Arsenal's bleak midwinter persists as Arteta's men draw at Bournemouth

Thu 26 December 2019 | 18:32

Mikel Arteta took full charge of Arsenal for the first time but there were familiar failings in a Premier League draw at Bournemouth.

There comes a time in one's life when one has a sufficient number of scarves. Too many perhaps. Enough, some might say, that if one donated half of said scarves to a charity shop, said shop would be able to display an eye-catching feature of scarves through the decades.

Thanks Mum, for another scarf this Christmas. No, no, of course it'll come in very useful.

Mikel Arteta's Arsenal wardrobe is crammed with old scarves and all sorts of knick-knacks the new head coach would surely never have chosen for himself. A dressing room where too little fits the bill.

Arsenal's squad is that box of cards bearing bad knock-knock jokes that relatives giddily hand over, having briefly taken leave of their senses in a department store trolley dash.

Knock knock. Who's there? Mesut. Mesut who? Mesut Ozil, yours for £350,000 a week.

Knock knock. Who's there? Nicolas. Nicolas who? Nicolas Pepe, yours for £72million.

Ba-dum. Sigh.

The jokes are on Arsenal, beset by self-flagellating, unfunny punchlines. Or rather, there's been nothing funny about the Ozil problem, besides the dark humour behind Arsenal once considering it great value for money to offer him those extravagant wages.

It was not always the case, but recently he has been as useful as the fifth pair of drivers' gloves in the last seven Christmases, the Billie Eilish LP when you asked for Billy Childish.

There's no receipt, and your statutory rights to a refund have expired. Arteta is stuck with Ozil, so he might as well get the best from him. That is why Arteta described him as "a massive player for this football club" before Arsenal's Boxing Day trip to Bournemouth, where a 1-1 draw was a result Arsenal might have taken after being distinctly second best before the break.

The German's recent airing of his political views and his efforts for charities suggest he is more thoughtful, more engaged, than the average footballer. At the same time, his Arsenal performances have hinted he might now be that average footballer, or that he has been slowly dragged down to the level of some around him.

On his money, Arsenal effectively have to play him and pray for the return of the end product that, any other faults notwithstanding, unmistakably was once part of his game.

And yet Ozil - one assist and no goals in seven Premier League games now this season - is far from being the only choice from the Arsenal selection box to have looked questionably out of date.

Calum Chambers and his 40 per cent tackle success rate in 13 league outings, before being dropped for the Bournemouth game, invites questions about his right to be defined as a defender.

Arteta recalled Ozil, but to what effect? A few neat early passes from the former Real Madrid player and an eye-catching flick in midfield to keep a break moving showed the technical side of his game is unimpeachable.

But Ozil has won almost 100 caps for Germany and started for his country in a World Cup final. Surely he should be delivering more.

At times in Bournemouth he clung to the right touchline like a fearful child to the edge of a swimming pool, pinging short passes while carrying nothing of the threat posed by, say, Josh King down the same flank for the opposition.

Yet when Ozil ventured infield, which is where Arteta is surely encouraging him to spend his time, there were flashes of beneficial quality, and one sublime pass to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should have been rewarded with a goal.

By the time he was hauled off with 15 minutes remaining, Ozil was producing one of his best recent games for Arsenal, even if he squandered a decent chance when mis-kicking with a volley on his right foot.

Arteta will fancy this was a small step in the right direction from his inherited number 10. But where Ozil earned a pass mark, the way Arsenal were so often stretched by Bournemouth showed their mid-table position is about right. Chelsea and Manchester United are next for Arteta's men.

Knock knock. Who's there? Same old. Same old who? Same old problems for Arsenal, a pantomime in motion. But perhaps now a closing act to this bleak midwinter's farce is within sight.

source: SportMob