Have luxury players like Ozil become obsolete in modern football?

Has Football ‘Kicked Out’ Players Like Ozil? By Dan Smith

Arsene Wenger was asked about his opinion on the Ozil situation this week and came up with an interesting theory, saying: ‘the way football is going at the moment, it’s kicked out players like Ozil.’

Football goes in cycles. 10 Years ago everyone was copying the Spanish model, having small technical players who could keep the ball. Their national team even started games without a natural striker. Eventually the likes of Spain and Barcelona would be criticized for not adapting the tiki-taka style, having zero plan B.

Then young coaches like Klopp and Pochettino became obsessed with the high press.

To combat that style, the likes of Pep Guardiola would tactically play out from defence to beat the press. Ever since the Man City manager discarded Joe Hart for not being good enough with a ball at his feet, every coach now seems obsessed with having a keeper who is comfortable passing the ball under pressure (some with various degrees of success).

The latest fashionable trend is having a full back as your main attacking outlet. A left back or right back has to almost be as good (if not better) going forward than defending. To support that, many sides are lining up with 3 centre backs, one of which is comfortable on the ball and can be creative.

If you use Arsenal as an example, David Luiz at times is our most creative player in terms of stepping into midfield and wanting to pick a long pass.

Gone are the days when a defender only had to worry about being able to tackle and head the ball. The negative aspect to that is that the sport is now struggling to produce World Class defenders.
So whatever your personal opinion of Ozil, is his former manager correct? Is this not in fact the worst possible time for a number 10 to be trying to break into any 11?

When the Gunners offered the German a new contract, he had an obvious spot in the team but neither party were to know that the number 10 was about to become extinct.

Like a striker has to now do more than just be a goal poacher, Ozil in the current popular system doesn’t fit in.

Everyone uses the best as the template to model yourself on. In the last two years Liverpool have become champions of Europe and England with one of the least creative midfields in history. They didn’t have to be anything more than hard working though because of the width of Arnold and Robinson.

The art of floating in the lines behind the striker is a dying one.

The most creative players in the League are Kevin De Bruyne, Bruno Fernandes or (last season) David Silva. Even those players though are now asked to play deeper than they would like.

Don’t get me wrong, Ozil is not the same version that Mr Wenger signed but even if he was, I’m not sure his strengths would suit the formations being used by so many. Ozil was brought to English Football to assist and create chances, not for his stats on tracking back and winning back the ball.

If you played Ozil, you would be tactically choosing to sacrifice something defensively to help you on the offensive. You would describe Ozil as a ‘luxury player’.

Now though, so much emphasise has been put on pressing from the front and winning the ball back as soon as you lose it, the game has no room for an Ozil. That’s why even when I defend the midfielder, my argument only goes as far as saying he should be on the bench.

I don’t believe if we needed a goal, he’s not a better option to bring on with 10 minutes to go to pick a killer pass, than say a Joe Willock or Reiss Nelson.

But in terms of trusting him to do what’s needed for a current version of 5-2-3 or 3-5-2 to work, I accept Ozil doesn’t suit that system. I just wonder if any number 10 would?

Be kind in the comments…

Dan Smith


  1. Doesn’t matter in fairness he hasn’t done enough on the pitch.
    When we were in our worst form in 20 years some of our players were cat and Ozil done nothing stand out to inspire when at that time he should’ve been streets ahead of what we had but he sat back and let us all down.

  2. If we are one down and need a goal for an equalizer, trust me, bring on Ozil you will lose a minute as his majesty crawls to the center of the park (remember his Baku substitution?). Then he is not supposed to defend, so rest assured we are playing with 9 outfield players, and the opposition will be happy to score a goal or two. He is not supposed to score either, for that is not his job, so can someone tell me why defenders score goals or the GKs in the dying moments of the games take part in corner kicks?He is only supposed to give those defense splitting passes, but alas there is no “quality” around him. I mean Auba, Laca, Pepe, Willian, now Partey, are not his quality! He needs CR7 or Messi.
    And never put Ozil in the same sentence with David Silva or KDB or Bruno Silva, they are poles apart from Ozil in terms of wages drawn and output provided.

      1. The problem is even small teams that used to park the bus are using the pressing and harassment tactics thus nullifying players like ozil.

      2. Which are these teams?
        The guy has struggled to get above 9 assists for the majority of his time at Arsenal.
        He has struggled to make 5 assists per season for the last 5 seasons.
        Are Ozil fans just making up delusional/ wishful thinking stuff of what?

