Cunning, precise, and creative are just some of the words that were used to describe Mesut Ozil during his time at Real Madrid. The German star was more than a standout during his time at the Bernabeu, he was arguably the best attacking midfielder in the world.
From the year 2010 (when he joined Real from Werder Bremen) to 2013 (when he signed for Arsenal) he led the world in assists with 92. The reaction from Gooners worldwide was hysteria, and shock when Arsene Wenger was able to capture the signature of the icon.
While expectations were possibly too high for the new man, it was hard to blame fans for being unrealistic. Arsenal had become a team synonymous with the words cheap, and unwilling in past transfer windows. This is another reason why Wenger forking over 42.5 million pounds really excited fans.
It was obvious to fans across the entire premiership how dangerous Ozil could be in his debut game against Sunderland. He displayed supreme confidence on the ball and captured his first premier league assist in the 10th minute. He continued his performance throughout the game, by putting Theo Walcott in on goal on three separate occasions.
First Season Woes
As the season wore on, results soured for the club, and one of the main culprits amongst the fans and media was the big signing himself, Ozil. How was it that things took a turn for the worst for a club who was top of the table at the midway point? Why was Ozil to blame?
In his time at Real Madrid, Ozil was always surrounded by some of the worlds best attacking talent. With Ozil running the show from central midfield he had endless options in attack. whether it be Di Maria and his blistering pace on the right flank, or the combination of Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo and French forward Karim Benzema, he was spoiled for choice when playing passes.
He came to Arsenal and was immediately placed in the Central Attacking Midfielders role in a 4-2-3-1 formation. this was contrary to the modified 4-3-3 that was run at Real Madrid. The first problem Ozil faced was a lack of pace in attack. Giroud is a target man and excels at holding the ball up. Even though arguably the fastest player in the World, Theo Walcott starts on the right flank, Ozil was partnered up with Santi Cazorla on the left. The two players have nearly identical skill-sets.
Even so, Ozil started off the season with plenty of stellar performances. He was one of the biggest beneficiaries of Aaron Ramsey’s fantastic form and Theo Walcott’s surging runs. So where did the magic go for Arsenal? Straight to the Injured reserves…
Injuries Made Things Worse
When Ramsey and Walcott were sidelined with long term injuries in the middle of the season, Arsenal was doomed. While fans didn’t want to admit it, the writing was on the walls with the lack of squad depth and game changers off the bench. This was partially Arsene Wenger’s fault and partially bad luck for the Gunners.
With Ozil struggling with fitness (along with overworked striker Giroud) the Gunners settled for fourth. They did make the season memorable when winning the FA cup and breaking a long term trophy drought. For Ozil, it was always going to be a season to remember because it was his first in London. As for this season, Ozil will silence his critics and (hopefully) bring glory to the Emirates once again.
New Season, New Hope
Enter Alexis Sanchez. Ozil’s new teammate and answered prayer. Signed from Barcelona for 30 million, is the perfect counterpart for the German. He brings pace, dribbling and directness to a squad that seemed sometimes uncertain in attack last season. Whether deployed on the left, right, or as an out and out Centre Forward, he has world class quality. He will provide a much needed outlet for Ozil and take some of the on ball duties over, much like Cazorla did last season.
Leading the line is Olivier Giroud, who should be ready for another successful campaign as the front-man. Due to the additions of Alexis Sanchez and World Cup starlet Joel Campbell, Giroud should not be overworked and be able to contribute more towards the end of the season. Ozil will be the biggest beneficiary of the new found depth among the attacking ranks.
An important thing that many fans forgot once the season started was that Ozil was was signed on deadline day. This means that he missed the entire preseason, and beginning of the Premier League campaign. That time of the year is vital for developing chemistry with teammates and an understanding of the club’s style. Coming off a successful World Cup, anticipate Ozil to be loosely involved in proceedings this year.
The biggest difference for Ozil last season was the obvious physical nature of the Premier League. While Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid are some of the best teams in the world, the rest of La Liga is considered weak. The Spanish league is more set up for the creative type, and not necessarily the bruisers. It was obvious how much Ozil struggled with this adjustment, as he was continually knocked off the ball and outworked by his English counterparts. Since I believe that Alexis Sanchez will play on the left flank next year, look for Santi Cazorla to become a super-sub and provide Ozil much needed backup and insurance off the bench.
With a season under his belt, I see Ozil becoming one of the most dynamic attackers in the league. His keen vision and passing abilities will be extremely welcome to his neighboring attacking trio. While I see Ozil playing less games this year due to added depth, I predict a spike in production in the assists category, and a moderate rise in goals.
Statline prediction: 35 Appearances, 11 goals and 19 assists in all competitions.
At only 25 years old, Ozil has plenty of time to reestablish himself as one of the best in the world, and should be capable of staking his claim this season.