Not only the biggest money signing in Arsenal’s history but the most expensive foreign signing ever to come into the English Premier League, Mesut Ozil had to live up to some lofty expectations in his debut for Arsenal against Sunderland.
By all accounts, he met those expectations—and then some.
The statistics show just how dominant Ozil was against the Black Cats.
Completing 70 of his 79 attempted passes, Ozil was every bit of the dynamic passer he was supposed to be. He created three goal-scoring chances (including an assist), and was thoroughly active across the entire attacking half for the Gunners (shown through Squawka's Individual Heat Map).
They should have had at least three goals in the first half alone.
Good half from us, but if Walcott had his (or somebody else’s) shooting boots on today this game would be over.— arseblog (@arseblog) September 14, 2013
In the space of 15 minutes, Walcott found himself with two incredibly clear goal-scoring opportunities provided to him by the magical feet of the German.
Twice he broke clear on goal, but twice he hit Keiren Westwood.
Throw in his wayward header after he was picked out superbly by Jack Wilshere and his nonchalant effort right on the half-time whistle and it was, in reality, a very poor performance by the England international. While the Gunners walked away from the Stadium of the Light with all three points, questions must be asked as to whether Walcott's wayward efforts will be a long-term problem. And if so, what are the consequences?
Ozil has impressed and again sends Walcott clean through with an incisive pass, though Westwood saves well once more (30) 1-0 #SAFCvAFC— Arsenal.com (@Arsenal) September 14, 2013
The most important is obviously to do with Ozil.
However, such an impact can only be had if the players around him—that of Walcott, Olivier Giroud and co.—step up in the way that Real Madrid's stars did.
Giroud played his part in finishing his chance. Walcott did not.
Earlier in the week, I posed a question in an article I wrote for Squawka—asking just how good Walcott could be this season outside of Ozil.
Last year, Ronaldo scored a staggering 34 La Liga goals from a possible 181 goalscoring chances, giving him a conversion rate of 18%. By comparison, Walcott’s conversion rate was higher (22%) and had he been given the 181 goalscoring chances that Ronaldo had, in theory anyway, Walcott could have scored upwards of 40 goals last year. That’s obviously just an extrapolation, but the point remains the same.
Walcott showed last season netting 14 goals and 10 assists in 32 games that he has the potential to be a prolific attacker in Arsenal's system this season. In theory anyway, that proficiency stands to dramatically increase with Ozil in the team.
That much was shown to be true in the chances that fell his way.
Granted, Walcott needs to be given some credit today.
His finishing was woeful, but his movement off the ball—to put himself in a position to get the passes from Ozil—was very encouraging for Arsenal fans.
His run for the second key chance to fall his way was vintage Walcott.
It was unfortunate that a strong finish didn't accompany the run, otherwise we would have been talking about just how deadly their combination can be this year.
The key, then, for Walcott is not to simply improve but to evolve. The talent and skills are clearly there (something he showed last season), but without regularity and consistency, he will always hold himself back from truly reaping the rewards that he should do.
An active Walcott has the potential to score several goals.
A consistent Walcott has the potential to become an elite EPL player.
But only if Theo continues to improve and learn from Ozil.
He must evolve and understand his new role alongside the German international. He must evolve with his consistency and regularity in front of goal.
If he does that? Well, the results could be devastating.
In a very, very good way.
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