Who would have thought it, by playing a World Class player in his favoured position, granting him the freedom to get around the pitch that he desires, results in World Class performances.
This is now Mesut Ozil’s 3rd season at the club. It has been a love hate relationship. People’s comments on his ability have tended to side on whether you back Wenger or despise him.
Back him, and you would have pointed to obscure statistics showing that he has the highest pass percentage in the Premier League using his little toe on his right foot.
Believe he is useless and you would have questioned his work rate, desire and toughness.
What has happened this season though is he has come into his own. This season, he has been Arsenal’s stand out performer.
Before now, he was a scapegoat. He had not performed to his previous high ability at Real Madrid. Plenty of myths as to why he had no performed. Mainly surrounding where he had been played. People tended to ignore the fact that he played every (or almost every, I do not have the energy to look it up) minute in Germany’s World Cup winning side. And that he had previously played on the wings countless times for club and country.
It was easy to blame the positioning and therefore the management, for his struggles. Or perceived struggles.
What a lot of the criticism came down to was a lack of understanding about Mesut Ozil the player. He was not a Messi. A Neymar. A Hazard. A player who would pick up the ball, take it past 4 players and bend one in the corner. He is just simply not that type of player.
Now people are starting to appreciate his set of skills, a very particular set of skills, skills he has acquired over a very long career.
Whilst I have slightly contradicted myself talking about positions, it is the freedom that he has been given playing in the middle that has now seen him flourish.
Ozil follows the ball. When you watch him closely, he is always there, always available, within a 10 yard pass of the ball. He loves to be involved. Playing in the middle means he can follow the ball, left and right, without it destroying the sides structure.
He drifts into pockets of space, where he is hard to pick up, dragging players out of position, creating space for other players to move into.
His movement, his ability, everything about his game at the moment is exceptional.
He is the king of assists. But we already knew that didn’t we?
With 9 assists this season, he has 3 more than the next highest on the list, David Silva, with 6.
In fact, he has more assists this season than Juan Mata, Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Coutinho. Combined. Between them they have just the 8.
Of course, there will still be those who will always be on Ozil’s back, unable to ever accept him as the talent he is. However, these people are idiots. what they are doing is using Ozil as a pawn to bash Wenger. An example of how Wenger ruins players (untrue). An example of how Wenger can not spend big money (whilst also demanding that Wenger need’s to spend big money).
It is mad to think that Mesut Ozil has only just turned 27. It seems like a decade ago that he ran past the heavy legged Gareth Barry for Germany. He is entering his peak. And will continue to get better.
With the way Ozil plays, he does not rely on blistering pace. Realistically, he has another 6/7 years in him at the top level. Pulling the strings at Arsenal.
In 1995, Arsenal signed a 26 year old Dutchman named Dennis Bergkamp. 11 seasons and 423 appearances later, he became an Arsenal legend.
If Ozil wants to, he can also become an Arsenal legend.
He is that good.