Is Number ’10’ Football and Playing to Ozil there limiting Arsenal’s Progress?

Ozil fail

Is Number ‘10’ football Limiting Arsenal

Been away from blogging for a while – wrapped up in Twitter and Podcasting for @Goonerramble which is and has been very enjoyable.


But it’s also reminded me that 140 characters can be misunderstood and doesn’t allow for clarity and explanation and some time to think.


So I am back and hope you will enjoy what I have to say!

Something that has been on my mind for a while now – The Culture of the number 10 at Arsenal and what it means to our mind-set and how it impacts our football culture throughout the club.

Ok we have a great number 10 in Ozil and there is no one like him. I love our club but if every player left tomorrow and you said name a couple of players you would remember in 20 years time Ozil is one for sure. His talents have been discussed on many a blog – his uniqueness will always be appreciated by me.

My feeling is we have many players that want to play in this number one position in the football hierarchy at Arsenal and I don’t think it puts enough emphasis off the ball as a team. It almost defines our softness for which we are perennially criticized.

We are perceived as an ON the ball team not prepared to sacrifice enough for each other OFF the ball. The concept of the number 10 does not help with our work ethic – it screams we are here to create and create only.

Let me explain further how this number 10 Football Culture limits us.


  1. Arsenal – Forever Trapped in One System:

The 4-2-3-1 to me allows too many free rides.

It marginalises people we should not marginalise and doesn’t get the most from others. It gives the team creative ownership to the one player behind the CF.

It over burdens our CM – what ever the pair is – it over burdens our wide men – it over burdens our CF.

With this formation we have not beaten a top six team away from home for 21 games.

7 points from 63 including 7 draws and 14 defeats.

It cannot be right that we continue to indulge the position without the framework required for it to flourish.

To make the ten really work you need a player in CM like a Vieira or the modern day example Kante who basically perform the work of 2 men allowing us to indulge the playmaker who does not defend.


Work of 2 men player

Other teams not just BIG teams know we can be outrun and bullied by overloading centrally which allows teams to have time to pass longer down the sides and turn us around like City, Bournemouth and Everton have done recently.

I call it the Koeman Approach to beating Arsenal.


  1. PSG showed us the Way – 4-3-3

 I enjoy and feel proud to know that Arsenal are a top 10 team in the CL and have been for 20 years. But I also despair we don’t learn fast enough from opponents who have outplayed us.

We may of come top of the recent CL group but any discerning AFC fan knows that in both games v PSG we were outplayed.

It mirrors what happens to us domestically in BIG games – Our CL opponents are learning and play a formation that allows them CM control, which is so vital in Europe.

PSG playing Modern football

The PSG Way Forward?

The 4-3-3 plus the massive physical, athletic presence of Matuidi killed us.

We have the talent to scrape by when we have our offensive moments but we don’t dominate possession in BIG games.  The Home game vs. PSG we had 46% possession. Out passed 530 to 425. Hard to win those games.

Arsenal without the ball is Arsenal that cannot flow and cannot execute. Our talent is possession based so we have to be setup to control the ball first then we are a threat.

  1. Are we maximizing the Squad?

Playing the ten creates egos for those that to want to play there. Players rightly or wrongly see that as THE position.

We have a number of players that want to play there in some form and want to be the man centrally while all having different attributes we can debate at another time. But we have a number of players that although they can play ten they would thrive as that third CM in a 4-3-3.

  • Iwobi – Seen as future 10 when surely we should be developing him into an 8.5 if you know what I mean. A Llalana or Wynaldum someone with the ability to travel both ways with the ball and defend without it. He looks better centrally as he has smaller distances to cover defensively and is smart in tight spaces. He can be that connector.
  • Ramsey is not a ten really but IMO he is a third CM – a 8.5 so lets give him that chance to be our Motta from the inside left and control smaller spaces. What the 10 culture does is drive ego’s to not want to be in areas where there is dirty work to do. The first Bournemouth goal was about not being prepared to sacrifice and cover for each other. It was ego driven. This needs to be managed by the manager.

Ramsey and the Ox – Are we helping them?

