Juan Mata

Mesut Ozil has quietly proved he is the best number ten in the Premier League

Mesut Ozil’s Arsenal arrival in the summer of 2013 created shock waves for fans in north London who felt the £42.5 million acquisition from Real Madrid was a sign of Arsene Wenger finally being a little less tight with the club’s money.

Since then Ozil has been something of a Marmite footballer with some thinking he has been the best thing since slice bread, and the rest being of the opinion that his Premier League future could be toast in the not too distant future.

One major criticism of him is the claim that he goes ‘missing’ in big matches, despite the fact that two of his four league goals last season came in the north London derby with Tottenham and in the home clash against Liverpool as well as two of his seven assists in all club competitions during the 2014-15 campaign coming in the FA Cup Semi-Final win over Reading.

Ozil of course was also superb in Sunday’s 3-0 win over rivals Manchester United, creating one goal and scoring another as the Gunners romped to victory at the Emirates stadium.

David Silva of Manchester City is considered the best number ten by the majority of fans and pundits, and with good reason too as he topped most of the important stats for the required position last season against fellow number tens.

The Spaniard registered seven assists, more than Ozil (five), Phillippe Coutinho (also five) and Juan Mata (four). Oscar contributed more however with eight as Chelsea won the Premier League for the first time in five years.

Silva did create more chances, scored more goals and made more key passes than all of the above though. Ozil created 23 less chances (70) than Silva (93), scored four goals compared to Silva’s 12 and made 21 less key passes (65 to Silva’s 86).

However, Ozil played just 22/38 games whereas Silva featured in ten more and therefore was on a football pitch 781 minutes more than his German compatriot.

Stat off: Ozil vs Silva

Stat off: Ozil vs Silva

If you do the maths, on average, if Ozil played those 781 minutes, his numbers would be higher than Silva’s.

He would have seven assists, level with Silva, 92 key passes, higher than Silva’s 86 and he would have created 99 chances, six more than the ex-Valencia man.

Silva would still top Ozil in the goals stakes. Arsenal’s number 11 would only score one more goal.

It is a similar story if you take his totals from the early stage of the 2015-16 season.

Out of Ozil, Silva, Mata, Coutinho and Oscar, Mata has featured the most with eight matches, having played for 664 minutes.

Mata’s stats for assists, key passes, chances created and goals are three, 13, 16 and three respectively, and he is only the best amongst his fellow centre attacking midfielders at scoring goals – and that is without the average score coming into effect.

City’s Silva is the most efficient assister with six. Ozil has four, Coutinho has two and Oscar does not have any.

Ozil is numero uno (or nummer Eins) in terms of key passes (27) and chances created (31), compared to Silva (ten and 16), Mata (13 and 16), Coutinho (five and seven) and Oscar (three and three).

SQ

Once you calculate all five players to have played as much as Mata, the results are as follows:

Assist king is still Silva with ten, next is Ozil with five, Mata and Coutinho are level on three and Oscar is still stuck on zero (although, in fairness, he probably would have registered at least one if he played another six times).

Again, Ozil is the most creative in terms of key passes and chances created with Silva, Mata, Oscar and Coutinho behind him in that order for both stats.

Mata remains the top scorer too, closely followed by Oscar, Silva, Coutinho and finally Ozil.

Number tens are often judged on their assist totals, and that makes sense, but Ozil is let down in this tally, not for his lack of creating ability (as his key passes and chances created amount prove), but because of the strikers who are supposed to finish off his good work.

At Real Madrid Ozil played behind one of the best forwards and players in the world right now, and that the sport has ever seen, in Cristiano Ronaldo and, failing that, Karim Benzema, a very good striker in most people’s eyes.

During this time in the Spanish capital Ozil racked up 47 assists in three and a bit seasons, whereas his numbers have gone down since he has started playing with a good, but wasteful, pair of attackers in Oliver Giroud and Theo Walcott. If those two could finish as well as Ronaldo, then Ozil would get a lot more assists.