  3. Ranieri won EPL with Leicester City with the workhorse Okazaki as the CAM. Klopp dominated EPL and won ECL by using three brute central midfielders and two attacking wingbacks as the main chance creators

    Guardiola also won EPL using 4-3-3 with two half-wingers in De Bruyne and Silva. He tried to change it to 4-2-3-1 with De Bruyne as the CAM in this season, but it’s been highly inconsistent so far

    Using a CAM or a no 10 formation like 4-2-3-1 is fine as long as the CAM is good in aerial duels like Bergkamp, a workhorse like Okazaki or an unpredictable one like Ceballos who’s combative and full of tricks. Ozil is too predictable and too reluctant to make crosses in the last few years

  4. Wenger is right. If Liverpool’s attacking players like Mane, Salah and Firmino don’t counter-press as well as they do, they would be far less dangerous. Without the quick transitions derived from hard work and well-coordinated pressing, they would not be where they are.

    It’s not just young coaches like Klopp and Pochettino who are firm believers of the high press. The OG of the high press is an old man, Bielsa, who started advocating it as a football philosophy when people thought it was physically impossible to play like that over the course of a game.

    The number 10 is not obsolete, it’s luxury players who don’t do much without the ball who are obsolete. Players like De Bruyne and David Silva are more than capable of playing as number 10, yet they work their socks off without the ball to “earn their right to play”.

    Unfortunately for luxury players who may be superb with the ball, the emphasis of football today is on the play without the ball. It’s not just about winning the ball back. It’s a style of play and a form of attack that has proven to be so effective

    1. That’s my take on the No10 thing.
      Ozil has become absolete because he is the most one dimensional attacking midfielder I have ever seen. Never seen such a limited attacking midfielder. Can’t do anything else apart from passing.
      Look at his counterparts (Silva, Cazorla, Rodríguez, KDB, Modric, Cesc etc) not one dimensional like him.
      Ozil is just a special case of one “dimensional” and “limited”.

      Being so limited but with over the tol hype.
      It’s my personal opinion of course.

      1. You might wanna check Silva’s stats though. He is quite similar to Ozil in that respect, not poles apart from him lol.

      2. I get where you are coming from. Sure there were times when I wished he could shoot and dribble more, but I wouldn’t call him “limited”. That said, I don’t think he’s at the level of De Bruyne, Modric or Cesc, even when he was a regular starter for us

  5. Dan, the Liverpool full back is Robertson and not Robinson. Anyway, according to statistics, Partey has scored 10 goals for Ghana and provided a certain number of assists(I am not sure of the number), so Partey could also provide us the creativity that Arsenal craves and needs badly, apart from Ceballos. So if Partey plays alongside Xhaka/Elneny and Ceballos, we could still have a strong midfield. The Partey signing will make a world of difference, both in defence and attack, as Ceballos can now roam freely to use his creativity. As for the Ozil saga, I dont know whether we will be discussing the same after Oct 20, when the list of 25 players has to be submitted to the FA and if he is not in the 25, than only half a season is left, in which case Arsenal or Ozil would act to do something about the endless matter. Anyway, I always liked the Ozil who when came first to Arsenal in 2013 gave us so many wonderful moments to treasure. What has happened of late is certainly a mystery and hopefully there is a nice ending to the Chapter.

  6. The problem is not the number 10 role the problem is ozil, he is too lazy and too stubborn he doesn’t want to adapt. David Silva played under 5 or 6coaches at man city but everyone one of them keeps playing him because he is always ready to adapt to how they want to play, same with de brune, same with the likes of Messi, I remember last season when Sarri was using Ronaldo as a false 9, the guy never complained but he still finds way to deliver but with Ozil is always one excuse or the other from his fans, Giroud is too slow for him, Francis Coquelin is an average DM, he needs a class striker, we bought Lacazette, the excuse changed to Lacazette doesn’t have pace we bought Aubamayang, the excuse again change to only Wenger can get the best out of him and so on. The truth is Ozil is talented but talent alone is not enough you need to work hard and be able to adapt and ozil is not ready to do that.

    1. Maybe his fans speak louder than him, but the excuses are not from the player. He shone from 2008 to 2017, then has declined a bit. But how do you know that he is not ready to adapt, when, under Arteta, he was trying to change his playstyle and running and creating chances?

  7. Dan, this is awesome. I so much agree and that is a fact some of the Ozil die hard don’t want to understand, the game has evolved, who knows, what will happen is 10yrs, David De gea that man utd bought, is now almost a useless player, I could remember how RMD, wanted him so badly for 3seasons. Similar things affecting a great player, ozil but his pattern is extinct and I agree he can still come in a few minute to do some damage, why are we paying him if he isn’t getting involved

  8. I’d like to slightly alter this headline to read, “Have luxury players like Ozil become obsolete in modern SUCCESSFUL football.” The easy to see correct answer to THIS headline is yes they have!
    Not a single top level highly successful team carries workshy, even though talented players.

