GiveMeSport Live from the Emirates Stadium.
Once a man deemed weak and lazy by his critics, the transformation that Mesut Ozil has undergone since his arrival in north London is staggering.
When the Germany international signed for the Gunners in 2013, expectation was rife that Arsene Wenger had found the creative spark capable of replacing Cesc Fabregas, who left for Barcelona two years previously.
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Widely renowned as the 'assist king' upon his club-record transfer, Ozil's talent was clear from day one - but there was still a lot to be desired.
Having arrived from La Liga - a physically inferior league - the former Real Madrid star was accustomed to space and time to showcase his creativity, rather than being hassled by his opponents.
Yet from the moment Ozil set foot on English turf, he often found himself bullied off the ball far too easily, much to the frustration of fans.
Oh, how times have changed. It's a testament not only to Ozil's undoubted ability and determination to improve, but Arsene Wenger's tutelage, of how far the German has come since he made his debut against Sunderland on September 12 two years ago.
The 27-year-old has been simply breathtaking this season, notching a remarkable 11 assists in 13 Premier League games, with his performance against Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League on Tuesday night encapsulating all that has improved in his game.
Following his knee injury last Christmas that ruled him out for three months, the midfielder made a concerted effort to bulk up - and such strength transcended into the Gunners’ must win clash against Zagreb.
Throughout Arsenal’s comfortable 3-0 win, Ozil frequently dropped into the depths of midfield to collect the ball, even when under pressure, and distribute play across the wide Emirates pitch.
Under the watchful eye of Zagreb's defence and midfield, the German proved more than capable of fending off those who dared try dispossess him, using his strength, balance and control to retain the ball and find the right pass.
Coinciding with Ozil's new-found ability to hold his own is how the German has matured into not just a technically gifted player, but an intelligent one.
Arsenal's midfield maestro is far more calculated with the balls he plays, the runs he makes and the skills he uses to escape the grasp of opponents, and has emerged an unlikely leader at the Emirates because of it.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
The way he glides across the pitch, deftly dribbling past defenders and playing delicate yet accurate balls to his team-mates, is a sight to behold; Ozil inspires and motivates through his performances, to which the midfielder has also added a high work ethic.
It’s perhaps his goalscoring exploits that have improved most, however. Often scrutinised for his lack of input in the goals department, Ozil's movement and inclination to sprint into dangerous areas have proven vital to Arsenal this season.
Take his goal against Zagreb, for example. His clever run allowed Alexis Sanchez a target to aim for and the German duly converted with a smart header. The Ozil of old, who would hesitate to commit himself and dart into the box, is no more.
If there was ever any question of the attacking midfielder's status as a world-class player, his performances this season have dispelled any doubt.
He arrived at the Emirates Stadium a player with an unerring ability to pick out his man and create countless chances, but now, following two difficult years in what is widely regarded the world's toughest league, Ozil has eclipsed his former self and justified his status as football's greatest number ten.
Arsenal fans: how impressed have you been by Ozil's development at Arsenal? Let us know in the comments below!
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