Brave or foolhardy? Loyal Arsène Wenger puts his faith in Mesut Özil

Arsenal’s mercurial midfielder has a creative streak his manager believes can help them unpick Premier League standard bearers Manchester City

To Özil or not to Özil? That was the question that felt strikingly relevant the last time Arsenal embarked on one of those typically complicated away assignments against a top opponent. In mid-September they went to Stamford Bridge, having been humiliated at Anfield, and sprang a surprise with the kind of robust discipline and tireless effort that was a leap out of stereotype.

Hmmm, we all thought sagely, observing this atypical approach that seemed to be working much better than the usual big away-day crumble. Before long everyone put two and two together and came up with an absent No11. It was an interesting example of what Arsenal could do without their mercurial craftsman and his elusive gifts, which can waver when confronted by the highest-intensity Premier League power.

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