Why Arsenal SHOULD NOT play Ozil as a winger

Impediments of Ozil playing as a winger by SE

An Overview
Arsenal’s problem with Ozil is one that is highly inter-dependent. He is a classical playmaker, who hardly ever strives for goals. Instead, he thrives on incision and deftness of passing, which creates a plethora of chances for his team’s forwards and box-to-box midfielders. Ozil, when he played at No.10 for Arsenal last season, had the luxury of controlling the pace of the game for the Gunners. He would anticipate Ramsey’s hunger for a goal, and feed him magnanimously. Giroud would run the channels, and the German would find him with an overhead pass, or a drilled one all along the surface.

However, with Arsenal and Wenger adopting the 4-3-3 system this season, Ozil, so far, hasn’t had the luxury of playing centrally, which, subsequently, has seen him struggle. Yes, on another side of the coin, one could argue that he might be a bit rusty and not yet hit his strides, which is true, but I just can’t see him being successful as a winger, or affecting the game positively for Arsenal. Here are the impediments of Ozil playing as a winger, both for himself and the team.

Ozil playing as a winger for Germany
One of the reasons Germany didn’t struggle with a misfiring Ozil was because they had the likes of Mueller, Schurrle and Gotze, who could play on the wings and, apart from that, had an eye for goal. So, despite Ozil playing on the wings and unsuccessfully at that, Germany had Toni Kroos pulling the strings in midfield; Khedira playing his box-to-box role to perfection, and Mueller and Klose combining brilliantly when the chance presented itself.

Arsenal, unlike Germany, rely heavily on Ozil for the functioning of the team, in a Footballing sense, which is why the German playmaker has to raise his game and come good for Arsenal.

The Gunners do have Sanchez, who can drift in from the wings to have a shot on goal; Put a cross in for Sanogo or Giroud to attack, which, subsequently, would make him the ideal personnel to play on the wings. Ozil doesn’t boast of those attributes. He doesn’t shoot cutting in from the Right-Wing and, even when he plays as a Left-Winger, he drifts in incessantly, making the pitch narrow, thus depriving Arsenal from creating a goal scoring chance.

Congestion in the final third of the pitch
Also, with Arsenal’s midfielders aspiring to drive forward, and finding themselves on the edge of the box, Wenger’s men would ideally need someone to maintain some sort of width on the flanks. Unfortunately, Ozil doesn’t seem to be the answer to that. This pattern was particularly palpable against Leicester, when Ozil cut in on his left foot and found himself in no-man’s-land. With the Leicester backline denying time and space for the German, he could play neither a square forward pass nor a back pass, which subsequently led to Konchesky and Schlupp stealing the ball repeatedly from German’s feet.

Poor defending as a winger
Ozil’s defensive work rate makes him liable to playing on the wings, too. When he is up against an explosive fullback, he doesn’t track back and help out his defenders. Everton game was a perfect example to this illustration. Coleman made a darting run on the outside of Ozil, who was caught napping, to head home Barry’s delicious cross in from midfield.

Final Thought
These talking points give Wenger a lot of thinking to do, as and when he decides to play Ozil on the flanks, again. The former Los Blancos man can’t be this ineffective for Arsenal; secondly, he has to enhance his defensive work rate.

It is a gamble that Wenger is willing to take, due to the number of wingers he has at his disposal and, to get the best out of the likes of Sanchez, and Walcott, when he returns. But Ozil needs to understand that Wenger can’t adopt a system specifically for him, and adapt to the changing dynamics of his team.


Tags Ozil Sanchez winger


  1. This 4141 formation benefits no one but wilshere, ramseys too high up the pitch, flamini looks completely lost, ozils wide, its a truly shocking set up i hope Wenger goes back to 4231 but we know how stubborn he can be.

