It’s often easy to forget the attacking quality this Arsenal side has when they’re laying sixth in the table, and struggling to attract fans to their Premier League home games. It hasn’t been a good season for the Gunners but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette were amongst the most potent strikers in Europe’s top five leagues last term, and it wasn’t long ago Henrikh Mkhitaryan was being dubbed one of the continent’s most relentless creative threats.
Then, of course, there’s the small matter of Mesut Ozil, an attacking midfielder who will always divide opinion. Following Alexis Sanchez’s departure, he’s now the standard bearer for the level of quality at Arsenal and when the conditions are exactly right, the German international is unquestionably still one of the top playmakers in the world.
That was the case against CSKA Moscow in the Europa League on Thursday evening, as Arsenal welcomed the cash-strapped Russian side to the Emirates Stadium. Surrounded by home support and facing an inherently weaker team, Ozil ran riot; he created seven chances, including the assists for Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette’s second goals, completed three dribbles, took two shots at goal and had the most touches of the ball of any Arsenal player – a whopping 101.
The latter statistic will be of particular interest to Gunners fans, because it highlights the ultimate trade-off with Ozil – who Transfermarkt value at £45million. When Arsenal control the game enough to consistently get him on the ball, the German World Cup winner borders upon unplayable; but during games that aren’t quite so straightforward and require the attacking players to be clinical, their talismanic creator struggles to impact.
At 29 years of age, that isn’t going to change any time soon – which begs the re-emergence of an age-old question. While he may be the biggest talent at Arsenal right now, Ozil has come to typify how the Gunners often make light work of simple games, but struggle to rise to the challenge of top-quality opposition. So, is it time for Arsenal to start building the team around someone else? Let us know by voting below…