After securing the signature of Mesut Ozil for a club record of £42.4 million,big things were expected from Arsenal this season.The talismanic German midfielder was expected to fire up things at the Emirates and in the early stages of the season he managed to meet those expectations.
Ozil took 11 minutes to introduce himself, a delightful first touch to take control of a ball down the left from Kieran Gibbs, a second to tee up Olivier Giroud who strode onto the pass to score Arsenal’s opening goal against Sunderland in September.
It all looked effortless and only later did there come the admission from Arsène Wenger that he was not supposed to play. His rich vein of form continued until Christmas, which saw Arsenal go seven points clear at the top until that goal-less draw against Chelsea in December,which completely changed the course of their season.
After starting the season as serious title contenders, courtesy of sparkling displays from their record signing Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud, Arsenal now are back to where they have been in the seasons gone-by.
They are currently seven points behind leaders Chelsea and their situation isn't improving for the good. That doesn't mean that they are out of the title race, but looking at the dip in the form of their star man over a couple of months, it wouldn't be an understatement if we said that will yet again have to settle for fourth place.
He was substituted in the hard-hitting draw against Bayern Munich in midweek ,the sort of matches which he was bought in for.
A series of disappointing displays from the star midfielder will be as perplexing for Arsene Wenger as the injury which caused his withdrawal from the match. He hasn't scored in the Premier League since before Christmas,and more tellingly, his ability to to influence games with a mind-boggling range of passes that made him the indisputable "king of assists" at the start of the season has vanished.
What is the reason of Ozil's vanishing-act in the big games?
Firstly, it's the transition from a league where physical aspects don't matter much, La Liga, to a competition where physical prowess forms a major chunk of the success which teams enjoy.
Ozil, pretty evidently hasn't adjusted swiftly to this transition,as a result of which he is undergoing a weight-management programme.
Secondly, it's the absence of star strikers in the Arsenal squad. At Madrid, Ozil was surrounded by a galaxy of superstars in attack, namely Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Angel di Maria and Xabi Alonso.
However,the situation at Arsenal is completely different. He has the massively talented but still to be pruned Jack Wilshere behind him, along with the energetic and talented Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, who leads the pack. What I'm trying to say is that even though these players are good, their counterparts at Madrid were far superior to them and eased off the burden on Ozil's shoulders.
At a club like Arsenal where trophies have become a far-fetched dream,the fans expect the German international to do wonders, forgetting that football is played with an entire team and not an individual. This immense pressure has taken its toll on Ozil, causing him to vanish during the big matches.
However, fitness has been the most important issue in Ozil's slump of form. The prolific midfielder played 2036 minutes in the La Liga last season, and has already racked up 1855 minutes in the Premier League this term with 2 months of the current campaign still left.
Here, fingers also point towards Wenger for using or rather overusing his club-record buy. Back in October when Ozil scored twice in a 4-1 win over Norwich, the tracking data shows that he made 67 sprints during the game.
In early November, he hit new heights with 71 sprints in a 2-0 home win over Liverpool that put the Gunners five points clear at the top of the Premier League table.
However, Arsenal were beaten next time out against Manchester United and things haven't looked quite so rosy since.
Ozil has not performed 50 sprints in a match since that Liverpool game.Most alarmingly of all, the trend continues. Since Boxing Day, Ozil has not produced more than 40 sprints in a match, with his tally of 27 in 84 minutes against Crystal Palace representing a new low.
Against Liverpool last month he sprinted just 22 times before being substituted shortly after the hour mark. "He didn't have the best of games, but that can happen," said Wenger. "He works very hard to adapt to the physical level of the Premier League."
Ozil's body language and attitude could also be a factor in this dip in form. However, at just 25 years of age, you would expect him to overcome all of these problems and one day prove to everyone why Arsenal broke the bank for him.
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