Does our system help them?

  • Ox – Another who could play tight in a 3 and given recent injuries we have to our CM’s he may get a chance inside. I would love to see him with Ramsey and Xhaka in CM – driving from the inside right.
  • Jack Wilshere – Another who would thrive in a central 3 but again can play the ten. As part of a PSG or Barca style CM 3 he could be the Ineista or Veratti style dribbler/passer to create angles and retain possession in small spaces while aware of his defensive distances.

All these players are having high and low moments but I think we can agree we can get more from them but a change in system and culture is required,


  1. Are we are Marginalising Alexis

I always get concerned when I debate players or give a statement about a players talent but IMO we are at a cross roads with Alexis.

He has had a taste of being the main man centrally and he is not having it wide anymore. The days of Alexis doing 40yard shuttle runs helping Monreal should be over. Others need to do that role and provide the platform for our superstar

Alexis wants to be the man and his numbers say he is the man.

To see him marginalised for others that don’t have his talent, influence or attitude to win just feels wrong to me. His demeanour has changed and his patience towards others is wearing thin.

AFC are trapped in a system that either over burdens him or marginalises him to wide areas where other teams want him to be…far away from goal.



I’m looking at him and wondering what is he thinking – Are we set up for him to succeed at Arsenal?


  1. Ozil no longer playing as a Ten


Ozil is no longer deferent. He has developed mentally and now IMO has a much more varied game.

His average position is many games is high. Almost as a right sided number 9.

Ozil – the third forward?

3rd Forward and not 10?


Again the manager needs to stop using him as a third midfielder but as a third forward. He is playing that way so set him free. He is scoring and assisting but when he doesn’t defend he get criticised.

This happens mostly in BIG games where we don’t have the ball. Ozil is then marginalised and his weaknesses are more apparent.

Part of being a coach is creating the sporting environment and system for your assets (players) to thrive.

I’m feeling we have reached plateaux – we have been consistent with our inconsistencies.

To move us on football wise we need to be brave – dare I say it like Chelsea have been. They saw a problem where Hazard was defending too much and changed it.

Over to you Arsene!

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3 Responses to Is Number ’10’ Football and Playing to Ozil there limiting Arsenal’s Progress?

  1. James M January 5, 2017 at 5:50 pm #

    Fantastic article and very well explained. Can’t see Wenger moving from his system, he’s too stubborn. Maybe because it will make Arsenal’s football more productive and less pretty?

  2. DEW January 6, 2017 at 5:08 pm #

    The defensive system as a team is not good. It has been discussed last year and year before. I don’t think the team will improve in this regard. It is a tactic of Wenger’s choice and the kind of training the players are getting that decide it. I think it is sometimes unfair for the players to get criticism while the system is not right.

    By the way it is nice article with interesting points.

  3. Liam January 8, 2017 at 11:52 am #

    Thanks for this, its really well thought out and you make some excellent points. However, for me the issue is less about systems and formations that it is the players that we have as options for the front 6. The problem in the 4-2-3-1 has been that we don’t have good options to put in the ‘3’ along with Ozil – we’ve used a combination of Iwobi, Walcott, Chamberlain and Ramsey in those positions, none have been effective in big games. I don’t see that changing with a different formation – there is still a gap in the squad there that is difficult to hide.

    This leads to my main concern with the squad – the British core experiment has been an absolute disaster. All of our British players are technically below the standards required for their positions at the top level – this is particularly a problem when they’re playing in attacking positions. They are all incomplete players, they can do one or two things well, but have big deficiencies that become difficult to hide, especially in big matches. It’s time to stop buying players on the basis of their passport and trying to convince ourselves that they’ll develop into the players we want them to be.

    My question for Clive: as someone involved in academy football, do you see any indication that British football is moving beyond the obsession with physicality and aggressiveness that has hindered our game for the last 20-30 years? Watching recent games like Everton and Bournemouth left me quite pessimistic – they used the same old British ‘get in their faces’ approach, our referees don’t regulate the game properly in response and the game turns into a physical scrap rather than a proper game of football.

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