‘If Partey plays, then so should Ozil’ – Arsenal’s snub of World Cup winner still stuns Merson

If Arsenal are making Thomas Partey a key part of their plans then Mesut Ozil should be brought back in from the cold, says Paul Merson.

The Gunners have bolstered their options in the middle of the park by snapping up Ghana international Partey from Atletico Madrid.

Partey is considered to be cut from the same cloth as Gunners greats Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva, with much-needed physical presence added to the Emirates Stadium engine room.

Mikel Arteta has, however, seen his side struggle for creativity and goal threat this season, with Arsenal unable to bring all of the pieces together that will deliver much sought-after consistency.

Merson believes the answer to that problem remains on the club’s books, with Ozil having been omitted from Europa League and Premier League squads.

A World Cup winner heading towards free agency is playing no part for the Gunners in 2020-21 due to some bold selection calls, with his days in north London seemingly numbered.

Merson remains bemused as to how the talented 32-year-old has found himself in this position, with Arteta’s side crying out for his playmaking qualities.

The former Gunners star told Sky Sports: “For me, Mesut Ozil comes back in the team if Thomas Partey is fit. Partey gets around the pitch, dominates the midfield and dictates the game. Him playing opens up a chance for Ozil.

“At the moment, Arsenal have nobody in there to provide the forwards. You can make runs all day long, but if you’re a centre-forward, your runs are only as good as the players playing behind you.


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“When these Arsenal players are getting the ball in midfield, with time, is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang making the run? Is he confident they are going to see his run and are capable of getting that ball through the eye of a needle? I’d say no, so they need creativity. Fernando Torres made runs when Steven Gerrard got the ball. They didn’t even have to look.

“Teams are sitting back against Arsenal, and they don’t have the creativity in midfield to break them down.

“If Partey doesn’t play, Ozil can’t play. Without Partey, Arsenal are not going to dictate the midfield, and then can’t afford to play with 10 men. But if Arsenal have the midfield, and Ozil is playing behind Aubameyang, with two flying wingers. You ask the back four to stay still, including the full-backs.

“You’d play Granit Xhaka next to Partey, then Ozil in front, then have Aubameyang central, Bukayo Saka on the left, and try and get a tune out of Nicolas Pepe. Get the ball to Ozil, and before you know it, if you make runs, he’ll find you.”

Merson added: “Is Arteta to blame for Ozil’s exclusion? I don’t know if it’s Arteta or the club. I’m not sure. Arteta has been in the game long enough to know when a player is or isn’t a good player.

“You never, ever know when you’re going to need a player. The name of the game for so many top managers is to keep the players who aren’t in the team happy. Because they know, one day, they might need that player.

“If you treat them badly, and all of a sudden you have a few injuries and you need them to play, it’s bad news. If you treat them well, they’ll run through a brick wall for you. You will need them.”

Ozil has not figured for Arsenal since March 7, prior to football shutting down amid the coronavirus pandemic, and is now running down a lucrative contract with no role to play at the Emirates.

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