Why Arsene Wenger must drop Mesut Ozil NOW

Mesut Ozil Warm Up

The time is right to rest Arsenal's playmaker so that he is fresh for the gauntlet run in February - Liverpool, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

Mesut Ozil is the calibre of player Arsenal fans had craved for years, and it is no coincidence that his transfer from Real Madrid's Estadio Santiago Bernabeu to the Emirates Stadium provided the club with a great lift, a confidence boost and all-round improvements in the team's collective ability and strength.

But the standard of Ozil's recent performances have slipped. While his passing accuracy remains exceptionally high, his overall impact is weakening game by game and he is frequently becoming anonymous. In order to ensure he is fresh for a number of significant - and tough- matches in February, it would perhaps be prudent on manager Arsene Wenger's part to rest the German trequartista now, so that he is fresh for the Liverpool clash at Anfield, Manchester United at home and the Bayern Munich double-header in the Champions League.

Per Mertesacker 20 1,800
Olivier Giroud 20 1,741
Laurent Koscielny 19 1,639
Bacary Sagna 19 1,620
Aaron Ramsey 18 1,495
Mesut Özil 17 1,485
Kieran Gibbs 18 1,461
Jack Wilshere 19 1,341
Santiago Cazorla 16 1,273
Mathieu Flamini 17 1,054

Simple data above (excluding goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny) demonstrates that Ozil is placed sixth in the top ten outfield Arsenal players who have received the most pitch-time, however, it must be noted that the German did not feature for the Gunners until September 14, when he debuted and made instant contributions in the 3-1 victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Previously, Arsenal had played three Premier League games, or 270 minutes - if he had been recruited earlier in the summer he would no doubt have featured (he did play 132 minutes for Real Madrid in the Primera Division) - pushing Ozil further up the above table, with a similar total minute haul to Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud, who has benefited from the occasional rest now and then throughout the campaign.

In all competitions, inclusive of friendly matches, Ozil has played 2,308 minutes of football. The only players to receive more game-time are defenders - Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny - who expend less energy per game, or Giroud, himself a striker who, consensus dictates, needs a forward on the substitutes bench who can challenge him for the primary forward's role and help relieve him of any goal-scoring burden.

Football is no longer a team sport, but a squad game. To challenge for trophies in multiple competitions, rotation is imperative. And, right now, both player and club may benefit from resting Ozil from upcoming matches.

The next game could not have arrived at a more opportune moment as Arsenal host Coventry City in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

The Gunners, a club 53 places above the Sky Blues in the English league football pyramid, will still have too much for their visitors on Friday evening, even with a rotation policy in place: Serge Gnabry, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski all require first-team football for different reasons - to develop potential, regain match confidence at a tender age and to return to full fitness, respectively.

Ozil does not need to play against Coventry. And, should he be rested, then he will have a clear ten-day period until Arsenal resumes its Premier League campaign against Southampton on the South Coast on Tuesday, February 28.

image: © wonker

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