This works in a similar vein to Silva who is fortunate enough to be in the same side as one of, probably the best, centre forward in the Premier League – Sergio Aguero.

If Aguero was up front for Arsenal, Ozil would have a better option in front of him to score the chances he creates, therefore increasing the amount of assists he gets. The point is made often that for this reason Ronaldo makes Ozil look better than he is, potentially valid point, but on the flip-side, surely that means Giroud and/or Walcott could or do make him look worse than many seem to think he is?

Not that it was needed, but that must give Arsenal fans even more reason to want Wenger to splash out on a world class centre forward, to not just get more goals for the FA Cup holders, but to get Ozil the credit he deserves as truly the Premier League’s best number 10 right now.

West Bromwich Albion 2-2 Manchester United

A late Daley Blind strike rescued a point for Champions League chasing Manchester United at the Hawthorns as the Red Devils dropped to sixth in the table.

Blind’s effort, coming in the 87th minute, denied West Bromwich Albion a famous win over Louis Van Gaal’s side with a curling shot from the edge of the box after the Baggies’ back line failed to efficiently clear a cross from the right.

West Brom twice took the lead, firstly when Stephane Sessegnon blasted home with a strike that flew into the top corner giving David De Gea no chance in the Manchester United goal just eight minutes into the match.

Marouane Fellaini pulled United level three minutes after the half time break, smashing an unstoppable shot past stand in Goalkeeper Boaz Myhill.

Saido Berahino regained West Brom’s lead with 24 minutes left on the clock after substitute Fellaini’s equaliser, Chris Brunt’s intelligent through ball picked out this season’s top English scorer in the Premier League so far and he calmly slotted the ball past De Gea after losing his marker Phil Jones.

Robin Van Persie came closest without scoring for the visitors when his rasping volley hit the inside of the post, bouncing out to deny the Dutchman a place on the score sheet.

The hosts only fashioned eight shots on goal (two on target) during the 90 minutes compared to United’s 22 (seven on target) but will be proud of their display, especially given their 2-1 defeat at Anfield before the international break.

West Bromwich Albion: Myhill, Wisdom, Dawson, Lescott, Pocognoli, Gardner, Morrison, Sessegnon (Mulumbu ’86), Dorrans, Brunt, Berahino

Subs not used: Daniels, Gamboa, McAuley, Blanco, Ideye, Anichebe

Man United:  De Gea, Rafael, Rojo, Jones, Shaw, Blind, Herrera (Fellaini ’45), Di Maria (Young ’76), Mata (Falcao ’72), Van Persie, Januzaj

Subs not used: Lindegaard, Smalling, Fletcher, Carrick

Manchester United 2-1 Everton

Manchester United overcame Everton 2-1 at Old Trafford to secure back to back home league wins for the first time since November 2013.

Louis Van Gaal’s marquee summer signings won the game for his side with Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao scoring either side of Steven Naismith’s header.

Di Maria opened the scoring with 27 minutes played, sweeping in from just inside the area, assisted by Juan Mata after Phil Jagielka could not efficiently clear a cross from the right.

Naismith lost his marker Rafael to head home Everton’s equalizer from Leighton Baines’ cross 11 minutes into the second half but Falcao’s first goal for Manchester United seven minutes later proved to be the winner.

The Colombian was on his toes to pounce on Di Maria’s low shot and beat Tim Howard who had little chance of keeping it out.

Angel of the North: Di Maria celebrates his goal.

Angel of the North: Di Maria celebrates his goal.

It could have been an entirely different story however as Baines had a penalty saved in first half stoppage time.

Tony Hibbert was brought down in the box by Luke Shaw but David De Gea saved the spot-kick which was too near the centre of the goal.

United were worthy of their win however, putting Everton on the back foot from the off. Howard having to deny a Falcao header just four minutes in.

