So today we wake up with the realisation that every other top side has won and Arsenal’s catch up programme – if there is to be one – starts on Monday. Also on Monday we are quite likely to see Ozil, Alexis and Lacazette together on the pitch for the first time this season. Now that prospect is exciting for sure, as we are all anticipating the potential chemistry and interchange of movement and positions between this mouth-watering front three. However whist salivating at the prospect we simultaneously read that our German Number 10 will not accept a new deal and wants to play for his former mentor at Old Trafford.
Click-bait or otherwise, today’s headline only reinforces the harsh reality that even if the three players do click for Arsenal in 2017/18 it is likely to be a one-season arrangement. Arsenal, one would hope, is planning for life without the Chilean and the German, but the reaction on social media to the ‘Ozil to United’ headline just emphasises the split camp in our fanbase, when it comes to Mesut Ozil. The enigmatic, languid play-maker has spent four seasons at the Emirates and whilst arguably the closest player, in technique and vision, to Dennis Bergkamp – he has never quite been as universally accepted as his Dutch predecessor.
Ozil still has his Doubters
For some, perhaps myself included, he has never quite come to terms with the physical nature of the Premier League and whilst his defenders will point to the kilometres he has run, that does not always tell the whole story. It is easy to say that tackling and tracking back are not his style, but nevertheless that is a personal choice. Attributes that do not come naturally can be worked on and added to the incredible skill and visionary passing. I guess also it pains some fans to see Ozil displaying those attributes for Germany and not as often for Arsenal.
Another criticism levelled at the German maestro is that he can be known to hide or disappear in the big games or when the going gets tough. I am not sure I entirely agree with this, having witnessed many a superb display from him, most notably the Man United match in the FA Cup QF in 2015 and certainly the FA Cup Final this year. Those less enamoured with Ozil might point to the knock-out stage no-shows in the Champions League, and the ineffectual outings at Wembley in the FA Cup Final in 2014 and even 2016.
Most of the above is ultimately about perspective and personal opinion and his supporters will always, understandably and rightly, come back to his incredible statistics, which after all never lie, right? So can I bring this right back to my own view, relating this back to the stats?
For me Mesut Ozil does things on a football pitch other simply cannot do and he sees passes that others simply do not see. He has given me moments of great pleasure on numerous occasions but at the same time he frustrates me enormously on others because I am not convinced, after 4 years that he is the style of ‘10’ that Arsenal needs in the Premier League. I have written about this previously when harking back to the season before Ozil arrived and Arsenal’s main play-maker was Santi Cazorla. Ozil in for season has not impacted the Premier League as the diminutive Spaniard did in 2012/13.
We tend to forget that season when Arsenal had three players in double figures in the league for the first time in about 5 years, largely due to Santi. The Gunners scored 72 goals in finishing 4th and 23 of them were scored or assisted by Cazorla. Our much missed Spaniard playing largely centrally and latterly from the left scored 12 and assisted for 11 goals. With Podolski out of favour from February, Cazorla moved to the left with Rosicky operating centrally and he carried on creating and scoring from the wider starting berth, not once complaining.
Ozil is a passing 10, whereas Cazorla, whilst a wonderful passer was more a CAM (central Attacking Midfielder.) he would also beat a man with skill or a dribble and that attribute is one that is so required in the Premier League. Teams know how to set up against as without our runners, Cazorla, Wilshere and now Chamberlain and for a period Welbeck. Arsenal always try to pass their way through well organised defences. So how much easier might it be if the main play-maker could pass, obviously, but also beat a man to create the opportunity or space and equally as importantly shoot himself? If you look at all the most creative play-makers in our league most have all the attributes, not just a wonderful passing range – De Bruyne, Hazard, Eriksen, Silva etc are all very different play-makers to Mesut Ozil and all are largely operating from wide starting positions, where Ozil is on record as being reluctant to play.
So perhaps my question is not whether Ozil is a quality playmaker, as stats don’t lie but more is there a more effective style of playmaker for Arsenal in this hard league if the German is leaving? And yes I am getting back to the stats as promised and the inspiration for this article, which was a comment my son made before the Cologne. He basically said he would sooner have had Christian Eriksen at Arsenal than Mesut Ozil, suggesting the Dane was far better suited and more influential for our bitter rivals than the German.
Whilst it is painful to consider the comparison he may just have a point, particularly of you do want to come back to the never lying statistics. Both players arrived at the end of the 2013 Summer Transfer Window and whilst the goals and assists ate the headlines I wanted to look at two other areas for comparison which I feel are quite telling
Mesut Ozil, Arsenal, Premier League
|Season||Games||Goals||Assists||Shots||Shots on Target||Chances Created|
Christian Eriksen. Tottenham, Premier League
|Season||Games||Goals||Assists||Shots||Shots on Target||Chances Created|
Interestingly in the last two campaigns, with the emergence of Deli Alli, Eriksen, has nominally moved to a wider role in the Spurs set up and has become even more effective. Last season he proved far more creative than our own playmaker, notching up 6 more assists and creating more chances for his colleagues than Ozil.
What is clear is that there is little to choose between the two players on assists, with Ozil, as you might expect, as the ‘Assist King’ edging it but what is striking is the goal threat. I would love any future Ozil replacement to be more willing to shoot from outside the box, when passing options are limited. How often have we as fans watched out team pass it from side to side on the edge of the opponent’s penalty areas and just wanted to scream ‘SHOOT’? This is something that Eriksen does on a regular basis and Ozil rarely does sadly.
In the past two seasons when Spurs have been more consistent in the Premier League than Arsenal the Spurs play-maker has had 85 attempts on target on the Premier League, to Ozil’s measly 35. Now whilst the stats also say the actually goal tally is similar we all know that a true top ‘10’ should be able to add a significant number of goals to his creative output.
Shoot Mesut Shoot
Over 4 seasons the Dane has 378 goal attempts some 250% plus more than Mesut Ozil. It is simply staggering to me then that our German 10 has been selected consistently in a front 3 or 4 by Wenger, largely accommodated centrally and he has averaged barely more than a shot a game in the Premier League and nowhere near an attempt per match on target! Indeed the Dane tried to score on more occasions just in 2016/17 when Spurs finished runners up, than Ozil has attempted in the last three campaigns!!
Huge apologies to use a Spurs player to illustrate a point but for my money Arsenal’s next creative hub, when Ozil leaves, as he almost certainly will, to United or otherwise, needs to be more than a visionary passer. We need a 10 who had the passing range and vision of Ozil but also has the ability to beat a man and has a willingness to shoot on sight or when options are limited.
Having said all that it may just be the manager telling Ozil not to shoot, in which case apologies Mesut!!