infact I’m damn tired of this whole thing, even if I should talk from now till tomorrow still same. Infact I dey PV Well well for arsenal board jor for not saying anything about the bad treatment towards the players.

  10. Well said Maxis..All the criticism of the likes of Elneny when Holdng and Bellerin showed a complete lack of awareness in their defensive duties.When you compare the vitality in the Villa side with the lethargy in the Arsenal side yesterday, I can only put it down to two things.Firstly, complacency.Having dealt with Man Utd, we ‘ll run over this lot type of attitude.Secondly, laziness.If you are not prepared to graft you will not be rewarded.Mentally and physically, Arsenal were a poor second best yesterday and certain players should not be selected against Leeds for the Manager to get his message across.Finally, we have been beaten on the last two occasions by Villa, with our laborious 3-4-3 set up and the time has come for MA to consign this system to the bin.One last point, someone mentioned that KT had played badly in the last four games.This in itself is not factually correct, but that apart, he is being restricted as a LCB and needs to be played as a natural left back if we are to get the best out of him.In his years with Celtic and Scotland he only filled in as a centre back on one occasion.With that, I rest my case.

    1. That would be me who said Teirney has played bad for the last 4 games and that is my opinion ,maybe take off the rose tinted glasses regarding Tierney .
      The left side last night didn’t track back for two of the goals .
      The threat came down the right and the 2 left sided players didn’t cover quick enough but it’s a team game and all defenders played their part in that defeat .
      With that I will rest my case also .

      1. I will say aswell wasn’t Bellerin up for player of the month .
        So your constant put downs of him later hold no merit .

  11. Here we go again.
    Missing the 4 assists per season from our midfield maestro Ozil.
    We really miss that.
    The guy has had more than 7 seasons to walk his hype walk and always disappointed. No enough revisionist delusion from the Ozil crowd will evee change that. He has been exposed as an overrated / overhyped player at Arsenal.

    I think he should just concentrate on being a Social Media influencer. Football left him long time ago.

    The Ozil fanbase needs to move on and stop being in self denial. Ozil was finished long time ago when Madrid got rid of him.

    1. The injuries on Santo Carzola and his departure exposed him 70% and then Alexis Sanchez departure truly revealed how a lazy, fragile and awful player he has been all the while, those two shielded him. Left to me I will personally and thoroughly investigate this wickedness of over bloated contract that Arsene Wenger punished us with as a parting gifted for our daring to ask for his leave. That contract is a cancer that has thoroughly afflicted the club.

  12. What exactly is it that fragile MO would have contributed in last night’s match where Aston Villa were not ready to tolerate or entertain ball petting or caressing? Men! it’s so difficult to stomach last night’s humiliation by Villa. Please let it be clear that Arteta with his style and approach is not the one that is going to turn things around. We are now witnessing the reincarnation of a weak and soulless Arsenal team that lacks ambition and bite. Although the Kronke’s are not football enthusiasts. It’s unfortunate that we have started supporting Arsenal before they took over. See the transformation in Chelsea from last season till date, I believe that when you loose at least loose seriously playing and fighting. Everything is wrong, we don’t have the right management, neither do we have the right manager nor players. Please and please let’s drop this Ozil stuff and finally bury it. If he’s worth it other clubs would have signed him.

  13. I think you shouldn’t have made elneny the scapegoat here every body was poor yesterday. But arsenal should have replaced ozil .you freeze out a player we don’t have the ready made option then you should buy his replacement, aouar is overhyped for me but dominik szoboszlai is better as he is stronger, taller and more suitable for epl.

  14. .What is all this talk of ozil been fragile are we talking about a human being or a glass.
    ozil prime years had giroud as centre forward, wasted years and the talks of santi injury exposing him is wayward. Did we replace santi? no ! It a team sport not saying ozil is the answer but ziyech was available we got who? Willian was an unnecessary addition, pepe is better faster and a better finisher than even lacazette. Aubameyang is not a winger

  15. Yesterday match against Aston Villa was awful. The midfielders should not be blamed alone. What was Auba’s contribution in total? The attack was dead. If Laca had converted the header, it would had changed the game. Williams was the cause of the first goal, he passed to an opponent. So, Saka, Auba, Laca and Williams owe every Arsenal fan an apology.

  16. I will advise you all on a few things and I really hope you lot take it in and understand this and not just skim over and take a few points from it.

    Since UE took over at the club, Ozil has had a rough time OFF THE PITCH.

    1 – There was the turkish president thing.
    2 – the Germany national team / racism thing
    3 – the attempted robbery / knife thing
    4 – then UE dropping him for large periods.

    Now we all have opinions but if you all think that, that doesnt play apart in having poor performances, you are all a tad stupid and dont understand what mental health is.

    Also when he did play he made more key passes / chances created than any other player in the team and if it wasnt for poor finishing, he would have had more assists in that time.

    When MA took over, MO actually, imo played 10X better than he did during the whole time UE was in charge and again if it wasnt for poor finishing and some rather negative tactics, he would have provided more in assists and chances created.

