Mesut Ozil is arguably the most gifted footballer currently playing his trade in the Premier League. However, with extraordinary talent comes big expectations. At the moment, Ozil is underachieving.
There’s no doubting the broader impact that his signing has made. Ozil’s arrival lifted everyone associated with the club, giving his new team-mates a renewed sense of belief. The likes of Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud have excelled alongside Ozil, inspired by the mere presence of a world-class superstar in the same XI.
Arsene Wenger seems invigorated by working with Ozil, too. He is, in many ways, the archetypal Wenger player, and the Frenchman’s admiration for the playmaker is plain to see.
Furthermore, he’s lifted the fans. The moment he arrived, Arsenal began to climb the football hierarchy once again. His acquisition was a necessary statement of ambition on behalf of the club.
There’s no doubt either that the renewed sense of optimism bore fruit on the pitch in Ozil’s first few games. Indeed, he collected an assist on his debut against Sunderland, underlining his reputation as a supreme creator of goals.
He had an outstanding first half, where you had everything that you want to see from a great player. Individual skill, team play, finishing, final ball. You just had to sit there and enjoy it.
In his next home game, Ozil scored twice, as Arsenal saw off Norwich. It seemed as if Ozil had settled in and would continue to consistently light up the Emirates Stadium with his brilliance.
Since that match, however, Ozil’s form has dipped considerably.
It began in the home match against Borussia Dortmund, whose pressing stifled Ozil’s creative instincts, forcing him out to the right wing in search of space. That trend has continued, with opposing defences crowding Ozil out of the game. There have been occasional moments of brilliance, such as the clipped cross to help create Aaron Ramsey’s goal at the Westfalenstadion, but for the most part, Ozil has been subdued.
The nadir of this run of underwhelming form came in Sunday’s match at Old Trafford. Ozil, the most valuable player on the pitch, was also one of the most wasteful. According to Arsenal.com's Stats Centre, he completed just 79.6 percent of his passes, well below his Premier League average of 86.3 percent.
There are mitigating factors. Ozil is adapting to a new league, and the Premier League is infamous for its daunting physical style. He is also missing the off-the-ball running of Theo Walcott. At the moment, there is no one with the pace to get onto Ozil’s trademark slide-rule passes.
It’d be an exaggeration to say that Mesut Ozil has played poorly. I’m not sure it’s possible for a player with his remarkable set of gifts to do that. The stats redeem him somewhat; his first 13 Arsenal appearances have yielded three goals and five assists, which is a creditable record.
However, he is capable of so much more. He has the ability to dominate games, and he is not yet doing that.
When Ozil left Madrid, it was because he didn’t want to be just one in a galaxy of stars. At Arsenal, he is the man they look to to elevate the team to a higher level. He has the capability and, crucially, he has the faith of the fans and the coach.
This is Ozil’s time. With Arsenal reeling from defeat at Old Trafford, they need him to step up.