Özil will propel the Gunners back to their best.
When Mesut Özil’s injury situation was revealed in October and it was confirmed the midfielder would be out of action for nearly three months, you’d have been hard pressed to have found an Arsenal fan who wasn’t going in to panic mode.
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Whilst some old heads in the mainstream media had decided to take it upon themselves to hound and harangue the German at every available opportunity and question everything from his footballing ability to his pay cheque, the North London faithful knew just what a massively influential player they had lost and how badly the side would hurt in his absence.
It’s not hard to see the Gunners have struggled this season and whilst the common consensus may be that their lack of dominating midfield presence and resoluteness at the back is the reason for their failings, the reason Arsenal have had such a torrid time so far could be put down to the absence of their record signing.
Whilst he may not have always provided the eye catching assist or set up the most crucial goal like he is expected to, Özil’s was the glue that held the Gunners together.
His unique ability to keep the ball under immense pressure, drive into the opposition half and protect possession until his teammates arrive in support was the basis of their attacking play.
Indeed this ability to make the ball stick is keenly showed in the German star’s stats, with David Silva the only player before Ozil’s injury to have more touches in the opposition half, and again the Spaniard was the only player with more successful passes in the opposition final third.
The 26-year-old is the metronome to Arsene Wenger’s side and without their midfield maestro the Gunners have continually struggled to impose themselves on games and employ their usual dominance on the ball. It’s as if they’re simply unable to keep hold of it long enough.
But this isn’t to say his assists aren’t vital for his side’s success either and whilst the common consensus is that Özil is lazy and indifferent when things don’t go his way, the stats paint a markedly different picture.
At the middle of December last season, the 2014 World Cup winner had a league leading seven assists averaging around 0.61 assists per 90 minutes of action. Then as Arsenal began to lose key personnel to their ever present injury curse his goal creating dried up as teams began to single out the German and allow opposition to focus their efforts to prevent him work his magic.
Thereafter his assists dried up and his contribution waned before a long term injury cut his season short, only able to make a cameo towards the end and help his side lift he FA Cup, and he was never able to find his best form again.
And yet he still managed to create a league leading 18.7% of his side’s chances ahead of the likes of Luis Suarez and Eden Hazard.
The truth is with the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey all returning to fitness as the same time as Özil, Arsenal finally have a conductor with which to orchestrate their side and develop their play rather than continually rely on the individual brilliance, particularly from current hero Sanchez.
With Ozil back in contention, the North Londoners may finally get the swagger back that they had for so much of last year after the former Real Madrid man’s £42.4 million move.
The public might not see it but Wenger, Özil and the Arsenal fans will know he is simply essential to their success.