Mesut Ozil is a victim of tactical shift in world football

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Football News

Arsenal's recent shift in formation has caused much controversy and, in the case of the Gunners fans, much conversation.

Having previously stuck with a 4-2-3-1 system with a natural play-maker floating behind the front-man, Arsene Wenger made a conscious decision switch to a 4-3-3 set-up in pre-season.

The switch immediately called the future of Arsenal's record signing Mesut Ozil into question - after all this is a player who is highly regarded as 'the best number 10 in the world' and one who Wenger paid £42.5 million for to operate in that exact role.

Analysing the situation deeper, the 'in the hole' position is the only system in which Ozil and players of his like can operate, they are not natural central midfielders and their style doesn't suit the wings due to the amount of tracking back those positions demand.

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Tactical Shift in Modern Football

One of the many reasons football remains current is due to its tactical evolution which continues to entertain fans and display new ways in which the game should be played. It therefore seems, following some heavy defeats to their main title rivals last season, Wenger is taking a tactical leaf out of other managers' books to help his team evolve. 

Wenger told reporters: "We failed in some big games last year and behind that (shift in formation) is the thinking that we have to be more solid in some games. We conceded too many goals in the big games last year."

The Frenchman's consciousness is what Arsenal fans have called for and it is a sign that the manager is adapting to the modern game. The feeling among coaches is that a system that encourages players like Ozil to have freedom can no longer prove successful. Some experts, such as Sky Sports pair Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher, have even gone to extreme lengths to claim that these players are "getting away with murder".

This is simply because they provide no protection defensively, whereby teams are essentially playing with 10 men without the ball, an aspect of the game most would accept if these 'number 10's' were winning games on their own when in possession of the ball - yet that isn't the case. Ozil is not alone here, players like Silva, Mata, Cazorla are all guilty of providing delicate touches, but match-winning moments that would justify their precious role are few and far between.

It is therefore up these players to find a way to conform to the modern rigors of the game and accept that playing frequently in their preferred role is too risky for managers, especially for clubs competing at the top of the game.

Proof is in the pudding

The trend on what football systems work usually come from the top with many analyzing successful international teams and clubs competing in the latter stages of the Champions League - the consensus being that if its good enough for them, then it must be for everyone.

The 4-2-3-1 craze was formulated in this way, the all conquering Spanish national team adopted this system on the way to winning the 2010 World Cup. They may have gained inspiration from the two teams who contested the Champions League final in their capital city at The Bernabeu. Bayern Munich and Mourinho's Inter Milan both adopted this system which triggered a knock on affect throughout Europe, a system for the likes of Sneijder and Ozil.

Fast forward to 2014 and we see similar trends but with different systems and a trend that puts the future of players similar to Ozil in limbo. Real Madrid dominated the Champions League, eventually winning the trophy in emphatic fashion adopting a 4-3-3. Germany themselves followed suit and abandoned their ritual 4-2-3-1 formation and moved Ozil out to the left, a feature that allowed them to smoothly win football's most illustrious prize - the World Cup.

This now seems like the go to system and while that is the case, it is hard to see Ozil and players of his ilk producing their best football. However, with football's ever evolving nature, many won't be surprised to see the demand for 'classic number 10's' to return.

Arsene Wenger
Premier League

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