Time for Mesut Ozil to prove his worth to Arsenal

When Ozil joined Arsenal from Real Madrid during the last seconds of the summer transfer window, the entire football fraternity was surprised for two reasons.

One- nobody saw it coming. There were no reports that the German superstar wants to leave Real Madrid. He was happy, he was loved and he was always a class act. Why would he come to a club which has not won a trophy for 8 years? Second reason was his price. At 42.5 million pounds, he is Arsenal biggest buy ever by a very big margin and the second most expensive transfer in English football after Fernando Torres’ move from Liverpool to Chelsea. And Arsenal does not spend big. They look for young talents, bargain buys. In that amount, in old days, Arsene would have bought 3-4 players.

But considering how big clubs are criticized for spending ridiculously on average players, not many raised their voice on this acquisition. Majority felt that Ozil’s price was justified. One of the world’s best playmaker who always has an eye for a killer pass that split defences; the prospect of him linking with Arsenal glittering midfield was mouth watering.

He did start brilliantly. 4 assists in 2 games and then a goal against Napoli in Champions League and there were smiles everywhere. Arsene was smiling, Ozil was smiling, fans were ecstatic. Life was good. Optimism was flowing around Emirates. Ozil had brought a feel good factor to this club and people associated with it and it was time to en cash it. And still, his price was not talked about.

They say all good things come to an end. Unfortunately, it happened to Arsenal too. Since the turn of the year, Ozil’s game has dipped hugely. And this is hurting Arsenal- both in terms of the performances and morale. What’s worse- Ozil is not doing enough to change the things. Instead of a man who can change a game, he looks resigned, looks tired. And these are not good signs for Arsenal.

The penalty he won against Bayern Munich last night was a game changing moment. Penalty against big oppositions in big games come at a premium and when they do, you have to take it. Ozil was casual and looking on television, it would be fair to say that his run suggested he was not the best choice to take that. He had already missed a penalty against Marseille in the same competition and that would have certainly played on his mind. Had Olivier Giroud or Mikel Arteta or Theo Walcott would have been in the first 11, they would have been preferred to take the spot kick. He missed the kick and throughout the remaining 80 minutes, his performance dropped.

Those who have seen him from his early days at Madrid, they know that Ozil is kind of laid back football. He is not most agile or fastest or physically tough. He is more finesse than power. His job is to make a difference in the final third for his side; at times when the opposition sits deep and is hard to break down and that is why Arsenal has paid that money for him. Although he has always been criticized for not being a big game player who can make a difference; there is no doubt about his talent. You don’t win German player of the year award twice in a row for nothing.

But there was always a question about his work rate, his willingness to run back and help the back line in clearing the danger. In the last 10 minutes or so, he totally runs out of gas. This is the same reason why Mourinho ousted Mata from Chelsea. Twice Chelsea Player of the Season award did not matter to the Special One. What he wanted from Mata was not being offered by the Spaniard and with the cushion of supremely talented attacking midfielders at his disposal (Oscar, Hazard, Willian and now Salah); he made Mata leave against the general consensus.

For the same reason, you wonder why he did not do the same to Ozil when he was in charge of Real Madrid. There might be few valid explanations for this. The pace of the La Liga is not as fast and electric as Premier League. Also, Premier League is highly physical where many tackles go unnoticed. We have all seen Ozil lying on the ground with frustration venting out on referee and the game being played on. In La Liga, he might have won a free kick. Also, he had Ronaldo to score goals there. His electric pace and quality finishing helped Ozil move up the assists charts.

All said and done, it is obvious that Ozil has been performing below par. If fatigue is the reason, it can be done with. Otherwise he needs to up his game. Turning a 2 goal deficit will be tough at Allianz Arena but we all know it is doable. And the German has to step up and take the responsibility. He changed the mood at the Emirates when he first arrived in September. Arsenal needs one more lift for this final sprint in the last third of what has been a hugely promising and highly contested season of Barclays Premier League. Ozil has to be a man.

Originally published at

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