It’s been a difficult start to the season for Arsenal following back-to-back defeats, and Paul Merson is concerned about two star names in particular.
The Gunners have slipped to losses to Man City and Chelsea in their opening two Premier League games, conceding five goals while scoring just two.
In truth, they should have scored more at Chelsea but missed some great opportunities, but despite that, Merson has raised concern over the ongoing impact of Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan under Unai Emery.
It’s always going to be tricky for players to adapt to the demands of a new coach, especially with Arsene Wenger having developed a brand of football at Arsenal that the squad will have grown used to.
Nevertheless, as top class individuals, they should have the ability to make those changes to their respective games to suit the needs of the man in charge, but Merson isn’t convinced that Ozil and Mkhitaryan have it in their locker to be key parts in the Spanish tactician’s approach.
“If you were building a team tomorrow, you’d want to play a high pressing game, work as a team, not to have gaps between the lines, and you’re not buying Ozil and Mkhitaryan,” he told Sky Sports. “They will not get in teams that want to press!
“Ozil’s future? I don’t know. I’m a big fan of him, he’s a quality player, but sometimes you watch him and the game passes him by.”
It’s a fair assessment from Merson, as neither Ozil nor Mkhitaryan are known for their ability to press and put pressure on the opposition while out of possession, something that the former has been singled out for with intense scrutiny on many occasions in particular.
With that in mind, if Emery does insist on his side adopting a high press, either he’ll have to tailor it to the players at his disposal or perhaps consider making significant changes next summer.
Having stepped into the job just a few months ago, it would have been a huge risk to oversee a major overhaul before his first game in charge. If Ozil and Mkhitaryan continue to struggle, then perhaps it’s only a matter of time before those changes are made to fully implement his own preferred style of play at the Emirates.