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George Graham says he’s extremely impressed with the job Mikel Arteta is doing at Arsenal, but insists he must finally offload outcast Mesut Ozil.
The Spanish boss guided the Gunners to FA Cup glory in his first season as a manager after assuming the role last December.
However, the new campaign has been a mixed bag for the north London side. They managed to beat Manchester United at Old Trafford in the league for the first time in 14 years, but just a week later were thumped 3-0 by Aston Villa.
Those results mean Arteta’s side go into the international break in 11th place in the table after losing four of their opening eight matches.
Meanwhile, summer signing Gabriel has impressed with his solid defensive displays, while £45million acquisition Thomas Partey was showing plenty of promise before an ankle injury forced him off the pitch at half-time against Villa.
But former Arsenal manager Graham – who guided the club to two league titles, two League Cups, an FA Cup and a European Cup Winners’ Cup – admitted he has been satisfied with Arteta’s work so far.
‘I’m very pleased with what he’s done recently,’ Graham told talkSPORT. ‘He’s already won cups and he’s only been there two minutes.
‘I like the way he’s trying to play out a bit more. I was very strong defensively and it worked for me. We won a lot of games by the odd goal. ‘I like the way they’re playing under Arteta. He brought in a very strong midfield player [Thomas Partey] and a defender [Gabriel] from Brazil. ‘It looks to me that he’s spending their money – which is not a lot – very well.’
One of Arteta’s main challenges has been dealing with Ozil, who hasn’t played a game for the club since March. The German – who is on wages of £350,000-a-week – was left out of Arsenal’s Europa League and Premier League squads for this season.
And Graham slammed the club’s handling of his contract situation, insisting Arteta must move him on. ‘It’s very difficult,’ Graham added.
‘The first thing you say is, ‘who is the person who sorted the contract?’ ‘Did the rest of the board see that contract and agree to it? That was a bad decision.
‘We’ve got to try and get rid of him and pay half his wages if he goes to another club, but even then it’s too expensive.
‘He’s got to be in a team that’s dominating games and he’s got to be on the ball as much as possible.
‘Without the ball… just no. He is definitely lacking, not even at the top level. Without the ball he’s not good enough. With the ball he can be good enough, but he has to be in a good team.
‘He was up and down like a yo-yo under Arsene Wenger. He obviously isn’t playing into the new manager’s style.
‘You play when you’ve got the ball but you also play when you haven’t got possession. He’s just not up to the standard that Arteta wants.’