    1. yes ozil is not the hardest team worker but every player has hes strengths and weaknesses who has the vision and accurate passing like ozil in the team? part from cazorla the rest are not on there level.
      my point is if he lacks in tracking back etc than keep him were he is the most dangerous and will effect the team and let the others do the tracking back.
      look at city silva is just like ozil he hardly tracks back but city protect him and allow him to do what he is best at,
      you can look at other leagues aswell like pirlo the guy has 0 speed but the team does the running for him while they utilize pirlo strengths . here in arsenal we expect ozil to do everything if he is wasting all his energy tracking back all the time he wont have no energy left in attack.
      i dont think ozil will ever be appreciated by the majority because they clearly just dont understand what he brings to the team and wenger will ruin him playing on the wing and he will eventually be called a flop

      1. yes i agree with that comment you said . there was no point wenger buying ozil if he is not going to have the players around ozil to get the best out of ozil. wenger needs to play our true wingers because naturally they have high work rate so they will run up and down the flanks something cazorla also struggles with but does it better than ozil. so wenger better play theo and alexis together on both wings plus like you mentioned we needed that true powerhouse dm just to cover players like ozil and the rest of the attackers this would also allowed ramsey to be free and express him self just like cesc does when he plays alongside matic

      2. Wtf are you talking about, with 4141 formation the DM is isolated and is left to cover alot more ground where as is a 4231 one of the other Central midfielders are alot deeper to support the DM.
        Also why use a formation with no no10 when we have so dam many of them.

        1. @th14 yes i agree 4231 is what we have been playing for 2-3 seasons now so why change it all we need is a proper dm and jigsaw would of almost been done sadly wenger did not see it that way. i dont like this 4141, i agree with galen just not on the formation bit

    2. You dont buy the best number 10 in the world and adapt him to your team as a winger. You play him as number 10.

      If you are trying to say that by not buying a quality DM, Ozil must be sacrificed on the wing that would actually be two wrongs making a right.

      It was very stupid not to buy a DM but it would be suicidal to sacrifice our most talented player for that mistake.

    3. @galen
      This is what I don’t understand. Ozil feels as if “defending” is something the other guys do, not him. I don’ give a f**k how many damn assists he can pull off. As long as other teams know he’s lax at defending, we will always have that hole for them to exploit.

      1. @Lord Moor
        I’m 55. I’ve watched Peter Lorre since I was a kid.
        Mesut’s work rate if fine, when he wants to use it. For the most part I think dudes a shrinkin violet

        1. so your 55 but how long have you been watching football for be honest because most of your comments usually lack any football brain 🙂

        2. My dear old mother always told me never to take the piss out of the things that people cannot control, change or influence. Bad taste in clothes or daft haircut for example is fair play; afflictions, deformity or abnormalities not so clever – good advice I always thought.

      2. His style and demeanour is his own worst enemy. The fact that he obviously finds the game quite easy will also attract the knockers – we generally hate smart-arses who can make the difficult look easy. He needs to sweat more as well. If you check the stats for metres covered he is consistently in our top 2 or 3 – surprising but true. He will never be a physical player, he will never be putting in the crunching tackles – guess as fans he will forever leave us divided. Sure we could ditch him for a defensively-minded genius creative No.10 – but not sure who this player is? The english psyche has always been the same – footballing ability alone is never enough for most; english football has a long, long list of perceived lazy but talented players that have been marginalised to some degree at national level think Hoddle, Barnes, Waddle, Marsh, Le Tissier, Bowles, Currie. I know one thing though, there are very few players in world football who I marvel at when they are on the ball making it look easy and sublime at the same time. Ozil, on song, is one of those players. Personally, if, and that is a big if, he consistently creates for us then I don’t care if he never makes another tackle in his life. And some perspective here; tackling is a dead art form in football. Covering and closing space is way more important. The worlds best CDMs only average around meaningful 3 tackles a game and that is one of their prime job functions – it is like we are expecting a dozen or so thunderous challenges from Ozil every game.

    4. I think once Walcott is back he will return to 4231, however the surprise will be that, wilshire and Ramsey get the double pivot, behind Walcott ozil and sanchez.

      Bellerin, hayden and akpom have been promoted to first team “official” on uefa unconfirmed by the club as yet.

      Macey giroud and miquel (obviously) dropped.from the champions league squad for Walcott ospina and welbeck obviously

  2. Hopefully, he will be a hit for us this season.
    I am hoping Wenger is just using him there temporarily, probably to make him stronger like he did with Ramsey.
    With time, Wenger will have selection issues. Walcott, Welbeck and Alexis would probably be our front three. Either of Ozil or Cazorla can play, of which they are both quality. Hmmmm

    Defense is an issue still.

