Can Mikel Arteta resurrect Mesut Ozil's career?
Background photo: wonker CC BY 2.0.
Arsenal kicked off the new year with a victory as they look to get back on the right track in 2020. The Gunners subjected Manchester United to a 2-0 defeat on Wednesday night. which served as a morale booster for Mikel Arteta's men who are trying to move on from their slow start to the season. Although several players impressed, it was Mesut Ozil whose performance was the most pleasing.
The German is amongst the biggest signings the club has made in their history. Arsenal fans could hardly believe it when his £42.5 million transfer from Real Madrid was confirmed in the summer of 2013. As with every top player that arrives at a new club, the introduction of Ozil brought hope to North London.
The midfielder delivered on the promise in his debut campaign, quickly establishing himself as an undisputed starter under Arsene Wenger. The playmaker recorded 42 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, earning himself plaudits from fans and praise from pundits. He'd also get a new chant, too.
Ozil only improved from there. His silky touches, defense-splitting passes, and build-up play added more strength to Arsenal's midfield. The team's level of performance was raised significantly with the German running riot from the centre of the pitch. Arsenal would go on to win an FA Cup while Ozil had grown into probably the finest chance-creator in the country. Unfortunately, that wouldn't last long.
The U-turn came towards the end of the Arsene Wenger era and it didn't get better under Unai Emery. From the get-go, Ozil's relationship with Emery looked problematic. During their first Premier League game together, a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea, the German was anonymous, struggling to make an impact throughout. From that point forward, he'd only trend downwards.
In the following games it became apparent that Emery's system didn't suit the 31-year-old. Although Ozil made 36 appearances, he could only contribute just six goals and three assists in all competitions. That was the first time he failed to hit double figures for goals and assists in the Arsenal jersey; highlighting that his relationship with the Spanish manager just wasn't working out.
It should be noted that Ozil recorded seven goals and 14 assists in his first year at the Emirates Stadium and followed it up with five goals and nine assists in the following campaign. The midfielder made waves when he was named the most creative player in Europe during the 2015/2016 season. He finished that term with 19 assists in the Premier League while adding eight goals across all competitions.
If you compare those numbers with the ones from last season (six goals and three assists), the drop in form becomes obvious, that's before you mention his reduced involvement in build-up play. Ozil is a player who needs to be the focal point in any attacking setup. As soon as you take that away from him, the German is practically rendered useless.
Fortunately, it isn't too late. The Gunners can still witness their playmaker at his best under the management of Mikel Arteta. The gaffer has only been in charge for a couple of weeks though all the pointers suggest Ozil is going to be the key creator of his system.
Ozil was one of the brightest players on the pitch during the 2-1 loss to Chelsea and in the 2-0 victory over Manchester United, he produced his best Arsenal performance in well over a year. Surprisingly, the playmaker regained possession 10 times; more than any other player during the match, which puts to bed all talk about his lackadaisical attitude. He also covered the most distance by an Arsenal player (11.53km). Those are signs of what is to come under the new manager. If things continue like this, the 31-year-old will only get better and perhaps for Ozil and Arsenal, there is light at the end of the tunnel...