Does this Arsenal World Cup winner get the credit he deserves?
When it comes to the conversation of underrated players, names such as Carrick, Willian, Herrera and arguably Kolarov are heard in conversation. Yet a man who’s won the World Cup, assisted many and kicked a ball around with the likes of Ronaldo and Di Maria could also fit into the underrated bracket. Mesut Ozil, October’s PFA Player of the Month, has endured his fair share of criticism yet is currently playing some of the best football of his career. The German international is a player that has divided fan bases even though he possesses one of the best football brains in football and certainly has the feet to match.
The World Cup winner burst onto the scene after shining in the World Cup in 2010. Since that tournament, Ozil has played for Real Madrid, where he won the La Liga and finished as the highest assist maker in Europe with a tally of 25 in the 2011/12 season, and Arsenal, where he is still the record transfer for The Gunners (£42.5m). The creator of ‘Ya Gunner Ya’, however, endured a torrid start to his career at Arsenal with many fans critical of his lazy appearance.
His debut season bid however start fantastically well with assists and goals a regular occurrence from the German maestro, yet later in the campaign Ozil’s form declined. A 5-1 defeat at the hands of a free-scoring Liverpool side left many questioning his commitment to the club. Yet, the German recovered towards the latter of the season and ended with a tally of 14 assists and 7 goals. The Arsenal fans could still remember the disservice he showed them mid-season however when the German failed to thank the away supporters after the 6-3 defeat to Manchester City.
Ozil then went and won the World Cup with Germany in the summer of 2014 and upon his return, fans worried about the lack of rest the German would get before the start of the season. The worries about his physical state became a reality as he suffered a knee injury at the start of October that kept him out for 12 weeks.
The period he had off was arguably the most defining time of his Arsenal career to date. Ozil came back a different player physically. Over the course of his layoff the German built up his physique meaning he was able to cope better with the more robust nature of the Premier League. His physical improvement has meant he hasn’t suffered a major injury since.
A stronger and rested Ozil was a warning sign to the opposition at the start of the 2015/26 season with the fans more reliant on the German playmaker after Alexis Sanchez had spent the whole summer playing for Chile in the Copa America.
Since Arsene Wenger’s claim that this would be Ozil’s best season to date, the German has quietly gone about his business. With 13 assists already, Ozil has more than doubled the tally of what he achieved over the whole of last season while also having almost two times that of any other player in the Premier League this term, next is Deulofeu on 7. Last years highest assist tally came from Cesc Fabregas who is ranked 35th best this term with only two to his name.
The German has the 2nd most successful pass percentage as well, behind injured teammate Santi Cazorla, and while not having the best goal tally, with a meager 2, Ozil’s goal against Norwich was a crucial one to secure a point, his other came against Manchester United of whom they comfortably won against 3-0.
Along with the stats has come a flourish of skill and prowess on the football field from the German with his exemplary touch to take him away from Yedlin a highlight in its own right.
However, the plaudits haven’t been given to Ozil yet. Despite his number crunching stats making a mockery of all of the other playmakers in the league, fans are yet to be fully convinced, that is fans of other teams, the Arsenal fans now adore him. Many would still choose David Silva over Ozil as the best creator the Premier League has. With both players able to see a pass where most can’t, it’s a debate that can be long continued, yet it’s almost fact that David Silva receives twice the praise and affection from opposition fans than Ozil gets.
A world class maestro would define Ozil perfectly but with his form for Arsenal coming in flurries he can also be labelled a purple patch player. For now, Ozil works as an underrated player while topping the charts so far. However, if he’s still at the top come the end of the season, the praise he’s due could finally be given to him.
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