Role at Arsenal
If taking Arteta’s word that the decision to omit Özil from Arsenal’s squad was a purely footballing decision, then the simplest explanation for that is that the Spaniard sees no space in his team for a traditional number 10. He has shown a preference for a 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 formation after initially experimenting with a 4-2-3-1 and either Özil or Joe Willock as his number 10, following a trend that has meant pure creators who play behind a lone centre-forward becoming an increasingly rare feature of the modern-day Premier League.
That explanation is insufficient, though, given Pep Guardiola – under whom Arteta was assistant manager at Manchester City, and who has clearly had an influence on Arteta’s philosophy – managed to convert two number 10s in De Bruyne and David Silva into quite brilliant number eights who played in a title-winning 4-3-3. Both got on the ball as often as would a traditional number 10, and did so in the half-spaces. Özil would surely be capable of playing that type of role.
There is also the position in which the hugely impressive James Rodríguez – another left-footed and hugely talented number 10 who appeared as though he might struggle to find a place in the modern game after his career lost momentum at Bayern Munich – is playing at Everton. Rodríguez plays on the right side of their attack in a 4-3-3, but with a vastly different set of instructions to Richarlison on the left, or many other wide attackers. Rodríguez looks to get on the ball and turn in-field on to his left foot to create from between the lines. Clearly there are ways to select a player who wants to play centrally and behind a striker into a functional team that has no traditional number 10, so Arteta’s reasons must extend beyond the fact he wants to set his team up without a shape that would immediately and clearly suit Özil.