They started the second half with the same velocity, Di Maria’s miscued shot was almost turned in by Falcao from close range but there was too much speed on it.

Everton did fashion chances of their own however. Jagielka had a header cleared off the line by Falcao from a corner before a late flurry of chances.

Substitute Leon Osman forced a superb save by De Gea in the closing stages before fellow second half sub Bryan Oviedo’s effort from the edge of box was somehow tipped over the bar by the Spaniard.

Manchester United: De Gea, Rafael, McNair, Rojo, Shaw (Blackett ’71), Blind, Valencia (Fellaini ’78), Di Maria, Mata, Falcao (Wilson ’73), Van Persie

Subs not used:  Lindegaard, Thorpe, Fletcher, Januzaj

Everton: Howard, Hibbert (Browning ’77), Jagielka, Stones, Baines, Barry, Besic, Pienaar (Oviedo ’64), McGeady (Osman ’77), Naismith, Lukaku

Subs not used: Joel, Gibson, Eto’o, Alcaraz

Man of the match: Angel Di Maria

Manchester United 4-0 Queens Park Rangers

A rejuvenated Manchester United strolled past Queens Park Rangers, winning 4-0, as they intend to make Old Trafford a fortress again.

The rout started 24 minutes in when Angel Di Maria’s flighted free-kick went all the way in with Robert Green left clutching at thin air as Di Maria’s attempted cross flew past him.

Fellow summer signing Ander Herrera doubled the hosts’ advantage on 36 minutes when he swept in from the edge of the box from Wayne Rooney’s pass as a result of a rampaging run by Di Maria.

It was three just before the break when goalscorer of the second Herrera turned provider, assisting Rooney who took a touch before lashing the ball past Green from just inside the area, beating the former England goalkeeper at his near post.

Off the mark: Ander Herrera scores his first goal for his new club

Off the mark: Ander Herrera scores his first goal for his new club

Today was a day in which everything went right for Louis Van Gaal’s side, none more evident than when a totally unmarked Juan Mata turned in a wayward shot by Di Maria for 4-0 with 58 minutes on the clock.

QPR chances were few and far between but deadline day signing Niko Kranjcar came close three minutes after half time but his shot as saved by the boot of David De Gea.

Eduardo Vargas too came close, he shot wide late on after seizing on a poor back pass by Marcos Rojo.

Marquee signing Radamel Falcao came on for his Manchester United debut in the 67th minute, replacing Mata.

The Colombian had a chance to extend United’s lead ever further but he could not convert Daley Blind’s rebounded effort.

Manchester United: De Gea, Evans, Rojo, Rafael (Valencia ’67), Blackett, Di Maria (Januzaj ’82), Herrera, Blind, Rooney, Mata (Falcao ’67), Van Persie

Subs not used: Lindegaard, Shaw, Fletcher, Pereira

Queens Park Rangers: Green, Isla, Caulker, Ferdinand, Hill (Traore ’45) Kranjcar, Sandro (Henry ’74), Fer, Phillips, Austin (Vargas ’59), Hoilett

Subs not used: McCarthy, Onouha, Zamora, Taarabt

Man of the match: Angel Di Maria

Burnley 0-0 Manchester United

Louis Van Gaal is still without his first win as Manchester United Manager as newly promoted side Burnley held the Red Devils to a 0-0 draw at Turf Moor.

British record signing Angel Di Maria played 70 minutes on his debut for his new club and showed signs of promise but was replaced by Anderson after the £59.7 million man picked up a knock.

It was a game of few clear cut chances but Burnley came close on a number of occasions.

David Jones struck the bar with a free-kick just three minutes in and two minutes later Lukas Jutkiewicz had a shot saved by David De Gea after seizing on a weak Jonny Evans back pass.

Robin Van Persie came closest for the visitors but saw his half volley in the area tipped out for a corner brilliantly by former United youth product Tom Heaton.

