Sunday, 19 January 2014

Arsenal 2-0 Fulham: Santi sparkles in a successful win

"Ooh, Santi Cazorla!" Can't get that song out of my head. Don't want to.

2-0 winners against Fulham yesterday, and with Liverpool slipping up and Chelsea also having a chance to do so, you'd be right to say that these points were important. It's good that we got them in the end, irrespective of our performance.

I believe that's how everyone reacted yesterday? Discard the performance after seeing three points in the bag? I have to say, I'm a little disappointed. I can understand these overlooks, because on paper the win seems pretty routine. A two goal margin win and a clean sheet in the bargain is what people are understandably choosing to focus on. And while I agree that the pros did outline the cons (suggested by the scoreline), I really think that we should pay attention to the negatives a bit more.

If we want to win the title, we need to raise the tempo a lot more than how it was for a good half hour of yesterday's first half. Aside an Ozil chance (was he passing or shooting?), there was barely anything to show for, even with all the possession. On the contrary, it was Fulham who had more opportunities to score, a Szczesny 'collect' and a good save from the Polish denying Sidwell and ultimately Fulham in drawing first blood.

Why were we so lackluster in the first half? There are a few reasons, and I feel that a lot of it was down to Ozil's poor form. However, I'm sure as not giving him 100% of the blame. Even so, I'd like to point out aplenty of Ozil's flaws that other Gooners seem too scared or blind to notice them.

Look, I want Ozil to succeed at Arsenal just as every other Arsenal supporter does. However, I'm not going to trick myself into thinking that he's made a huge difference for us on the pitch. He's been a much needed psychological boost, but he's admittedly contributed little on the football field. While people who would disagree with me would point to his statistics (5 goals, 9 assists), I don't think that he was really spectacular for us since he joined.

Indeed, upon recollection, Ozil's performances could be described as merely 'decent' by me. Had he not come with that prestige and stature, I doubt that his on-field contribution would be held decisive. Apart from a stunning debut against Sunderland, a magical first half against Napoli and an electrifying showing against Marseille in the second half (the one at the Emirates), Mesut has hardly lived up to his high Real Madrid and Germany standards.

I apologize for saying this - but I think that it's because he completely lacks commitment for the club. I see no flair, no desire, no "I'll-get-that-half-ball" from him ever since he's worn Arsenal colours. At the moment, his pedigree and his £42.5 million tag is shielding him from the bench, much like Thomas Vermaelen with his captaincy last season.

Scrapping his place of the first XI would help to some extent, because he'd be given a much needed jolt that his place in central attacking midfield is far from guaranteed at Arsenal. However, I seriously doubt that that would solve a long term problem. I feel that Ozil's poor form is also down to him being surrounded by players not performing at his level. To make it a bit clearer, I think a post that I'd written in November fits the bill:

"The absence of Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain means that our team has had to adjust a lot and play in different positions. I'm constantly noticing a lack of movement in the final third, which would make Ozil difficult to find a man. I know that Ozil has really good vision, but shouldn't we give him something to see?"

Nothing has changed since then, I think. While The Ox and Podolski have made their returns, they're not getting the game time that they need. With Theo Walcott also out, I don't see any run-ins behind the defence anymore. The players are not making sufficient or timely runs inside the box, which means that a player of Ozil's caliber is unable to find them.

We NEED a player like Ozil to be in great form to continue our challenge for the title, Arsene must realize that. My solution? We need to bench Ozil for a game or two and play someone like Rosicky, Santi or Jack instead.  In the meantime, we need to buy a pacy striker, who also has the attributes of finishing and dribbling as well. Alvaro Morata ticks the boxes, and seeing that he'd be reunited with his old Real Madrid mate and his Spanish buddies in the process, it seems like a really sensible idea to consider his move to North London in a loan/permanent deal.

Ozil needs to buck up, though. Arsenal of all teams have witnessed a lot of world class players in their team who never gave anything for the club, and Mesut is in danger of falling into that category. By now, I am certain that Ozil is far from my favourite player at the club, mostly because he takes away the central attacking position from the likes of worthier players like Rosicky. He doesn't do justice to that role as well, as demonstrated by another poor performance yesterday. However, when he didn't show up, my favourite player did.

Santi Cazorla's two goals - few noticed - had come as a result of drifting into the center. We've all known for a while that the left wing is where Santi's threat gets a bit minimized, and that he looks much more dangerous in the center. Yesterday he played a lot in the center, and his tricky movements were displayed in dazzling action in front of an awed audience, as he glided past bewildered Fulham players with apparent ease. Him and Jack Wilshere more than made up for Ozil absence on the pitch with classy dribbles and bursts of pace.

A highlight of the match was when Jack took a free kick quickly and Cazorla danced with the ball to win another FK higher up the pitch. Even though Cazorla was deployed on the wing, he managed to have a very good game, even though his long range passing was a bit off. His first goal showed a lot of determination to get into the box after initiating the move, while the second (with his 'weaker' foot) was just pure class.

Ever since I saw Santi play against Sunderland in his debut, I fell in love with the lad. The way he reads the game and dribbles past defenders is pure awesomeness. He thoroughly earned the two goals that he got, and I think deserves a regular starting berth now. Not on the expense of Lukas Podolski, mind you, but on the expense of Mesut Ozil. I can't wait to see what those two magical feet will do in the center of the park.

Our next game is home to Coventry City, 6 days later. There was a real lack of cutting edge in this match (and the previous ones) which needs to be addressed in the transfer market in this space of time, although I highly doubt that Arsene Wenger will pay attention to it. While I know that we need a striker, I also know that Wenger is going to leave it extremely late to only TRY to buy one. A quote from his post-match conference particularly angered me:

"You want me to buy more players, but if they sit on the bench you ask me why?"

You're missing the point, 'Professor'. Giroud and the Mertescielny axis are due a breather, and they need to sit on the bench for a few games. However, don't we need suitable players to replace them?

Anyways, I won't be blogging until the match preview of the Coventry game, unless some good/bad news happens within the Arsenal camp at that time. Which I don't think it will. Still, fingers crossed that my next blog is on a productive striker signing.

Tick tock, Arsene. 12 days to save our title challenge.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )