This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
When Mesut Ozil was substituted against Chelsea in the Europa League final, his lacklustre, slow-paced walk suggested his time at Arsenal was probably coming to an end, but it might not be the case.
Arsenal have had to plot and plan a new way to rebuild after them missing out on the Champions League left Unai Emery and his staff with a reported transfer kitty of just £45m to spend.
While others have speculated about the truth behind this news, we’ve still seen Arsenal be tentative in the market, bidding £40m for Wilfried Zaha who’s valued at £80m, and struggling to offload players on big wages at the club.
Ozil is one of the players whose wages take up a big chunk of the final bill, with a reported £350,000 cheque going to the German every week.
Despite this, and his limited appearances under Emery last season, could the ex-Real Madrid man end up being the nucleus of the Arsenal team for the upcoming campaign? Pre-season preparations certainly suggest so.
Perhaps, if you boast a luxury player on £350,000-per-week, you may as well embrace it and try and get the best out of him. Unai Emery did do this towards the end of last season and he started to include the World Cup winner more and more in a 3-5-2 formation.
In this summer’s pre-season, Arsenal have started more often than not with a 4-2-3-1 formation instead, with Ozil still starting as the number ten. Football London journalist James Benge has already commented on the midfielder’s increased work-rate in the game against Real Madrid, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has played well throughout the USA Tour despite playing predominantly out wide.
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Ozil playing as a number 10, with wingers around him to provide service to, could be the best way to get the best out of him and the Arsenal team alike. Last season we saw the midfielders being moved around and shifted into different formations to make way for the stellar front duo, but this year could be different.
Against both Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, Emery fielded strong XIs, with Ozil playing centrally against both, which could be a strong indication of how he plans to line up against Newcastle on the opening day of the season. Ultimately, to fit the German into his best position, perhaps Alexandre Lacazette, or more likely Aubameyang, will have to sacrifice their roles up front to keep the balance in the side.