Arsene Wenger started wide eyed at the gathered press, and uttered “unbelievable”, shook his head, and moved on to talk about Stoke City and the importance of Özil to Arsenal’s title hopes.
Arsene had been pestered three times by an anonymous journalist about giving him something juicy he could use as a headline. Basically asking Wenger “is Özil tired” three different ways, each trying to lead to the answer “yes, Özil is tired.” Wenger refused to be party to this and the reporter increasing sounded like he was begging “to please, just please, give me a story about how tired Özil is and if not that story then, please, please get angry so that I can run with a story about how tetchy Wenger is and how he’s cracking under the strain of the title tilt.” In the end, I suspect that the Daily Star, which is known for lascivious photos of British women, got the story they wanted.
Özil needs a rest and I can’t even believe I have to say this but “there is nothing wrong with resting a player who needs a rest.” If anything, this is a great story: not only did Arsenal win, they rested their star player, and now were able to take a week off from football for the first time in months and gave all the key players an extra few days shore leave to heal their bumps and bruises.
Thank goodness Arsenal have a deep enough squad to rest players — I can only imagine the internettiapoplexy if Özil had been forced to play last week and then train this week all whilst “in the red zone.”
Why would Wenger give everyone a rest this week? As we discussed yesterday, Arsenal have 11 League matches left (4 against top 7 clubs), plus an FA Cup tie with Everton, and the Champions League match in Germany against Bayern Munich. Given that we will have yet another week off after tomorrow’s match against Stoke, I would hope Wenger gets a chance to give them another two days to spend with family. After all, next Tuesday’s match against Bayern Munich will see an Arsenal side who have played 18 matches since December 23rd, face a Bayern side who will have played 11 times. I think a bit of rest is in order, don’t you?
Hell, I hope he gives Özil an all expense paid two-day vacation to Dubai on Monday, after Arsenal beast Stoke. And just in case you’re curious how important Özil is to Arsenal’s production this season, have a gander at this chart:
The key stat there is that the German accounts for 25% of Arsenal’s goals (scoring or assisting) in the Champions League and Premier League and 26% of Arsenal’s shots (either creating them or taking them). Arsenal could do it without him, Cazorla accounted for 32% of Arsenal’s goals last term and 35% of Arsenal’s shots in that year. But having both players and integrating them into the team as a unit is far more valuable.
Since I know that some of you are going to look at those stats from this season versus this season and balk, I just want to point out that Real Madrid A) played in a 2 team League B) had Cristiano Ronaldo, Higuain, and Benzema running all over the place in front of Özil and C) have Ronaldo who is the King of the Chuckers*.
This all accounts for why A) he had nearly twice as many goals scored or assisted last season B) has so many more through balls and C) created so many more shots despite having a significantly reduced amount of individual possession.
With the burden that’s been placed on him of a big-money transfer, plus the transition to a new league, a new team, and a new playing style, Özil has done very well to keep himself at the top level of all midfielders in Europe. I have no doubt that a rested Özil will be a real threat tomorrow against Stoke — even without Walcott running in behind defenses — and that he’ll be an even bigger threat next season — especially when Wenger buys a second forward (in addition to Theo) who likes to make the runs that pay dividends with Özil.
Instead of foolish, giving a break to Özil and Cazorla could turn out to be a master lesson from the professor.
*A chucker is a guy who takes a lot of shots, this guy never cares about team play, his shooting percentage, or even really winning, but rather just chucking up shots. See Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Luis Suarez, and Cristiano Ronaldo.