Talking Tactics

Sanchez shift bringing the best out of Ozil

By Adrian Clarke 12 Nov 2016
Arsenal v Chelsea, Ozil and Sanchez

Looking at best partnerships, Adrian Clarke on how new roles have boosted Arsenal's pair

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In the second part on the Premier League’s best combinations, Adrian Clarke looks how new roles have developed a dangerous Arsenal duo.

Great players always look for each other on the pitch. It is a natural inclination.

We have seen Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Diego Costa (159 passes) link up at every opportunity in recent weeks, while Manchester United’s Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (179 passes) are doing likewise at Old Trafford.

At Arsenal, a similar pattern has emerged, with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil striking up a brilliant understanding.

Arsenal v Chelsea
Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have struck up a brilliant understanding this season, says Adrian Clarke

Arsene Wenger’s use of Sanchez as a roving centre-forward has changed the dynamic of their relationship. One consequence is a greater willingness by Ozil to make forward runs.

Whenever Sanchez drops short or floats wide, Arsenal need their midfielders to push on and break into spaces beyond him. Ozil has proved more adept at that than most.

Timing his bursts to perfection, Ozil has scored three goals from pinpoint Sanchez crosses.

When the two swap roles it has left opposition defenders flummoxed. 

Sanchez to Ozil assists 2016/17
Alexis Sanchez has assisted Mesut Ozil on three occasions in 2016/17

Together the Sanchez-Ozil axis has created 12 goalscoring chances this season.

Perhaps surprisingly, it is the South American who has teed up his team-mate more, seven times, with Ozil laying on five in return.

While I expect Ozil to overtake his team-mate in the creative head-to-head, the pattern is an indication of the fluidity with which Arsenal have played across their opening 11 matches.

There is also a third party who has a big say in this equation: Santi Cazorla.

The Spaniard has been determined to seek out Ozil as often as possible (see table below) and with German playmaker doing the same with Sanchez, a high-quality triangle has formed at Emirates Stadium.

Most passes between players (excl. defenders)

Player 1 Player 2 P1-P2 passes P2-P1 passes Total
Milner Coutinho 118 86 204
Cazorla Ozil 113 74 187
Ozil Sanchez 101 78 179
Pogba Ibrahimovic 96 83 179

Once Cazorla is back to full fitness, it will be interesting to see how these three gifted footballers develop their blossoming connection.

If it becomes slicker, that will boost Arsenal’s title prospects.

Tomorrow Adrian Clarke on a Crystal Palace pair whose understanding is unrivalled in the Premier League.

See: Partnerships: Everton's Bolasie and Lukaku

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