Di Maria’s intelligent lofted through ball picked out the Dutch forward who chested the ball down before striking it with power but Heaton was equal to it.

Jones also had a dipping volley palmed out for a corner by De Gea.

Manchester United felt they had two penalty shouts in the match turned down. In the first half Ashley Young was bundled over by Kieran Trippier in the box but Chris Foy adjudged there was no malice in the challenge. Young’s reputation for diving may have gone against him.

Late on in the second half, shouts of “penalty” were heard again as the ball struck the hand of Ashley Barnes from Young’s shot not deliberately in the eyes of Foy.

Neither team created enough opportunities to be worthy of the right to claim they deserved the three points. Burnley defended in numbers well but were unable to break through a United defense that had been largely called into question in recent weeks.

Burnley: Heaton, Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Mee, Arfield, Jones, Marney, Taylor (Reid ’88), Ings (Barnes ’78), Jutkiewicz

Subs not used: Gilks, Ward, Long, Wallace, Sordel

Manchester United: De Gea, Jones, Evans, Blackett, Valencia, Young, Fletcher, Di Maria (Anderson ’70), Mata (Januzaj ’87), Rooney, Van Persie (Welbeck ’73)

Subs not used: Amos, Keane, James, Hernandez

Man of the match: David Jones

Manchester United 1-2 Swansea City

Swansea City earned a shock 1-2 victory over Manchester United in Louis Van Gaal’s first game in charge to deny him a positive start to life at Old Trafford.

Returning fan favourite from Tottenham Gylfi Sigurdsson won the game for the visitors when he turned in Wayne Routledge’s miscued volley with 72 minutes on the clock.

Ki Sung-Yeung initially swept the Swans in front after 28 minutes following Sigurdsson’s pass across the edge of the box.

Wilfried Bony blocked Phil Jones in an off the ball incident which prevented Ki from being closed down but referee Mike Dean ruled that there was no malice in the challenge.

Manchester United’s new captain Wayne Rooney leveled the scores after 53 minutes when he acrobatically turned in Jones’ headed knock on from a corner.

He almost doubled his tally 25 minutes from time but his free-kick clipped the outside of the post before going out for a goal kick.

Neither team were dominant in what was a match that involved very few clear cut chances.

Super Sigurdsson: Swansea's new signing celebrates winner on his return

Super Sigurdsson: Swansea’s new signing celebrates winner on his return

It was Manchester United who came closest without scoring in the first half in fortunate circumstances when Jones’ cross needed tipping over the bar by Lukasz Fabianski.

Rooney also had a tame headed effort saved easily.

Jesse Lingard had his Premier League bow cut tragically short when he was substituted on 24 minutes due to injury.

The second half was a similar story, Swansea limited the pre kick off favourites to limited opportunities while Manchester United’s weak back line was too easily exploited.

Van Gaal’s coveted 3-5-2 system was dealt with comfortably by Swansea. The pace from the likes of Nathan Dyer, Wayne Routledge and substitute Jefferson Montero was too hard to deal with for inexperienced wing backs Ashley Young and Adnan Januzaj while Bony and Sigurdsson caused problems for Jones, Chris Smalling and youth graduate Tyler Blackett.

Manchester United: De Gea, Jones, Smalling, Blackett, Lingard (Januzaj ’24), Fletcher, Herrera (Fellaini ’67), Young, Mata, Rooney, Hernandez (Nani ’45)

Subs not used: Amos, James, M Keane, Kagawa

Swansea City: Fabianski, Rangel, Amat, Williams, Taylor (Tiendalli ’53) Ki, Shelvey, Dyer (Montero ’67), Sigurdsson, Routledge, Bony (Gomis ’77)

Subs not used: Tremmel, Bartley, Richards, Sheehan

Man of the match: Ashley Williams

Why Arsenal need to change their philosophy to progress

Image

Arsenal are well known for their patient passing play but eight, possibly nine barren seasons without a trophy needs changing. Fast. It could all improve if they ditch their modern tactics.

