Football

Mesut Ozil misunderstood by short-sighted critics

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Ozil's performances under the microscope
Ozil's performances under the microscope.

Arsenal's £42.4m capture of Mesut Ozil last summer was met with sheer delight in the red half of North London and has largely seemed a marriage made in heaven ever since, but the precision playmaker's minimalist attitude towards the game has left a small section of Gunners fans and analysts feeling rather indifferent about his efforts in recent weeks.

Ozil started his Emirates career with a glut of assists that confirmed his position as statistically European football's most reliable creator of chances over the last five seasons, a remarkable feat that shows no sign of being cut short by a switch to the Premier League.

The 25-year-old laid on four assists in his first two matches for the Gunners, a seamless transition into a side heavily reliant on the kind of fluid, passing football that made the schemer such a firm favourite among his former Madrid team-mates.

Arsene Wenger's club-record signing has also attracted criticism over the past two months though, accused of not working hard enough without possession, particularly when asked to play in a wide role which requires tracking back rather than foraging forward.

Arsenal's last two Premier League victories provide a perfect microcosm of debate surrounding Ozil, with a misconception about the role he performs threatening to prevent Premier League fans truly appreciating just how special the German international is.

Ozil was largely on the periphery of Arsenal's comfortable 2-0 win over Fulham last weekend, but still created three clear-cut scoring opportunities and produced more successful passes in the final third than any other player on the pitch.

The previous Monday's hard-fought 2-1 victory over Aston Villa drew similar parallels, with Ozil far and away the most productive passer in the final third, with 45 of his 51 attempts successful.

Ozil also managed to pick out 82 of 88 successful passes, despite drawing visible fury from Olivier Giroud for not picking out the lone striker in the dying minutes at Villa Park.

Gunners fans may be disappointed that Ozil is not dictating play in a congested midfield that also features the silky skills of Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla, but simply put that just isn't they way this particular playmaker operates.

Wenger is well aware that Ozil is more of a ghost in terms of his approach to affecting play in the final third, drifting into pockets of space before delivering a killer pass that changes the course of the match in a single movement.

As Arsenal approach the business end of their push for silverware expect Ozil's efforts to be analysed intently, but the way the German pass master plays will not change markedly and that is a good thing for Gunners fans. 

Topics:
Premier League
Arsenal
Football
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