How Mesut Ozil Has Improved Arsenal
Mesut Ozil has had a massive, massive effect on Arsenal as a team. In just five games he has contributed five assists and one goal and the Gunners seem to have moved up a level as a team with thanks to the silken-skilled German.
How has the 24-year-old changed Arsene Wenger's team? Here, Bleacher Report takes a look at the instant improvement and revival of Arsenal's Premier and Champions League hopes for the season.
Has Mesut Ozil improved Arsenal?
To say that Ozil has had an effect on Arsenal would be one of the understatements of the early part of the season. The £42.4 million capture from Real Madrid, the most expensive in Arsenal's great history, joined the club on deadline day to rapturous applause from the Gunners' fans.
Shockwaves went around the Premier League, and amongst their own fans, as Arsenal had finally spent big on a world-class talent. Wenger spoke to the official club website to announce the deal. Nobody could have imagined the impending impact, least of all the manager despite his glowing tribute of Ozil. He said:
Mesut [Ozil] is a top quality footballer who will be a fantastic addition to our talented squad.
He is a great player, with proven quality at both club and international level. We have watched and admired him for some time as he has all the attributes I look for in an Arsenal player.
From our negotiations it is clear the Club has huge ambition and I look forward to being part of an exciting future.
His impact was immediate.
Ten minutes into his debut and Arsenal fans got to see the kind of goal and skill they have only dreamed of since 2004.
He raced onto a through ball from the left-hand side of defense and in one touch had killed the ball and taken it under his complete control. He then did something that only the supremely gifted and most intelligent of players can do—he looked up and measured a phenomenal first-time pass to Olivier Giroud to score. The goal was beautiful in its simplicity, but it only came about because of Ozil's superb skill in taking the ball down.
With the foundation of an early goal, the Mesut Ozil show began, and the rest of the team reaped the huge benefits.
By this stage of the season Arsenal were already playing with confidence. Having lost the opening game of the season to Aston Villa, the Gunners had won four on the trot before travelling to Wearside. Add in the fact that that loss was Arsenal's only defeat in their last 16 competitive matches, and you can see a team beginning to bloom.
Ozil's significant signing has seemed to speed up that growth.
During the match against Sunderland, Ozil made 70 passes. Twenty-four of those were to Aaron Ramsey, and he received 13 in return. This linkup between the pair was the highest on show, according to FourFourTwo's Stats Zone. The 24-year-old German international was also heavily involved in receiving the ball from Ramsey's midfield partner Mathieu Flamini, who passed to him 15 times.
In effect, this triumvirate controlled the entire game and dictated the tempo of the match.
What these simple statistics show is that Ozil is always available to receive the ball from center midfield. This shows his honesty and will to get on the ball in dangerous positions. He is not afraid to take responsibility where others would shirk their duty.
This simple but hugely important and significant element of Ozil's play has in turn had an effect on other players' bravery in similar situations.
Their cause is aided by the German's quite superb work rate.
As the picture above from Squawka.com shows, Ozil is not the kind of player to restrict his game to one section of the pitch. He only spent 28 percent of his time on the pitch in the attacking midfield role. The rest of the time he was offering himself to teammates in danger on the ball, and the only area of the pitch he did not cover was the left-back position.
However, he did help Kieran Gibbs out constantly and exchanged 27 passes with the English international.
Against Stoke City we saw a similar pattern of play.
Ramsey-to-Ozil was again the most prolific partnership on the Arsenal statistics page, according to Stats Zone. This was a much tougher match for the Gunners as Stoke's Steven N'Zonzi and Marc Wilson controlled the center of midfield for much of the game. Arsenal's passing, however, was crisp and intelligent, and always created danger.
Ozil, Ramsey and Flamini contributed 36 passes between them in a very tight and at times direct game. They were, once again, Arsenal's most creative players.
Ozil, unlike the likes of Steven Gerrard and David Beckham, does not like long-raking 40-metre Hollywood passes. He possesses more vision than the England legend's combined and passes with laser-like accuracy over much shorter distances. Squawka.com report that Gerrard's pass distance average this season is 22 metres, compared to Ozil's 16-metre average.
His positional play against the Potters was incredibly similar to his statistical output against Sunderland. Again he played in attacking center midfield, and again he spent 28 percent of the match there. Strangely enough, the only area of the pitch he did not cover was left-back once again.
As good as his Premier League work rate and return has been, Ozil has saved his best performance in an Arsenal shirtforthe Champions League.
The Gunners beat Napoli on Oct. 1 to go three points clear at the top of Group F with Ozil playing center stage.
Arsenal dominated the game from start to finish and were a far better team than the 2-0 scoreline suggests. During the game, Stats Zone reports that Arsenal made 598 passes during 65 percent possession.
Ozil contributed 68 of those passes and created three goalscoring chances, of which one was put away. He also received over 50 passes from teammate,making him accountable for over one-fifth of Arsenal's attacking play alone.
What makes Ozil stand out as such a brilliant performer is not his amazing skill, technique, vision, intelligent movement or positional play. It is his unbelievable work rate.
He covers almost every blade of grass on the pitch, and in doing so he is having the influence of almost two players.
When he gets on the ball, his teammates know that he does not give the ball away cheaply and that he will make something happen. When he is off the ball and defending, he works tirelessly to help his teammates through defensive positional and cover play.
At 76 kilos, Ozil is not exactly the biggest or most physical player to have set foot in the Premier League. He is, however, one of the most intelligent. His clever defensive movement means that he is almost always in a covering position. This then forces his opponent to rethink his next move, and like any great Chess player, Ozil is one step ahead.
Because he works so hard to get the ball back, when Arsenal do eventually win possession, he is beside the action to receive the ball and initiate the next attack. Ramsey and Flamini have been Arsenal's chief architects in breaking down opposition play this season.
Who do they look for first? Ozil.
That is why Ramsey is continuing to improve and why Flamini has looked so good lately. Instead of having an attacking center midfielder in front of them who is fixated upon his position, they have Ozil. The 24-year-old is fixated with honesty, doing the right thing with the ball with his clever and intelligent play.
When Arsene Wenger told the BBC that Arsenal were lucky to have signed Ozil, he was not wrong.
It is not often that a player of his ability comes on the market, and when they do you have to pounce or forever wonder "what if."
With Ozil in the team, the Gunners have been given a new dimension.
If his teammates continue to match his product, they could go very far this season, very far...
You can follow me on Twitter @WillieGannon.
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