    I challenge Ozils weirdo fan club – for avoidance of doubt, “weirdo” describes ONLY THOSE GOONERS WHO PUT OZILS INTERESTS ABOVE THE CLUBS INTERESTS, and does NOT include those who merely like him, to mention even ONE lazy player playing as first choice in a top level successful Prem team.

    I say you cannot find even one. Not even, mercifully NOW, at our club. And that is why, being a man who puts the team before the individual , thank God, Ozil is personna non grata with our fabulous and in touch manager. Hurray!

  9. Dont play ozil,its fine…
    I am an arsenal supporter and i love ozil.
    But i can rise my concerns within the team ,right?( as a fan)….
    Its not always about having hardworking players around you.As a team we need control and game reading elements and that wont come from every midfielder.Why should liverpool go for thiago as they had “hardworkers”.Why did city play gundogan and kdb in every important match instead of the “hardworkers”.

    Now ozil is not a hardworker but under MA he did work hard but lets leave him aside bcuz i cant work out whats going on with him and tge club.

    Who else do we have,Ceballos.ceballos is a very good player but to be quite honest he is not reliable defensively and he needs to be given more freedom.And i believe that can be done if 433 is played along with partey as the cover dm.And i dont know if xhaka will play if partey plays.For me xhaka should not play and we should go for a more direct player like Saka for the next midfielder.And partey is a very good player with the ball so he can pick some passes as well.

    So for me i personally believe
    We should go for 433
    Ceballos-Partey-Saka should be our midfielders to get more control in the middle

  10. I notice that some posts use the term “workhorse” when describing certain players. I have ALWAYS contended that ALL players should ALWAYS be workhorses!

    I have held that view for fully 50 plus years and see no morality in awarding ANY player the obscene wages that ALL Prem player get, UNLESS they earn their money by giving back to the team , the club and we fans(who indirectly pay their obcenes wages) by busting a gut EVERY TIME they play.

    If anyone disagrees then please have the courage to explain exactly why?

    I used to openly criticise George Graham for laziness by shouting out to him at games for laziness as a player, back in the late 1960’s!

    LAZINESS was poison THEN and it is poison now!

    1. May I ask, how old are you, sir? And what is your opinion of Leeds United style of play? They almost got a point off Liverpool, and tore ManCity to spreads. How far do you think they will go this season?
      -Dr Clement Okesokun, Johannesburg

    1. HH, good point! There OUGHT NOT to be! Players who are a “luxury” are no use to any top team or even a lower team with real ambition. I will be interested to see if any of his fan club have the guts to take up my challenge in my above post.

  11. First of all Dan,some of us with more mileage on the clock raised the matter of Ozil being a “luxury” player 4 years ago before he was awarded his new contract by the very Manager who is only now conceding that Ozil may not have a place in modern day football.Pity he did not have the vision to consider the implications of granting Ozil a huge, unjustifiable pay rise before he sanctioned the deal.The day of the “high press” is with us and sadly in some respects this has led to pure ball skills becoming secondary to athleticism and high energy.More demands are now being placed on Goalkeepers and Centre Backs than hitherto, and because of this Managers are playing safe by using at least an additional defender to protect against what is now called “transition” and what used to be known as a counter attack when I played.Despite this strength in numbers policy, which is currently being used by numerous Clubs and National sides like England and Scotland, this is not the way forward for the game which is becoming so predictable and boring.Thankfully, virtually all the top Club and National teams have not resorted to this defensive system, which as you have alluded to has not improved the defensive qualities of full backs and CBs.Which ever team is successful in winning the EPL this season will be based on high energy allied to pace and hard work, attributes which are lacking in a player who is earning 350k per week at Arsenal.

    1. Good post but I will change the last statement “attributes which are lacking in a player who is earning 350k per week at Arsenal.” to
      attributes which are lacking in many players at Arsenal beside Ozil. One can add Auba, Pepe, Willian, Saka(for now) on offence because of age, strength or style of game and Xhaka, Tierney on defense because they are slow footed. The season is long and time will tell.

      1. Of all the players you mentioned, if I’m playing against an Arsenal team that wants to press, I would prefer to be pressured by Ozil. I think he may close me down, but the chances of him really having a go at me to win the ball is relatively low

      2. Icw, This post is nonsense. To compare any of those you list in laziness and ineffectiveness to Ozil is ridiculous. His salary is a red herring ; what matters is his laziness and unwillingness to work for the team.

