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Despite yesterday's loss, there's still a strong case for Özil as Player of the Year

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Arsenal's horrific defeat to Southampton yesterday illustrated, in not quite the way we'd hoped, the midfielder's importance to the team this season.

Özil didn't notch an assist yesterday, but that's happily been an anomaly so far this season .
Özil didn't notch an assist yesterday, but that's happily been an anomaly so far this season .
Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Yesterday's inauspicious loss to Southampton was the first Premier League match in which Arsenal was shut out since Sept. 19's 2-0, red-cared-aided (and Diego Costa-sullied) loss to Chelsea. While some Arsenal haters delighted in the team failing to hoist themselves to first place, which a win would have done, the team can still enjoy first place for at least a day tomorrow if they can win against Bournemouth. It will help Arsenal's cause immensely, of course, if Mesut Özil is involved and adds to either his goal or assist tally (which currently sits on two goals and a league-leading 15 assists).

There's a clear correlation this season between Özil's production and Arsenal's success, and yesterday's result makes that correlation even clearer.

In the 13 Premier League matches in which Özil has provided either a goal or an assist this season, Arsenal's won 10 and drawn 2, gathering 32 out of a possible 39 points from those matches. The only loss out of those 13 matches was the 2-1 loss to West Brom last month, which likely would have been a draw had Santi Cazorla not slipped in his attempt to convert a late-match PK.

In the four matches in which Özil played and did not contribute a goal or assist, including yesterday, Arsenal was shut out in all four, mustering a draw to Liverpool and losses in the other three matches. (In the one match this season Özil didn't play in, back in late August, Arsenal managed a 1-0 victory over Newcastle.)

Given the extremely tight race in the Premier League this year, it's likely that the key competitor from the trophy-winning team will grab Player of the Year honors (now officially known as the Barclays Player of the Season).

For Manchester City, Kevin De Bruyne is emerging as a candidate as teammates Sergio Aguero and David Silva vacillate between heroics and injuries. For Leicester, of course, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez are in contention, and even though Vardy had an impressive string of goals in 11 straight matches early in the season, Mahrez appears positioned to be the Foxes' best full-season player. Of the other Arsenal players in the mix, there's certainly an argument to be made for Petr Cech's contributions, though Arsenal did lose hold of its least goals allowed status thanks to yesterday's barrage.

But if Arsenal does indeed win the title, and should the correlation continue to bear out (which will certainly mean there's a Premier League assist record broken in the process), Özil will have made a case to become Arsenal's first Player of the Year since Thierry Henry won it in 2006, even if he doesn't go the traditional glut of goals route. The '15-'16 version of Arsenal, more often than not, has needed just a single, well-timed pinpoint pass from Özil to help propel the team to victory.