Is Arsene Wenger developing Mesut Ozil into the complete player?

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It seems that Mesut Ozil can't do anything right in an Arsenal shirt at the moment.

The playmaker's lacklustre displays have left Gunners fans more than frustrated. Having arrived as the best No.10 in world football last summer, they are worried that Ozil is heading down the same dark road Fernando Torres took when he joined Chelsea.

It is hard not to compare the two. Ozil has looked a shadow of his former self with Arsenal so far this season. Not only is he failing to find team-mates with simple passes, but he is also failing at the basics, like holding up the ball and dribbling.

However, people quick to jump on the Ozil-is-a-flop bandwagon have failed to look at the stats. Instead they look to Ozil's miserable demeanor and nonchalant style, concluding that he simply is not interested.

Statistical strength

A quick look at Who Scored tells you all is not wrong with the German. During his final season with Real Madrid, Ozil averaged 37 passes a game and completed an average of 2.8 key passes leading to 13 goals. His pass completion rate was an impressive 84.1 per cent.

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At Arsenal, the number of passes has naturally gone up to 63 a game. Despite this, Ozil has improved his success rate to 88 per cent. Many fans will argue that Ozil is playing easier passes and is therefore completing more, but he has average 2.9 key passes per game since joining the Gunners, more than at Real Madrid.

One problem for Ozil is that it is tougher to gather buckets of assists when Cristiano Ronaldo is not flying in front of you. Instead Olivier Giroud and Yaya Sanogo were asking for the ball to be pumped up to them so they can hold it up while Ozil runs forward; not exactly his style.

An Arsenal education

Calls to drop Ozil do not come without substance. Ozil is failing to fit into the current Arsenal line up, taking place on the left wing while Aaron Ramsey fills in the coveted No.10 role. It's a strange decision from Arsene Wenger, especially when established stars Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are itching to get on the pitch.

However, Wenger has a long history of playing midfielders on the wings. The Frenchman considers it crucial for central midfielders to play in different positions to make them more complete.

Wenger famously did this with Arsenal favourite Ray Parlour, turning the distinctly average midfielder into a dynamic player as a result. Those accusing Wenger of shortsightedness should also not forget that Arsenal are currently reaping the benefits of this exact tactic.

Ramsey model

Aaron Ramsey has become a crucial player for the Gunners, popping up with goals and assists galore in the last 18 months. If you told an Arsenal fan that Ramsey would be Arsenal's best player in April 2012, they would have laughed at you. That is because the young Welshman was struggling to establish himself in the Arsenal side and looked like a fish out of water on the left wing.

Wenger played Ramsey out wide in games against the likes of Everton and Manchester City to the bafflement of everyone. Ramsey could not be more of a central midfielder if he tried and could barely accomplish the most basic tasks out wide.

But look at him now. The 23-year-old simply glides past players, seemingly having an age on the ball and scores for fun. Wenger's decision to play him on the left is virtually forgotten but has since proved a masterstroke.

Wenger said of Ramsey at the time: "I don't think [playing on the left] is a long-term option for him because he is more a central player in the way I see him developing.

"It is not linked with one position, it is to balance the team. I think in the education of a player it is important that he plays in different positions."

In the same interview, Wenger also delivered a superb bit of insight, predicting that Ramsey will one day become an important goalscorer for Arsenal.

He continued: "He always looks like he will score but doesn't score at the moment. Once that will be done I think he will be more relaxed in front of goal and score more.

Ozil model

If there is one thing Wenger has criticised Ozil since he signed him, it is that he needs to score more goals.

There was no pressure on Ozil to score at Real Madrid but Wenger's model for a football team does not place the goalscoring responsibility on one player like Los Blancos. He likes to spread it out around the team.

That is why Wenger has been filling his team with dynamic forward players. Arsenal's reliance on Robin van Persie in the 2011/12 season was so anti-Wenger that we are unlikely to see a poaching goalscorer at Arsenal again, so long as Wenger remains in charge.

Wenger wants Ozil to score more goals. His tactics demand it of him and, like it or not, Ozil is going to have to change his style, take on more responsibility and swap assists for finishes.


Playing on the wing looks alien to Ozil now, but it will allow the German to improve his overall ability as a player. He played in the centre for Werder Bremen and at Real Madrid, leaving his dribbling technique severely lacking.

Ozil will learn to create more space for himself, to provide the perfect pass with less time on the ball and pass players with apparent ease. These are all key attributes for wingers and in Wenger's fluid system, they are key for all the midfielders.

If he wants to improve, Ozil will improve. If he wants to succeed at Arsenal, he has the talent to do so. The notion that Wenger is not strong enough to drop star players is simply untrue. Wenger will see the effort Ozil puts in training; something no one else will. If Ozil was not trying on a day-to-day basis, there is no way he would still be in the team.

It will require patience, but luckily Ozil still has plenty of time to succeed at Arsenal. He has plenty of miles on the clock and, as Ramsey proved, it only takes one outstanding season to become a key player in the eyes of Arsenal fans.

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Aaron Ramsey
Premier League

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