Paul Merson's Arsenal claim actually makes a lot of sense 2 years ago

Paul Merson's Arsenal claim actually makes a lot of sense

"Ozil and Mkhitaryan are not those type of players."

He is often criticised for his views on football but Paul Merson's comments about Arsenal under Unai Emery make a lot of sense. The Gunners lost their opening two games of the Premier League season. They fell to a 2-0 defeat at home to Manchester City on the opening weekend and lost a thrilling match 3-2 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Arsenal losing at home to the Premier League champions and away to Chelsea shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. It's also not something to be ashamed of, nor is it a cause for grave concern.

Emery has had just over a month to work with his new players. Even the most demanding supporter can't have expected more from their opening two games of the season.

However, while the results have been what one would expect from Arsenal in such games, there are signs that Emery is attempting to get the Gunners to change how they play.

Unlike under his predecessor Arsene Wenger, Arsenal now try to press their opponents high up the pitch and are more committed to building from the back.

Emery's methods will take time to work. But, it's going to be difficult for Arsenal to press opponents high when they have both Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the side, as noted by Merson.


"He hasn't got the players to have a 20-yard gap between defence and attack, working hard. Ozil and Mkhitaryan are not those type of players," Merson told Sky Sports.

"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.

"If you go the Arsene Wenger way, wanting to play entertaining, free-flowing, great football, then Ozil and Mkhitaryan will walk in any team in the world. But they will not get in teams that want to press!

"I don't know if the current crop have gone past being able to learn that way of playing. That's my concern. I don't mean regarding their age, but in the way they play the game."

Merson isn't wrong. Mkhitaryan proved at Borussia Dortmund under Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel that he can play as part of a team that presses the opposition high, but there is little to suggest that Ozil can do likewise.

The German playmaker is a gifted footballer, but largely ineffective when out of possession. Starting both Ozil and Mkhitaryan in the same team also means one will have to play out wide, and neither are likely to track back when the opposition beat Arsenal's press.

While both could run riot against weaker opponents at home - starting with West Ham on Saturday - having them in the team together for matches against elite opponents could be a luxury Emery can't afford to take in the future.