Who Should be Arsenal’s No. 10? Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez or Santi Cazorla?


Arsenal have a history of having to play players out of position. This is the case with their current No. 10 role. The three main competitors for this role are Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla. According to transfermarkt.com, that’s 79 million pounds all gunning for the same, all-important position.

And it really is the all-important position.

The No. 10 spot is literally the hub of the entire team, the pivot on which the squad moves. A team can live or die by the No. 10 role and therefore the choice for who mans that position is of vital importance.

Statistically, all three are phenomenal No. 10’s. Let’s take a look at the stats provided by WhoScored.com:

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Based on the stats, it’s a toss-up between Alexis and Cazorla. And yet it’s Ozil who has claimed the role for Arsene Wenger and I completely agree with him for one simple reason: Ozil is at his absolute best at the No. 10 role. Alexis is a superb left wing and Cazorla can play anywhere across the midfield. Sure, Alexis and Cazorla are better suited to play the No.10 role, but since all three must start, the most important factor is getting the most combined production out of the three, and in order to do that, Ozil has to play the No.10.

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Seeing as how three of Arsenal’s best players all play the same position (essentially), it has to come down to more than just who plays it the best. All three of the listed players need to be playing every single match day, so it’s an assumed side effect that two of the three will be playing “out of position.” As such, another contributing factor to the debate is “who loses the most when not playing the No. 10 role?”

The answer again is Mesut Ozil. Last season, Ozil was forced to play on the left side and the results were frustrating. At the No. 10 role this year, he has thrived. He’s putting up assists left and right (and center… get it?). Alexis Sanchez is still world class on the wings and again, the little Spaniard Santi Cazorla can play anywhere and still be effective.

So while Alexis is obviously at his goal scoring best when allowed to play a central role, he’s going to have to get used to being a winger. While the DailyMail makes the all-too-hasty claim that Alexis is wasted on the wings, they’re wrong. Alexis has still scored five goals and assisted twice in nine appearances on the left side. He doesn’t lose much of his potency when on the left, and let’s be honest, he drifts center whenever he wants anyways.

ESPNFC also spat on Ozil at the No.10 role, saying that Arsenal need energy at the spot. Conveniently, energy is Alexis’s chief export. However, Ozil has run further than any other Arsenal player since returning to the squad (via the Telegraph):

So there is your energy.

But it’s still not a cut and dry topic. Why not play your best player (Alexis Sanchez) in his best position (No.10)? I think the main logic behind Wenger’s choice is that this team isn’t looking to be carried on the shoulders of Alexis, like they did at the beginning half of the season. By spreading Cazorla, Ozil and Alexis out across the field, they are spreading out an insane amount of skill.

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Now, instead of the opposing team being able to key in on Alexis in the center and not really have to worry about Ozil on the left, they have to cover the entire pitch and guard from line to line in order to keep out this incredibly potent Arsenal attack. Because let’s face it, Ozil was very ineffective as a winger, and teams had very little trouble shutting him down. But as the No. 10, he has entire pitch to work with, and given the distance he’s traveled and the assist numbers he’s putting up, he is using that pitch like a horse in an open field.

So to answer the question, in case you couldn’t gather it already, I think that Wenger is correct in starting Ozil consistently in the No.10 role. But what do you think?

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