Mikel Arteta thinks Mesut Özil needs more than just five weeks to rediscover his best form at Arsenal, but he has to consistently do the ‘non-negotiables’.
Özil certainly isn’t struggling for game time under Mikel Arteta so far. The German started all-but-one of the new head coach’s nine matches in charge before the winter break. A far cry from how Unai Emery utilised him in the latter stages of the Spaniard’s tenure.
All the same, that consistency of appearances on the pitch isn’t leading to significantly greater attacking output, either individually or on a collective basis.
Özil still only has two assists and no goals in all competitions this season. The team have only scored more than one goal in two of the playmaker’s eight appearances. Worryingly, they did score twice in the only game he missed – the win over Bournemouth.
Arteta thinks this is partly down to bad luck, but also due to just how far Özil was from his best at first.
“He has been unlucky with some of the times that he has put people through and they have not scored,” Arteta said. “Things like that would have made stats a little bit different. But you don’t go from where he was to where he can be in five weeks, I’m sorry.
“Even when you really want to do it, it doesn’t always go that way. You have to be so constant. But he is trying so hard and he is very willing.
“The team cannot have the right structure to support him if he doesn’t do some of those non-negotiables. If he does them, then the team can afford to have someone like him to make the difference.”
Could Özil lose his place?
There are two players in the squad who might be hoping he will. Dani Ceballos hasn’t looked like displacing Granit Xhaka or Lucas Torreira since joining on loan, but he may get games ahead of Özil if things don’t improve.
Regardless of how Arsenal are doing, Ceballos is going to want to give his all every game. He wants to be in that Spain squad this summer. Özil’s motivations arguably depend a lot more on what he believes the team can achieve this season.
Then there’s Joe Willock, who did very well in that Bournemouth game Özil missed. As with most young players, he’s having a bit of an inconsistent campaign, but the highs have been impressive.
Both Willock and Ceballos always seem willing to do those non-negotiables Arteta mentions. It’s just whether they can add as much technically as Özil does.
For now, Özil is still the most likely to keep starting. Arteta clearly thinks there’s more to come the longer he spends with the midfielder. If that doesn’t prove to be the case, the other two may well put the 31-year-old’s position under threat.