Mesut Ozil’s assist recently against Tottenham took him to ten so far this season. A quite staggering number for a team who are regularly ridiculed for not possessing a proven goalscorer.
So why are the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy getting more praise than Ozil for their performances? Granted we should not look down our noses at their respective figures so far this season. Having 25 goals and assists between them is no mean feat. However, Ozil has already matched his assists tally for the whole of the 2013/14 season. Yet he is still under appreciated in the Premier League, which is quite shocking given the fanfare around his arrival in London just over two years ago.
When he was unveiled as Arsenal’s new signing in September 2013 it was seen as the start of a new age for the Gunners. Finally the purse strings had been loosened and Arsene Wenger was allowed to shop at the lavish end of the street, rather then rummaging through the bargain bin of Europe’s lower leagues.
Here we had a player of proven pedigree, who 12 months earlier had lifted the La Liga trophy with Real Madrid. A man cast aside not because he was not good enough, far from it. In his final season he contributed ten goals and 17 assists in 42 games. The German’s departure was down to Los Blancos’ obsession with the shiniest new play thing. The arrival of the much more marketable pair of Isco and Gareth Bale putting an end to his stay in the Spanish capital.
Ozil’s record in the Premier League stands at 59 appearances with a combined goal/assists tally of 36. For a man cursed with injuries, even for Arsenal standards, that is outstanding. Yet, he is always seen as the immediate scapegoat for any problems on the pitch. Ozil suffers the fate of the artist. His casual style of play – stroking and caressing the ball here and there is beautiful to watch. Although when you are 1-0 down away to West Ham this can infuriate fans, as what they are looking for is someone to pick up the ball and run with it. Step forward Alexis Sanchez.
The Chilean has been a fantastic signing for Arsenal. And has unintentionally heaped more pressure on his German team-mate. His gung-ho selfish running at defence and masterful trickery makes fans sit up whenever he receives possession. Ozil’s genius sadly is only accentuated when he has the right players around him. The team must be built around his strengths. Only then can he really hurt the opposition.
Jurgen Klopp described Arsene Wenger’s style of football as like an Orchestra. It would be too cliché to describe Ozil as the composer. He should be seen more as 1st Chair Violinist, his tempo dictates how the rest will unfold and it is up to the booming notes of Sanchez and Olivier Giroud to provide the big finish.
Mesut Ozil is without a doubt one of the most talented players to ever grace the Premier League. In an age where entire goals are reduced down to six-second vines to be shared on Facebook and Twitter his artistry is greatly wasted. It his not just his assists and goals that are impressive but it’s his pass before the pass before the killer pass. To watch him is spellbinding. We are enjoying him at his peak age and under a manager that allows him to express himself on the field.
Knowing how easily players can become homesick or fall out of love with a league or country, Ozil must be admired while he is here. It may not be going too far to say that there is a touch of Nikola Tesla about Ozil’s career in England so far. Both from central Europe, both vastly under valued in their time, and sadly both overshadowed by a nemesis from across the Atlantic. Tesla and Thomas Edison even worked together for a number of years before a fallout over wages. Ironically, football is an industry where that particular piece of history may repeat itself.
The German has won cups and trophies in three different countries as well as lifting the World Cup. Yet, somehow he is still yet to be celebrated as he should be in England.
At a time when the pull of the Premier League is lessening for overseas players, we should be very happy to have the chance to watch and savour a player of Ozil’s talent every week. Long may it continue.
Joe Gleeson, Pundit Arena