Since Mesut Özil became Arsenal’s record signing on transfer deadline day in September 2013, there has been plenty of talk over whether he was worth the £42.4m Arsenal paid for the German. Here I look at whether he has fulfilled his potential with the Gunners.
Statistically, Mesut Özil has been exceptional in his four years in England, and since the start of first season with Arsenal, he has created the most chances (407), has created the most clear-cut chances (51), and has the most league assists during this period with 42. For a player who had the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuaín in front of him during his time in Madrid, with no disrespect, when you go from truly top drawer players to players who aren’t really of the same level in a complete different league with a different type of football, it is very difficult to demand the same level of creativity and quality. But, Mesut has absolutely 100% given Arsenal that, which is backed up by the statistics. A player who had to adapt quickly to the English game with a hefty price tag, Mesut delivered just 11 minutes into his Arsenal debut, setting up Olivier Giroud’s opening goal in a 3-1 victory at Sunderland, he went on to record 10 assists in his first season, but much was made of his work rate and defensive contributions.
This adaption process was very difficult for Mesut who was written off constantly by English media outlets having being branded as “lazy” and “nicking a living” just to name two, but Özil’s game had to change to deal with the high-paced demands of the Premier League in comparison to La Liga with Real Madrid. His game went from a player who wasn’t judged on defensive work and tracking back, but creating chances and playing key passes to unlock stubborn La Liga defences and he created 324 and managed 47 assists in 105 appearances in Madrid, so to judge his performance on defensive contributions is utterly ludicrous.
Mesut is certainly a player who divides opinion amongst fans and pundits across the country but he is an extremely underrated player who has been, in my opinion, magnificent for the Gunners. People will doubt his ability to take a big game by the scruff of the neck, but for me this theory shouldn’t exist. Match-winning performances against Manchester City and United respectively, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Napoli just to name a few in recent years suggest that his ability to disappear in big games is a myth. Often overshadowed by Alexis Sanchez due to the Chilean’s excellent work rate means Özil is judged on this too but this just isn’t his game, if people were to judge Mesut on what he should be judged on, which is his ability to create chances, play key passes and unlock stubborn defences then this is a fairer reflection of judgment.
His all-round performance level in the final third of the pitch is usually always of a high level, Özil created a league-high 8 chances against Everton at Goodison Park in one of the best performances from Özil since his prolific 15/16 season, his movement, vision and elegance earned the German the man-of-the-match award in a rampant display which gave the Gunners their first away points of the season. To put it simply, at Real Madrid, Özil was given the freedom to roam and express himself without having the defensive responsibility due to the way Mourinho set his teams up, with the central midfielders less involved with offensive duties giving Özil the platform to perform at such a high level in Real Madrid’s attacking areas.
Regardless of whether Mesut Özil leaves the club in the next 10 months, I will look back on his time at Arsenal with ultimate pleasure. He’s been a terrific player for Arsenal and even if he won’t have won a league title, he almost singlehandedly dragged Arsenal to the title in 2015/16 with 19 league assists, 1 short of the all-time record, and 6 goals, his performances went under the radar slightly as Arsenal should really have won the title considering the resources available compared to eventual winner, Leicester City, but he was undoubtedly Arsenal’s star man that year. The most annoying thing about that season is that we were the only club in Europe’s top 5 leagues not to sign an outfield player when clear needs of strengthening were central midfield and centre forward, the latter probably the most important as Özil created 144 chances, averaging 4 chances a game, and had Arsenal bought a better finisher, Arsenal could’ve etched their name on the Premier League for the fourth time with Özil potentially smashing the assist record and winning player of the season.
There have been times where he frustrates, particularly when he gives the ball away and has a lackadaisical approach to winning it back but I feel his work rate has improved a lot this season and is always high on the list for ground covered. Overall I will be sad if he leaves because apart from 2015/16, Arsene Wenger has failed to build a team capable of winning big trophies around Mesut Özil, which is a real shame because he is one of the most gifted footballers I’ve had the privilege to watch.
What are your thoughts on Mesut Özil? Tweet me your opinions @alexburns1088
Occasional writer who follows the Arsenal home and away. Dennis is our greatest ever.