  3. Szezesny
    Debuchy mertesacker koscielny gibbs
    Ramsey flamini
    Walcott. Ozil. Sanchez
    When everyones fit this team is actually really special
    Ozil has to play in the middle
    Maybe chambers for mertesacker against quicker opposition

    1. Agreed, but then dont play Ozil at all. Put Ox and Sanchez to the wings as they track back.

      If we dont play ozil 4-5 games a year and congest the midfield with better fighters I think that would be fine with everybody..

  4. The reason for playing Ozil on the wing (same as Ramsey)- when a central player loses form or confidence playing on the wing can help because a teams usual response to Arsenal is to pack its midfield and stop Arsenal from playing through the middle. Wide players are an after thought as crosses can be controlled against Arsenal.

    Therefore moving the player wide facilitates his return to form by allowing him to operate under less pressure and physical contact. Once player regains his composure and touch he can be moved to the middle.

    Note – when Ozil is asked to play wide he actually does it. He drifts in less often that he would.

    Wenger is doing the right thing. Surprised he has got so much criticism for doing what a lot of people do.

    1. Good analysis. I also got the feeling that AW really wants to try and play JW in to some sort of form and re-build his confidence and took Mesut to one side to see if he could help out for the greater good and play wide. I think we are going a bit OTT on this one, think it is temporary for reasons not fully known to us. MO played every game last season centrally so it is not as if these 3 games necessarily denote the start of something different. Think the preferred 1st X1 line-up will only take shape when Theo returns. I’ll predict then there will be uproar asking why Sanchez is on the LW because I reckon that is where he will go – think he can play properly left, right or centre – don’t think the same can be said for Theo imo – on form and firing think Theo will make the RW berth his own.

  5. He’s so weak!!! The guy has amazing feet and excellent ability but he’s easily moved off the ball. Doesn’t matter if he plays through the middle or not JUST add on some muscle and he will add more confidence which is lacking. EPL has tough players and you can’t be a lightweight.

    1. This is why movement and fast timely passing is so critical to Arsenal. We are not a strong physical team. If done properly Ozil will have plenty of space.

      1. wilshere/ozil/cazorla cannot work together. They’re ALL the same little clones of each other. He needs to go with campbell on the left/ozil in the middle/sanchez to the right- welbeck st
        then ramsay playing alongside flamini. same back four.

        That’s how the team should be set.

  6. I want to see “the very best of mesut ozil” this season! Still waiting for him to go into “overdrive” for the gunners! Coyg!

  7. A few cutting passes from Wilshere tonight and the Ox was a pain for the Norse defenders…well done lads. Not much time for Welbeck to make a huge impact but he did ok and that shot was a stinger.

  8. Who came up with this myth about ARSENAL functionality depends on OZIL? When has that ever been? Explain please…

    1. Mate, have you got some sort of mail alert for every time the word “Ozil” is posted, blogged etc because you come up right on cue every time. You have got plenty of your own myths re Ozil, leave others to theirs. You must know obsession is bad for you – relax just a little whenever the “O” word is mentioned.

  9. People are so funny, you think playing OZIL in a hot cooking EPL midfield where you have the likes of Yaya, Fernandinho, Matic, Barry, Huddlestone etc and more physically imposing midfielder will cover for his laziness and weakness?.. He will get mashed in there as long as he keeps acting like a turtle when things get hot for him..

    The Midfield in the EPL requires committed non girly players who will fight for that ball, so if you think moving him into midfield that will stop him from defending and tracking back then you are deluded..

    We will absolutely get dominated and our midfield will be left exposed due to OZIL’S lack of effort and fight.. Counter attacks will just kill us..

    1. For most positions, I would agree, but for CAM in the proper formation I think you need less physicality, less tracking back, and more speed of thought, technique, and movement.

      If Ozil and the rest of the team continue to play slowly, then they will all be pummeled by the physicality of the Premier League. I think we’ve seen this already.

