With 18 goals and assists between them in Arsenal’s 24 Premier League fixtures so far this term, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla will both feel they’ve nailed down places in Arsene Wenger’s first XI, but a closer look at the stats tells a different story.
The pair have started Arsenal’s past three Premier League games, and while Wenger’s crowd have managed to pull six points from those fixtures, there are plenty of question marks hanging over the Frenchman’s team selection.
Cazorla produced a man-of-the-match performance playing at number ten in the 5-0 win over Aston Villa a few games back, with two assists plus a converted penalty to his name, while Ozil popped up with the second ten minutes after half time.
The Spaniard’s reward for such a display was to be withdrawn into a left-midfield role for the trip to Spurs, where Arsenal lost 2-1 despite Ozil’s early opener.
Wenger stuck with the same formula when crisis-riven Leicester visited north London. Arsenal held on for a 2-1 win, but Cazorla’s attacking instincts were again negated further back, while the classy Germany international added another assist.
To be fair to the Gunners gaffer, Ozil and Cazorla only turned out together from the start in three of six top-flight matches they were eligible to this term prior to the former’s three-month absence.
Furthermore, there are currently few options to fill the left-midfield berth with Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey injured, but looking ahead to the rest of the campaign, the fact is that Cazorla has only been measurably effective against hapless Villa (home and away) with Ozil also in the side.
The most obvious solution may be the right one; that is, to drop one or the other to the bench and bring them on as and when they’re needed in place of the lucky starter.
It’s tough on a player who has scored all six of his 2014/15 Premier League goals, and laid on five of six assists, since the end of November, but Cazorla must surely be the man to make room for Arsenal’s record signing.
Wenger clearly prefers Ozil, whose stamina has been called into question repeatedly since he landed in England 18 months ago. Interchanging the pair in the spot behind the strikers may, therefore, not be such a bad idea.