It’s hard coming to grips with the fact that Saturday’s FA Cup Final against Chelsea could be Mesut Özil’s last match in an Arsenal kit.
I don’t want to believe it. I think that between he and Alexis Sánchez, the German is more likely to stay. Still, with Arsène Wenger’s future in doubt, a forthcoming Europa League campaign, and Mesut’s desire for one last big contract, there’s a significant chance that he won’t play for the Gunners again after this weekend.
A Mesut-less Arsenal next season is a dark timeline to ponder. That level of loss could only be dealt with through a significant therapy bill or by binge-ing The Leftovers. In order to stave off the sadness, let’s take a look back at what made him so great for Arsenal.
The End of the Poverty Era
Özil’s first contribution to the club wasn’t even on the pitch. It was busting through Arsenal’s near decade-long austerity in one fail swoop. As much as Arsenal fans were thrilled by the prospect of a Balon D’Or shortlister joining the club, they were also thrilled that Arsenal had come through the early Emirates era of tight-spending. Unfortunately, Özil may be remembered more for that fact than anything else, if his time in North London ends over the summer.
Picking a favorite Özil assist is like picking what cliche to use in this sentence. It’s nearly impossible. If I had to pick one, it’s probably his back heel through ball to Olivier Giroud against West Ham United. There’s also a soft spot in my heart for his perfect crosses which leave goalkeepers with an impossible decision to make. His deliveries to Giroud, Alexis, and Aaron Ramsey against Everton, Leicester City, and Cardiff City, respectively, stand out in that category. Hell, he even put one on a platter and got Kieran Gibbs a goal against Tottenham Hotspur. It’s unfortunately we never really paired him with a striker that could consistently take advantage of his throughballs. Still, no player has more Premier League assists than Özil since he joined Arsenal. We expected elite goal contributions from the playmaker when we signed him and we have gotten them.
The First Touch
If you had to pick from the whole of world football, are there 5 players out there with better first touches than Özil? It’s truly elite, and has led to some exciting moments (see: Ludogorets Razgrad). It’s so common place, we have gotten used to it. The times he doesn’t control the ball perfectly are shocking and the expectation of perfection leads to annoyance. We’ll miss his technical quality when he’s gone.
The FA Cup Titles
Minimally, Özil will have played a role in 2 trophies in his 4 seasons with the Gunners. If we somehow can beat Chelsea, that record will be 3 in 4. He will have played an integral part in ending the decade-long trophy drought for Arsenal and should be commended for that fact.
I listed mine above, but what about you? What are some of your best memories of the magic that is Mesut Özil?