FA Cup is The Perfect Time to See If Cazorla and Ozil Can Play Together Centrally
Arsenal's 4th round FA Cup match verse Brighton & Hove Albion looks to be the last best chance to experiment and see if Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil can play together in the middle of the park.
Retaining the FA Cup is the Gunners most realistic shot at a trophy this season, the competition must be a priority, and that being said Arsenal are hardly strong enough to start tinkering and underestimating a Championship foe in a cup tie away from the Emirates; however, Arsene Wenger has limited opportunities left to see if Mesut and Santi can strike the right balance as co-conductors of the orchestra.
By all accounts Ozil is all but guaranteed to be in the starting eleven this weekend, and Wenger would be a fool to leave Cazorla out of the team when he is in such a rich vein of form.
Playing Cazorla out wide on the flanks to accommodate Ozil would send a terrible message to his players and strike a harsh chord of injustice.
Now is the time to see if they can gel together and create an addictive rhythm of short, short, long.
The strongest case of cohabitation for the German and the Spaniard is made in a 4-1-4-1 system featuring a triangle-down triad of Cazorla, Ozil, and Francis Coquelin.
Coquelin, played in front of the back-four, would be challenged to cover for Ozil's lack of industry, but he would not be alone, as Cazorla proved against Manchester City that he is imbued with the fire to drop deep and drive the team forward with mesmerizing box-to-box tenacity, technique, and class.
At times, it would morph into a more typical 4-2-3-1 when Cazorla and Coquelin have to roll up their sleeves and do the dirty work, but if the Gunners can impose themselves on lesser opponents, Santi should be able to play in more advanced attacking areas with Coquelin patrolling the pockets in-between the lines.
The commitment of Santi and Francis, coupled with the work-rate of Alexis Sanchez, is Ozil's best shot at finding a place in the side.
This Sunday will be a huge test, Nemo is playing for his role in a team of exceptional midfielders; one could argue he's playing for his career in England, after a disappointing start to life as Arsenal's record signing.
Ozil's performance will be the focus of millions of watchful eyes under the microscope of footballing punditry from San Francisco to Shangri-La.
His abilities are best suited to playing centrally and Wenger must closely examine the dynamics of pairing him with Cazorla.
Brighton sit 19th in England's second tier of football.
With the race for 4th looking to be another hard-fought battle, and the knock-out stages of the Champions league looming, there won't be a better fixture this season for Wenger to audition the German/Spanish partnership through the middle channel...