The former Arsenal midfielder believes Unai Emery should be favouring German creativity over Armenian flair in a crunch Europa League tie with Napoli
Mesut Ozil has to be trusted to lead Arsenal’s Europa League charge, says Paul Merson, as “for all his faults, he is still a match-winner”.
The Gunners are readying themselves for a crunch continental clash with Napoli.
Heading into Thursday’s return leg of that contest, Unai Emery’s side boast a 2-0 advantage.
They are expected to face more of a threat from Serie A opponents on Italian soil, with it imperative that they get their team selection right.
Merson believes World Cup winner Ozil should be at the centre of those plans, with Emery urged to favour the German playmaker and resist the urge to use Henrikh Mkhitaryan alongside him.
The former Gunners midfielder told the Daily Star: “I would play Ozil. They will need to score an away goal. You can’t play him and Henrikh Mkhitaryan together in a game like this.
“But play Ozil and let him try to unpick that Napoli defence and create something. For all his faults, he is still a match-winner.
“He’s not going to score you a goal but he could make you one for somebody else, probably Alex Lacazette.
“Arsenal can’t afford to be too gung-ho, but they could leave Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the bench just in case they need a goal late in the game.”
Merson added on the challenge facing Arsenal against Napoli, with a semi-final spot up for grabs: “I thought they needed another goal in the first leg.
“They probably could have won that game 7-2 they had so many chances and a week later it could be the same game the other way around.
“Arsenal will be hanging on because this is a good Napoli team. I’ve seen them rip Liverpool apart.
“But if you can’t defend a two-goal lead away from home you don’t deserve to be in the semi-finals anyway, so I think they will go through.
“I think they have to get through the first 20 minutes and quiet the crowd and they should be okay, but this is an Arsenal team that has hardly kept a clean sheet away all season.
“So it could get very tense by the end of the game and I can see them having to survive a bit of an onslaught.”
Arsenal reached the last four of the Europa League last season, before coming unstuck against Atletico Madrid, and are now chasing down a first major honour of Emery’s reign – with the Spaniard having previously tasted continental success on three occasions with Sevilla.
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