    Now, I do truly believe that he is not in the team or registered for any competition purely because of money.

    Even a half wacked Ozil is more creative than ANYONE currently in the team and I am sorry but I really do believe that is 100% true.

    With the players behind him like TP and Elneny its the perfect base in which to allow Ozil to do his thing which is create, hes never really going to defend like a TP or Elneny but that is not what we bought him for in the first place.

    Considering the lack of creativity in the whole squad, leaving him out completely was a mistake regardless of how much people don’t like him, which again is down to money.

    I like MA and what he stands for but he is extremely bone headed at times and he will know himself that he has made a rather big mistake here – I just hope he learns from it!

    1. Two polar opinions on OZIL , yours and mine both carry numerous fans on either side BUT all that opinions can do, NOW that he IS permanently sidelined, whether or not we agree, are to let off steam.

      Facts show us that the battle to reinstate him is finally lost. FACTS ARE WHAT ACTUALLY MATTER VAL. IMO as a thinker, you are sounding like Donald Trump is acting right now, arguing for the impossible and do you think that is wise?

      I think we all know that it will get Trump nowhere except booted out the door and isn’t that what always happens when people consistently argue in favour of the impossible? I say it is! Ozil is the proverbial dead parrot now. Let him rest in peace.

  17. Unless you can go back in time and get Ozil from a few years ago, he would’ve just been part of the underperformers. This game can be played with so many playres. If Arteta dropped Laca for Nketiah, we’d be saying this was an easy win if Laca was given the start. But we know that is not true since we’ve seen it. People need to realize the Ozil they think about is in the past.

  18. Why are people being buffoons talking about Ozil, he isn’t any good now, doesn’t produce, is not the answer at all and he isnt even good enough to get in the prem or EL squads. Get real and stop bringing up things that are total rubbish.

  19. Nah Yesterday we needed to play with 3 midfielders, and someone needed to keep Grealish quiet. Elneny wasn’t the problem it was Arteta. I don’t want him sacked, I just want him to learn from his mistakes and to play a more aggresive side @ the emirates.
    We could play with 3 defensive midfielders and still create if we had the correct players in the forward positions.
    I want to see something like this and see how ceballos fare in a more advance position,
    Saka Aubameyang Ceballos
    Elneny Xhaka Partey
    Tierney Gabriel Holding Bellerin

  20. Ozil is yesterday’s news……Arsenal should not have resigned him ……he is the reason why not in Arsenal …… his performance dipped cos he had to do Ozil’s defensive job……he is not the only one paid non registered player ……sadly he is loud when we lose…..

  21. Look, I like Ozil and think in many matches he can make an addition and I believe it is utter nonsense that we sidelined him for lack of defensive work on 90 mins and brought Willian.

    However, to put it as he is the Messiah, sorry, he is not. And against sides that you need to win midfield and win duels, he is not your guy. To single ElNenny who I agree is not world class for Villa’s loss is not fair to the guy who has improved this season that both Xhaka and Dani C. Who are in a terrible form looks worse.

    Sorry, you are mixing things up.

  22. Ozil is more or less finished as a Premier League footballer. HE can be used as a Russell Latapy-style impact player who can exploit spaces but against much rougher teams he cannot handle the pace. I think his exclusion from the squads is harsh but a) he can still come back after January if he is committed and willing to prove himself, and b) he will be better served playing out his career in a lower league or another country where it won’t be as rough.

    And I have NO sympathy with him over the Erdogan issue or with Germany. He was stupid, ignorant and tone-deaf. You can’t speak from both sides of your mouth in decrying ‘racism’ in the German team while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a human rights abuser. Although the knife attack was terrible. And NONE of us need to be reminded of his behaviour in the Europa League Final. Maybe we should have sold him after the World Cup in 2018 when Arsene also left?

  23. Bellerin Luiz Gabriel Thierney

    Elneny Partey

    Pepe Aubameyang Saka

    Then Laka could replace Auba, DC/Willock for Willian, Xhaka for either of TP or Elneny, Nelson for Pepe.

    Afterall we see better the real field of play on the screen from our homes. Fluidity was just missing in our A/Villa match like the MU game. We should approach each game with good rotations/formation in right positioning & substantial game plan for each team.

    Some are high pressing teams, some are kick and follow game type, some are long or short ball passing teams depending on what kind of team we face.

    Truth be told, formation is what is derailing our team that make them easily bully by opponents so this issue of positioning of our players in the right formation could be our revival.
    How can you do several tactics with same bunch of players in same odd formations and you expecting a magic? Let’s not be deceiving ourselves. We’re to find way to tell MA to use right players in good positions

  24. I’m amazed how many still place Bellerin as our first choice right sided defender. After that performance it shows he places more emphasis on attack as he can’t physically defend at this level. He should be rotated with AMN and Soares. Schoolboy error by MA. Defend first and judge by clean sheets not by assists made. We have plenty or right sided attackers who can produce.

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