International Breaks serve to do two things: 1. Get every Arsenal player injured. 2. Make every Arsenal fan believe the sky if falling. With no Arsenal action to speak of for two weeks, only bad things can happen. And only bad things have happened. After a full fortnight of negativity, starting with the loss to Chelsea, everyone has forgotten how well Arsenal played on October 1st. Saturday’s came cannot come soon enough
Obviously, there are a ton of concerns defensively right now. Depending on the severity of Laurent Koscielny’s lingering achilles problems, Arsenal could be giving full Premier League debuts to both Hector Bellerin (Calum Chambers is suspended for a match) and Isaac Hayden against Hull on Saturday. I have more trust in those two than most I suspect, but we’d all feel more confident were than another defender in the squad. Alas, there isn’t. But against the likes of Hull and Anderlecht, one would hope Arsenal has the firepower to outscore a team if they can’t keep a clean sheet.
But the story this break has revolved around Mesut Özil. Early last week, the German soccer federation announced the Arsenal playmaker had injured his knee and would be out 10-12 weeks. When I saw the news, I was heartbroken. Özil had finally been stringing together some great performances and was noticeably forming a great understanding with new striker Danny Welbeck. But looking at the fixture list, I reasoned that if Arsenal could survive any three month stretch without their best player, it was now. Sure, there are a few tough tests mixed in, but for the most part, the schedule looks nothing like what it was in September.
In Özil’s three month absence, Arsenal has no lack of players capable of filling his role. I’ve been reading that Jack Wilshere has been having an excellent run with England, so maybe he should get the nod in the number 10 role. Santi Cazorla could also slide over, or Tomas Rosicky could return to the lineup. Should Cazorla move inside, that might give Lukas Podolski or Joel Campbell a run on the left, if only until Theo Walcott returns. If Wilshere gets moved forward, Abou Diaby or Francis Coquelin will need to come into the side alongside the holding midfielder. The only option I’d be worried about is putting Aaron Ramsey in the number 10 role when he comes back.
Speaking of Walcott, the images of he and Serge Gnabry back in full training brightened my otherwise gloomy international break state this morning. I feel like many people have forgotten about Walcott, but he could absolutely be a game-changer. Couple his pace with Welbeck and with Alexis Sanchez and suddenly Arsenal becomes lethal in the final third. I cannot wait for Walcott to get back on the field. Just imagine what it will be like when Walcott, Sanchez and Özil can play together.
But the story didn’t end with the injury for Özil. The media has used this injury as an excuse to write about how Wenger is fed up with Özil, how he wants to sell him in January, how Özil is fed up with Arsenal and how he also wants to leave. All of a sudden, every step that Özil took in the right direction in September has been forgotten. The media has used an unfortunate injury (a knee injury is unlucky, not the product of a lazy player or poor coaching) to return to their relentless Özil hatred. Frankly, it’s appalling. While I don’t believe a lick of what’s being written, in the international break, it’s hard not to pay attention to it.
Why would Arsene Wenger give up on his record signing now – a record signing who started brightly at Arsenal only to be derailed by an injury, proceeded to win a World Cup, and has steadily grown more influential this year? Özil is the answer to Arsenal’s problems, not the cause of them. Surround him with players that complement him and he becomes one of the game’s very best players. Watch some tape of Real Madrid from only two years ago and tell me you’d sell him. I dare you.
That the rumored price of a deal to Bayern Munich is 30 million pounds is an absolute joke. Arsenal bought him for 42, and despite what the media would have you believe, he has not lost more than 25% of his skills. Big teams like Bayern have the funds to overpay, so why Arsenal would ever accept a low-balling bid like that for Özil I don’t know. Would I sell him for 45? Maybe. Only if Wenger brought back a Javi Martinez type in the deal. But other than that, absolutely not.
So please, Mr. Wenger, from the bottom of my heart, I implore you not to give up on Özil. He is your best player and your key to success. You lose when he plays poorly and win when he plays well. If that doesn’t tell you he’s important to the squad, nothing will. Change your tactics to work with Özil, don’t try to change him. If you do give up on our number 11, I will have no choice but to give up on you.