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Last season, Arsenal signed Mesut Ozil for a club record transfer fee from Real Madrid. Although the Gunners were primarily looking to add a top striker (heavily linked with a move for Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Suarez) to their ranks but in the end they signed a ‘world class’ attacking midfielder instead.
A genuine pessimism around the Emirates was observed after Arsenal were humiliated by Aston Villa (1-3) on the opening day of the season. The Gunners quickly recovered though with back-to-back wins against Fulham and Tottenham and by the time Ozil joined the club on the transfer deadline day, the mood around North London had completely transformed.
His signing not only gave the fans a renewed optimism but had lifted the morale in the (Ozil-effect) dressing room as Arsenal gradually moved up the table and threatened to mount a serious title challenge.
Ozil started the campaign brightly (11 assists already within January) but his form dramatically collapsed in the second half of the season. He was heavily criticised for his poor performance (including a missed penalty) against Bayern Munich in the Champions League and surprisingly failed to meet the high standards he had set earlier. Yet, he ended up with seven goals and 14 assists to his name.
Ozil is a natural no 10 and arguably one of the best attacking midfielders of his generation. He is skilful and has this natural ability of finding the right player in front of goal. At Real Madrid, he was hailed as the ‘king of the assist’ as he bagged 66 assists in his three full seasons at the club in all competitions.
If Arsenal are to extract the best out of him, they must play according to his strength. And chances are there that Arsenal fans could see the real Mesut Ozil again, provided Wenger finds the right balance for his team.
Ozil is a different kind of no 10. He doesn’t charge at opposition defenders with pace like Dortmund’s Marco Reus and certainly not similar to Chelsea’s Oscar who performs an incredible defensive job for his team. Rather, the German superstar gives the look of a lazy guy who has class and elegance written all over every time he touches the ball.
He is one of those rare breeds who controls the game of football without actually running too much. In that way, his playing style is more-or-less similar to that of Guti. But unlike the Real Madrid legend, who could pick the right man even through tiniest of gaps, Ozil needs pacey forwards breaking ahead of him for his through balls to be effective.
In Danny Welbeck, Arsenal have an intelligent striker (opposite to Olivier Giroud) who with his movement and speed will create space for others (and himself) and should have one of the fastest forward lines in the Premier League (Liverpool’s attacking trio of Markovic-Sterling and Sturridge come in consideration) when Walcott or Sanchez operate together.
This could be Ozil’s season at Arsenal but by shifting him out wide Wenger is not doing any good to the player and the team.