Was missing Mesut Özil the problem against Manchester City?

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 08: Mesut Özil of Arsenal during a training session at London Colney on September 08, 2020 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Missing Mesut Özil against Manchester City wasn’t the problem, much as people on social media might try and tell you differently.

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 08: of Arsenal during a training session at London Colney on September 08, 2020 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
ST ALBANS, ENGLAND: Mesut Özil of Arsenal during a training session at London Colney on September 08, 2020. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

After the game yesterday, a lot of the focus was on Arsenal’s creativity. The team had 11 shots and three on target, but there was a sense that they should have pushed harder in the latter stages, just 1-0 down.

Inevitably, that led to more Özil talk. Still viewed by many as the squad’s most creative player, there were calls to see him reintroduced when Mikel Arteta decides on his Premier League squad in the coming days.

I don’t disagree that Arsenal really need to work on their creativity, but I find the suggestion Özil would’ve won the team points against Manchester City rather baffling.

Did any of the people claiming as much watch Özil play against City at any point since the 2016/17 season? In Özil’s last five games against City over the last three seasons, these were the results:

  • 3-0 defeat (H) under Ljungberg
  • 2-0 defeat (H) under Emery
  • 3-0 defeat (H) under Wenger
  • 3-0 defeat (N) under Wenger
  • 3-1 defeat (A) under Wenger

Özil didn’t score, didn’t assist, and wasn’t at all involved in the one goal Arsenal did score. He created five chances overall, one per game, fewer than Willian or Dani Ceballos or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang did yesterday.

Arsenal had fewer shots in all five of those matches than they did yesterday. They only had more shots on target in one of them. They lost all five games by a greater margin. That’s not to mention the fact Arsenal actually beat City without Özil on the previous attempt.

The evidence is overwhelmingly against the 32-year-old in this fixture recently.

I do think his talents could help in certain matches, and don’t necessarily agree with his complete exclusion. But this is not an example of a game he would make the difference, and the fact is that someone has to miss out on the squad.