    2. Ozil is not monstrous in size, but don’t confuse his awkward gait and emotionless face with laziness. Ozil is not lazy. Look back to his games on Germany, Real Madrid, and Schalke. Same Ozil, different shirt. That is just him. He may not play aggressively when it comes to defense, but he does play defense.

      And when it comes to counter attacks, don’t single out Ozil either. As a team we are highly vulnerable during counters – it’s very sad. Both our defenders and midfielders look like they don’t know what they’re doing, which is something that needs to be addressed by Wenger and fixed immediately.

      1. One awkward fact is that MO actually covers more ground on average than nearly anyone in our team – consistently 2nd or 3rd in the Opta stats. I think he needs to break his leg in a tackle to demonstrate the right sort of commitment to the neanderthals for whom seeing a creative No.10 bleeding “red and white” is the sole criteria for a players contribution.

  10. For the game against City I’ll drop Ozil for Rosicky and Ramsey for Wilshere and go with a 4231. Both Ozil and Ramsey are clearly not in form. A few games on the bench should wake them up.

    Cazorla Rosicky Sanchez
    Wilshere Arteta
    Monreal Kosc Merts Debuchy

    1. You know Ozil has the same number of goals and assists in his first 25 PL games as TR has had in 86 appearances over his last 4 seasons. Come on, TR7 everyone’s untouchable favourite but how do you rationalise that against this intense dislike/distrust of MO? And don’t give me that “he injects pace” baloney that seems to follow every mention of TR7 – talk end product?

  11. I love having Özil in the team and he’s always confident in possession. He’s incredible. People that say he’s a flop don’t understand the way he plays. He doesn’t continually track back, but when you need to find that killer pass, he’s better than anybody in the world. We just need to play him in his best position in a formation that gets the most out of the players we have.
    I think 4-1-2-1-2 could be good for us:
    Debuchy Mert Kos Monreal
    Ramsey Cazorla
    Welbeck Alexis
    This gives us protection for the defense and means Arteta can just sit. Ramsey can be deeper, where he is better. Cazorla has been poor recently but I think with time he’ll find form. Özil is in his favoured no10. Alexis isn’t a lone striker but with a partner, he could be lethal.

  12. I would love to see Ozil play the “Cesc” position, central distributing midfielder. He needs to be given some big responsibility. He is often ahead of the game and from the middle of the park could thread the best balls in every direction. The pivot of the team. Ramsey and Cazorla could play off him. Why does he get wasted on the wing? I think Ozil is superb, but he is being misused.

  13. Ozil should play CAM. That’s his natural and best position.

    If Wenger wants Ozil to play on wing then he should have re-signed Fabregas.

    We need Ozil in the middle. Ozil doesn’t score goals like Fabregas does. He makes great passes for others to score. Passing and incisive plays is Ozil’s specialty.

    Put Walcott/welbeck and Sanchez on wings, Ozil in middle and Welbeck/Giroud up front.

  14. Can someone tell me how to get this Dynamo magician fella stop appearing on my f**ckin screen every 10 seconds? Spoiling my gooner thought process.

  15. Has Wenger ever responded to why Ozil has been exiled to LM? I have not heard a tactical explanation from Arsenal. It doesn’t make much sense to pay so much for a CAM and then not utilize him. Where would Ozil rank in the world as a LM? As a LM he is currently overpaid and underperforming. As frugal as Arsenal are, this simply doesn’t make financial sense.

  16. Does a lot of quiet unnoticed stuff – ever noticed that his crosses are proper passes not the normal hit and hope in to the right areas.

  17. Simply, Ozil is not physically strong enough to play in EPL. He doesn’t know how to defend. He is a defensive liability. Technically, he is not that good to dribble like Di Maria to occupy a couple defensive players to fee up our guys. He has no speed too. Bottom line is this, Wenger did another idiotic last second purchase to keep Gunner fan off his back.

    1. I respect any opinion you have re; Ozil, each to their own. But don’t fabricate stuff; Wenger has an 18 year consistent record of doing nothing whatsoever to appease the fans – pure fanciful thinking if you imagine MO was bought just to quieten the likes of you down.

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