The one player that holds the key to Arsenal’s season

2.92 chances/2.58 key passes per game, yet we still question MO11

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Since Mesut Özil joined on deadline day last year every expert seems to have given their opinion about him. From ‘biggest waste of money’ to ‘best number 10 in the world’, and no player seems to divide the opinion of experts and fans as much as him.

Indeed, he seems to be a giant paradox.

Statistically, he is one of the world’s most creative players. Creating 2.92 chances per game, playing 2.58 key passes per game and 10 assists in 26 games in the Premier League is as good as it gets all across Europe.

On the other hand, his performances seem to tell an entirely different story at times. He often goes missing and looks lacklustre, lazy and unwilling to defend. I believe the biggest problem with the perception of his performances is that we expect too much from him. He has the giant price tag of £42.5m hanging over his head and everyone expects him to be a 20 goals, 20 assists per season player that grabs every game by the scruff of its neck and wins it for us easily.

I hope people have realised by now that Mesut Özil is not that kind of player.

The second biggest issue is his position. It seems to me at times that Arsene Wenger himself does not know yet whether he wants Özil to play in the number 10 role or out wide in the future.

Özil playing out wide allows Wenger to fit Ramsey, Wilshire, Özil and Cazorla in the same line-up, which gives us the lion share of possession most of the time, but it also seems to hinder our creativity and completely takes away our pace. Playing out wide also requires Özil to track back which he does not like to do and even abandons at times.

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To be honest I have no idea why Wenger still plays him out wide as it clearly does not bring the best out of him.

Playing in the number 10 role, no matter whether alone in a 4-2-3-1 or as a shared number 10 in a 4-1-4-1 suites Özil much more. He gets into positions where it takes only one or two more passes to create a goalscoring opportunity. He does not have to track players back into his own box and we can counter attack much better if he wins or receives the ball as early as possible.

In my opinion the criticism he receives is over the top and one obvious thing is that none of his former or present coaches and teammates have anything bad to say about him.

I still remember seeing an Interview with Arsene Wenger on German TV in October 2013. When asked to describe Mesut Özil he stated ‘Mesut Özil is a dream. He is born to play football. Everything he does is class, he makes it look very easy, but he also works very hard’. Joachim Löw hails Özil for his performance without the ball and Jose Mourinho has called him the best number 10 in world. The perfect quote about his role at Arsenal comes from one of the most intelligent footballers ever, Phillip Lahm: ‘His vision is probably the best I have ever seen and that is why it is so important to have the right striker ahead of him. He is a dream for strikers and you saw that with Ronaldo and Benzema when he was at Madrid. If Arsenal can find the right striker who is fast and makes intelligent runs – then Mesut will be devastating next season.’

To me Mesut Özil is the best number 10 in the world. BUT he is only as good as the team allows him to be. At Real Madrid he was sensational because he played the number 10 role with world class forwards like Benzema and Ronaldo, who made it easy for him. At Arsenal it has been up and down so far. He didn’t have a player he could feed with passes the way he could with Ronaldo and playing out wide has not helped him a lot either. The signing of Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez might change this. Welbeck, Alexis and Walcott (if he can finally stay fit) are quick and intelligent enough to provide runs through the back four and therefore provide Özil with what he needs to be brilliant in the number 10 role.

My questions to you are:

1) Where do you want Özil to play? Left wing, right wing or in the middle?
2) Have we found the right striker to get the best out of Özil?

Written by: Nik