By his own superb standards, Mesut Ozil is enduring something of a difficult spell.
In his last few weeks, Ozil’s billing has dropped from Arsenal’s undisputed star to merely one of an excellent supporting cast. After The Gunners dispatched Marseille in midweek, The Guardian’s Barney Ronay said:
Arsenal's record signing remains a beautifully balletic physical specimen, and a player of genuinely high-ceilinged incision. But he is also an elusive presence currently. It has been said Özil was allowed to play in bursts at Real Madrid, producing his decisive moments of influence in short spells, where at Arsenal he is expected to dictate the play in every match.
Ozil experienced his lowest moment thus far in an Arsenal shirt against Marseille, when his tame penalty was palmed away by Steve Mandanda.
Speaking after the game, his compatriot and friend Per Mertesacker told the Daily Star:
He looks like his head is going down but especially at half-time we said we don’t care, just get on with it. And that’s just what he did, especially in the second half when we scored the second goal.
He was the threat and he was in the right position to cross the ball to Jack.
He never gave up despite the penalty that he missed. He’s always a threat and we’re very delighted with him. I think he is making good progress.
Mertesacker’s words were clearly intended to lift Ozil’s diminishing confidence.
However, there’s no need for any sentimental sugaring of the facts. The situation is not close to approaching any kind of crisis point. The widespread criticism of Ozil’s performances has mutated from understandable concern to an unnecessary backlash.
Ozil might not be dominating matches as fans expected, but there are plenty of good reasons for that.
The first is that he is adapting to a new country and a new style of football. A big price-tag does not guarantee immediate acclimatisation. In that respect, Ozil is following in the footsteps of Arsenal legends like Thierry Henry and Robert Pires, both of whom suffered early dips before cementing their place as Gunners greats.
Furthermore, Ozil is unlikely to ever be the sort of player who dominates for an entire 90 minutes. At Madrid, he was often a peripheral figure, perennially hunting for space. However, he only needs a moment to demonstrate his class. That much was evident against Marseille, as Ozil atoned for his penalty miss by picking out Jack Wilshere for the second goal with a perfectly-weighted pass.
According to Squawka, Ozil has four Premier League assists this season. Only Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Kevin Mirallas have more—and Ozil didn’t play his first Arsenal match until September. The numbers redeem the German international.
His overall contribution could be better, but the fact that the best of Ozil is still to come is tantalising rather than alarming. In the meantime, he is still delivering moments of pure quality that justify Arsenal’s audacious outlay.