After Arsenal put in an organised and committed performance against Chelsea on Sunday without Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez, some pundits asked if the Gunners really need the pair.
In response, Craig Burley told ESPN FC that he thinks Arsenal do need Alexis Sanchez but not Mesut Özil. He explained: “I don’t buy into this argument with both players. I would only buy into it with Ozil,” reports the Express.
“I think there would still be a place in there for Sanchez and still have Arsenal solid and workmanlike but not both of them. I think he’s (Ozil) weak physically, I never see him make a tackle.
“What I do know with Mesut Ozil is, by the way he has contract issues as well, is that he doesn’t make tackles, he doesn’t chase back and he just fills a hole and gets himself within five or 10 yards but never close enough.
“So if you don’t get it at the final third end of the pitch, you don’t get the Ozil magic, then you’re getting literally nothing.”
The statistics show that Özil has made more tackles than Alexis this season, both in total and also per-90-minutes. So if Burley hasn’t seen Mesut make one then he clearly hasn’t been watching all of Arsenal’s matches.
Of course, as with Alexis, the majority of Özil’s contribution does come in the final third, I’ve long stated. Both players have been playing as wide-forwards after all.
However, so far Özil’s contribution in the other two-thirds has been more significant than Alexis’. He has made more interceptions and clearances than Alexis, as well as winning more tackles, and the pair are level on aerial duels and blocks.
In fact, Alexis is only ahead of Özil in terms of fouls committed, as he has committed just one to Özil’s three. Perhaps this will change as the season goes on.
Until it does, my opinion that Alexis doesn’t contribute defensively any more than Mesut – other than to close down defenders – won’t change either.