        Which is why he is no longer considered and is just marking time til his contract ends and he finally and mercifully, leaves for ever.

    2. Wenger probably wasn’t even aware that his own tactics were becoming outdated. Despite being increasingly outplayed by teams that pressed higher up the pitch, he just didn’t change his style of play.

      Ideally, if both teams counter-press one another, it would be a high-tempo end-to-end game with loads of chances, like Liverpool vs Leeds. Unfortunately, not many teams can play the high press and counter well. Some managers, like Arteta, resort to a more negative setup with a “soak and strike” approach when playing against better teams. It’s clearly not the way forward for the game. The sooner we can be proficient at counter-pressing, the less predictable and boring we will be again teams like Liverpool

  12. Icw, I can understand why Xhaka has been included in your shortcomings list, but you are wide of the mark with regard to the others in my opinion.

    1. If you have the time re watch Arsenal vs Liverpool and pay attention to Tierney vs Salah. Auba plays best in space where he has room to run and get by people. Willian has so many miles on him he won’t last but one half per game. Saka needs balking and Pepe is not even worth describing.
      However I hope you are right and time will tell.

  13. Ozil is a lazy player and would probably not be playing regardless of current fashions. However Dele Ali at Spurs is a much harder working number 10 who is also struggling to get into a team where they no longer play the position he once occupied. So its more than just Ozil.

  14. Icw, most defenders have difficulty with Salah, but you do not pass judgement on a player on the basis of one difficult game in a position which he is not particularly comfortable.Tierney is a first class LB and/or WB.He is not a centre back and never played there for Celtic and on only one occasion for Scotland.You are entitled to your opinion but you are wrong in your assessment of Tierney.

  15. Ozil has had 7 seasons to prove himself but he has failed to be consistent.
    Such a poor signing on whole. Very underwhelming Arsenal career individually in my opinion.
    Above average overall. 6/10 overall signing in my opinion.

    A few more months and we can forget about him.

    1. My mark for his effectiveness and value for money over those seven seasons wouod be minus 11. Out of only ten!. Our single most disastrous buy in our entire history !

      1. Yep, the fastest PL player to reach 50 assists (in some 140 games) gets a minus 11.
        Personally, for me, he would be a 6.5 out of 10 signing before his contract signing, a 4.5 out of 10 player after his new contract signing, and an overall 6 out of 10 player for his overall contribution to the club.

          1. Sure one plays with Aguerro (one of the best strikers if not the best that played in EPL), Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus and one plays with Iwobi, Lacazette and Theo Wallcott. Giroud alone wasted close to 40 chances all from Ozil.

            1. Yeah, but not all Giroud’s fault. I guess if we had properly assessed him and bought someone to play off him then we would have won in 2015-16.

  16. Good article, Dan. It’s the inconvient truth that many people ignore. Ozil does not fit in modern football anymore since he is not willing to change his game. Many players over the years have had to do so, including Cristiano, David Silva, yet SOMEHOW Ozil is above it, and the entire team should play to his strengths. And I simply dont get it. Mesut was told he wouldn’t be relied upon anymore and he has decided to remain on his contract, fine. And now the club is also being true to their word. He won’t be relied up. Onward we go.

  17. “If you played Ozil, you would be tactically choosing to sacrifice something defensively to help you on the offensive. You would describe Ozil as a ‘luxury player’.”

    This is poor reason to not play your most creative AMF. (See below on chances created last season despite limits.)

    The bigger issue for Ozil (or any #10) is the quality of forwards. Auba is wasteful compared to Stirling. Laca is poor in the air and easy to stop, and nothing like Sanchez. Who else is there?

    So rather than attack Ozil take a look around him. Until this transfer when some quality arrived, what was purchased? Nothing to make us hopeful.

    Best thing to do now is to use Ozil and show the younger player what a good pass it, and how to get to the right areas to score.

    “Chances created

    He may have only one assist to his name in the Premier League, but Ozil has created a squad-high 37 chances for team-mates so far this season, three more than next-best Nicolas Pepe despite playing fewer minutes.

    Indeed, he has set up 2.3 per 90 minutes compared to Pepe’s 1.9. Lacazette, Dani Ceballos and Joe Willock are next on the list with 1.4.

    Ozil was credited with setting up a chance against City in December, but he was jeered by fans as he trudged off after being substituted, with stand-in boss Freddie Ljungberg giving a hint as to why the 31-year-old did not feature in Wednesday night’s game at the Etihad: ‘We want possession, but sometimes we want to run, tackle and win the ball back.'”

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