Following Wednesday’s 0-2 defeat to reigning European Champions Bayern Munich, the Gunners look all but out of this season’s competition which would see them fail to get past the last 16 for the fourth successive time. They haven’t got past the quarters in five years.

What was highlighted most on Wednesday was how Arsenal were completely played off the park at their own game, at home, with Bayern having an astonishing 79% possession statistic. This wasn’t helped of course by Wojciech Szczesny’s dismissal on 37 minutes which forced Arsene Wenger to replace Spanish play-maker Santi Cazorla but Arsenal looked second best even before that.

England’s best “Spanish Footballer” comes in the shape of Jack Wilshere but he was non-existent for the full 90 minutes while Mesut Ozil was his usual “passenger” self, looking uninterested for the whole game, even his crucial penalty was incredibly lazy. He missed.

Image

Ozil’s dip in form should have him looking over his shoulder.

This is not the first time Arsenal have been beaten by their own game, Barcelona did the same to them in 2011.

One of the most worrying aspects of the modern Arsenal is Wenger’s decreasing tactical knowledge. Following Szczesny’s sending off, the Frenchman brought off Cazorla while the consistently average Ozil was kept on. Even worse, when 0-1 down with 15 minutes to play, Arsenal’s main, possibly only, attacking threat Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was hauled off for the defensive minded Tomas Rosicky.

Holding onto a narrow loss at home is embarrassing enough, even when a man down. What’s more embarrassing however is when it doesn’t work, Thomas Muller made it 0-2 with two minutes remaining.

Should Wenger have kept “The Ox” and Cazorla on, Arsenal would have possibly created more chances with Cazorla’s passing followed by Oxlade-Chamberlain’s powerful jinking runs, but there was none of that, Arsenal stepped off Bayern and allowed them to pass them to death.

The argument that this would have left Arsenal more open defensively is a valid one, however Chelsea proved in 2012 that it can be done when they earned their hugely impressive 2-2 draw over Barcelona at the Nou Camp, and that was with ten men following John Terry’s clumsy challenge.

Wenger’s tactical failings also apply to his forward line. Promising striker Yaya Sanogo looked isolated for large periods of the Munich match however he won most, if not every header. This suggests that the France Under 21 International would benefit from a striking partner, something Arsenal don’t use. Sanogo could use his strength and heading ability to knock balls down to his partner, possibly Olivier Giroud or a new acquisition, and even grab the odd goal himself as he does get in the right areas but lacks the decisive finishing touch at this stage.

Where Chelsea’s formation, which is exactly the same as Arsenal’s, succeeds is that they have better goal scoring midfielders in the shape of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian, formerly Juan Mata and occasionally Ramires. These get on the score sheet enough times that the limited scoring ability of Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba isn’t too much of a problem. Whereas Cazorla, Ozil, and Oxlade-Chamberlain have 10 league goals between them, Hazard boasts 12 on his own.

This season has been a lot better for Arsenal, the double is still realistically on the cards in theory. Where they struggle however is overcoming the big teams. Their league results against last season’s top four are a 6-3 away loss to Manchester City, a 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea, and an away loss and home draw against a below par Manchester United team. Not forgetting a 5-1 thumping away to Liverpool.

The Gunners have a tough end to March with Tottenham away followed by a trip to Chelsea before finishing at Manchester City at home. February’s fixture list has been cruel to Arsenal with that Liverpool loss and the home draw against Manchester United joining an FA Cup and Champions League tie. If they end March where they are now they will still be in the title race but given this season’s record against the top sides it looks doubtful.

The FA Cup is realistic after they eliminated Liverpool to reach the quarters but they meet Everton which is not an easy prospect. Arsenal will be boosted by Chelsea and Man United’s elimination but Man City are clear favourites to lift the trophy and carry on Arsenal’s long wait for silverware where it all looked so promising just few months ago.