Arsenal outcast Mesut Ozil has aimed a subtle dig at critics who believe the No.10 role is dead in modern football as he praised the impact of young teammate Emile Smith Rowe.
The German World Cup winner appears to be on the verge of leaving the Gunners after being frozen out by manager Mikel Arteta, not playing for the club since March, with a move to Fenerbahce increasingly likely to happen this month.
Arsenal struggled for creativity in the absence of Ozil for much of the season, but in recent weeks Smith Rowe has stepped in to fill the void with several excellent performances.
While Ozil was full of praise for a player fans have dubbed the ‘Croydon Kevin De Bruyne’ he could not resist highlighting the fact that Smith Rowe plays in a role that some people believe has become outdated.
Asked for his thoughts on Arsenal’s 20-year-old playmaker during a Twitter Q&A, Ozil replied: ‘He made the difference in the last couple of games as a No.10.
‘Really happy for him.
‘And he showed that playing with a No.10 can still make sense in today’s football.’
Ozil’s critics – and even old boss Arsene Wenger – have suggested his languid, creative playing style cannot be accommodated in the modern game, but the German clearly feels Smith Rowe has proved them wrong.
However, some fans noted that while they play in the same area of the pitch they have vastly different styles, with Smith Rowe’s pressing, harrying and all-round defensive work rate being just as important as his creativity.
Speaking to BBC Sport last year, Wenger said of Ozil: ‘The way football is going at the moment it’s quick counter-pressing, quick transitions and everybody plays the same. It’s kicked out players like Ozil.’
Ozil also praised Smith Rowe earlier this year after his fine display against West Brom, tweeting: ‘Nice game my boys! Great spirit – three wins in a row. Team looks good with a No.10 like Emile Smith Rowe – the difference maker.’
The 32-year-old currently has six months left to run on his contract with Arsenal – worth £350,000-a-week – and is now free to negotiate with foreign clubs, with Fenerbahce hopeful of securing a permanent deal for him this month.
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