Arsenal cult hero Andrey Arshavin has insisted that the Gunners would function better as a team without Mesut Ozil in the starting XI.
The World Cup-winner has split opinion since his arrival at the Emirates in 2013 and with his production rate dropping in recent seasons, calls for him to be replaced have grown. Since Arsene Wenger’s departure in 2018, he has registered just four Premier League assists in 42 games.
Arshavin, who scored 31 goals and made 46 assists in 145 games for the Gunners, was keen to recognise Ozil’s talent but expressed his view that Mikel Arteta may be better served using other players.
“As a player of course I respect him. Mesut is a world class player,’ the former Russian international told 888Sport.
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“But for me personally he slows down the game. I would prefer to use another player. Mikel, as we can see, is the opposite and plays him a lot.
“He has improved his game at Arsenal but still in the future I do not see him there.”
Since Arteta’s arrival, however, there has been a clear function for Ozil in the Arsenal side as the main No.10. Not only is he tasked with floating in between the lines but he now has to be the one to drive the Gunners forward through the centre of the pitch.
Alongside this, due to the lack of support Nicolas Pepe receives on the right means the German often pulls out to the touchline to create more space for his winger. For Arshavin, this could be what Arsenal should be wary of.
“For me Arsenal’s squad is not balanced,” he added.
‘Offensively they are very good and in attack they play very pretty football. It’s good to watch. But defensively – even in my period – Arsenal is weak.
“Sometimes that is down to injuries and sometimes they don’t have enough experience but I don’t know why this doesn’t change.”
Despite this, Arshavin, who spent two seasons with Arteta at Arsenal, was optimistic about the direction found since his former teammate was appointed head coach.
“Regarding Arteta, it was a good choice because he has spent time at Arsenal and knows the club well. He worked next to Arsene (Wenger) and can take good experience from him,” the 38-year-old said.
“He also has the respect of the club and players. And since he has taken over at Arsenal they have changed: not too much but in a good way.
“But it is difficult to predict if Arsenal can finish in the Champions League zone, especially in the time we’re in now.”