As Arsenal prepare to face Manchester United at the Emirates tomorrow in what will surely be one of the most pivotal games of their season, one question beckons. “Will the ‘real’ Mesut Ozil turn up?”
When the German midfielder joined from Real Madrid just before the end of the summer transfer window, it was heralded as an outtanding piece of business by Arsene Wenger, plunging for a player that Jose Mourinho has described as the best midfield player in the world. The early season form certainly seemed to bear out the description as the elegant German led an inspired Arsenal side on a run that took them to the top of the league.
Although it’s an oft-used cliche however, the Premier League is indeed very much a marathon, not a sprint and it looks like Ozil may have ‘hit the wall’ in the parlance of runners that tackle that 26 miles plus run. Although flashes of brilliance still illuminate some games, the player that dominated games and turned them to his own will is suddenly absent from the Gunners’ line up.
Saturday’s game was a good example. In the big confrontations, you look to your big players to deliver. When you’re down and need a lift, you need those same players to be inspirational and leaders. Sadly, at Anfield, Ozil was neither, eventually being substituted early in the second half. This remember is the player lambasted by compatriot Per Mertesacker for sulking off the pitch rather than acknowledging the Gunners’ fans after a dispiriting heavy defeat at Eastlands.
Whatever the issue is with the player, Arsene Wenger will need to discover the problem and correct it as quickly as possible. Games against United have often proved to be Arsenal’s Achilles heel, and the north London club can ill afford to under-perform in this latest installment of the series. A defeat could damage confidence so deeply it could almost be the death knoll for their title ambitions.
The old saying goes that ‘form is fleeting, but class is for ever.’ Without doubt Ozil is a class act, but so long as he is performing below par, it will inevitably be a drag on Arsenal’s ambitions. If Wenger can solve the problem and the player rediscover his zest against United, he could just prove that old maxim about ‘class’ correct.
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