Arsenal Need Their No. 10s to Win the EPL Title

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2014

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 21:  Mesut Oezil (R) and Tomas Rosicky of Arsenal in action during an Arsenal training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group F match against Borussia Dortmund at London Colney on October 21, 2013 in St Albans, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Arsenal winning this season's English Premier League title will depend on the play of their No. 10s. That means Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky must all deliver big in the final 14 games.

All three are at their best in that pocket of space between the midfield and forward lines. That is the area that belongs to the classic No.10. Think Dennis Bergkamp. 

These are the players manager Arsene Wenger builds his brand of attacking football around. They are the technically gifted schemers who attack a defence between the lines.

Threading passes between the lines to forward-breaking runners is the essence of what Gunners fans have come to know as so-called "Wengerball."

With one or more mercurial No.10 pulling the strings, Arsenal remain a force going forward, even if they are not well-stocked in the striker position.

Finding credible cover and support for natural centre-forward Olivier Giroud has been a season-long concern. Despite Giroud's steady improvement this season and undoubted value to the way his team attacks, it is a problem Wenger is obviously mindful of.

Papiss Cisse is one of three strikers Arsene Wenger reportedly tried to acquire on transfer deadline day.
Papiss Cisse is one of three strikers Arsene Wenger reportedly tried to acquire on transfer deadline day.Stu Forster/Getty Images

Deadline day loan pursuits of striker Papiss Cisse, as well as Salomon Kalou and Miroslav Klose, serve as ample proof that the club wants to improve its options up front.

But if Cazorla, Ozil and Rosicky are at their best, Arsenal won't feel the shortage at striker as much. Each player has that invaluable knack for splitting a defence.

Ultimately, what does it matter which player latches onto these passes?

Think Cazorla's shrewd pass to engineer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's first goal in the recent 2-0 win over Crystal Palace. Or Ozil's superb pass to position Mathieu Flamini to seal an away win over Cardiff City at the end of November.

There was also Rosicky's delightful flick to create a shooting chance for Jack Wilshere to equalize against West Bromwich Albion back in October.

Three passes set up goals for three different players and not a striker in sight.

To put it in its simplest context, the more scoring chances this trio creates, the more goals they'll net.

But it isn't just providing chances for others that defines the likes of Cazorla, Ozil and Rosicky. Cazorla in particular has found his scoring touch at exactly the right time, netting five goals in January.

In the absence of Aaron Ramsey, Cazorla is Arsenal's biggest scoring threat from midfield. While he is not a 30-goal striker, Cazorla is, in his own way, a match winner.


Playing alongside Ozil, he essentially gives Arsenal two of the same player. The way they rotate positions alters Arsenal's shape and the flow of their passing in an instant.

It is a complementary relationship Cazorla recently endorsed to

Ultimately it’s easy to connect with guys like Wilshere, Rosicky, Mesut and all the players who play in the centre of the park.

Plus I think that our style of play is ideal for me, Rosicky and Mesut as we’re players who enjoy linking up in tight spaces. From there, the results take care of themselves as we are enjoying ourselves.

On the other hand you have Mesut and I, and we are quite similar in certain areas of our games but he has a different philosophy to me. He enjoys the freedom of being the main, central attacking midfielder that sits behind the forwards, whereas I enjoy the freedom that playing wider gives me to cut inside.

With Ramsey and Walcott on the shelf, Cazorla's goals will be as important to Arsenal's title challenge as any other factor.

Rosicky has never been as prolific as he should be. In fact, the outrageously assured playmaker has never been a lot of things he should have been with the Gunners. Injuries have seen to that.

But what the 33-year-old has remained a player whose natural inclination is to always keep the ball moving forward. Rosicky does his best work as a creator.

Tomas Rosicky can play a key role in Arsenal's title challenge.
Tomas Rosicky can play a key role in Arsenal's title challenge.Michael Regan/Getty Images

That is the quality that separates him from Wilshere, the player who actually wears No. 10, but whose current value is in more of a functionary role.

Rosicky's fitness and availability as a player who can replicate the work Cazorla and Ozil do, will be vital.

It is those who play like a No. 10, not those who wear it, who can win Arsenal this season's EPL title. Cazorla, Ozil and Rosicky define how this team attacks and scores their goals.

If they are at their best, Arsenal won't feel their lack of credible options behind Giroud. If they consistently produce, the Gunners can end a quality campaign with some deserved silverware.


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