Mesut Ozil is back. Against Everton, Arsene Wenger handed him his first Arsenal start in nearly three weeks. Ozil responded with his best performance in months. Now, the German international will have his sights trained on Bayern Munich.
Ozil's last Arsenal start had been against Bayern, and it had not been a night to remember for the playmaker. He missed an early penalty, and then he was forced into an unfamiliar wide role after Wojciech Szczesny's sending off. It didn't suit him, and his performance disintegrated into half-hearted defending and unusually unimaginative passing. Wenger believes Ozil was reeling from the effects of the penalty incident. Speaking to Amy Lawrence of The Guardian, the Arsenal manager said:
I think it affected him mentally too much. It was not only physical, it was mental. He had the feeling he let the team down at a very important moment of the game. That affected his performance very much. Psychologically sometimes the wound is like a physical one. You can talk and talk and talk but it takes time. You just have to leave it to time.
Ozil was afforded a mini-break to help him deal with the trauma. Even when he returned to the matchday squad for the game with Stoke, it was only as a substitute. When he was eventually handed a place in the starting XI against Everton, he looked recharged and highly motivated.
Within seven minutes, he had notched his first goal in three months. It's something he should do more: He has all the basic ingredients required to score more regularly.
The Telegraph's Henry Winter wrote the following about Ozil's inconsistency:
To an extent, Ozil embodies Arsenal, a mix of diffidence and brilliance. When the game gets physical, he can disappear. Yet when the mood is right, the German sorcerer can conjure up the sublime.
His goal, and particularly his assist for Giroud’s second, were masterpieces of technique and awareness.
Under Wenger's tutelage, Robert Pires transformed from balletic creator to predatory goalscorer. The French manager believes Ozil could follow suit. He told Lawrence:
I would like him to find the right balance between being a provider and finisher. At the moment the balance is a bit detrimental to the finishing. His strong side is providing. But he is pacy—much quicker than people think—and with that technical quality and that pace, if he gets into the right areas and with the service we have, he can score goals. He wants to score more goals, I am convinced of that.
The game away to Bayern Munich would be a great occasion for Ozil to show that he is developing a killer instinct. Arsenal need to win by two goals simply to draw the tie level. Against a side with Bayern's remarkable strength, that is going to be difficult.
However, Ozil will feel he owes the Munich outfit. He let himself down in the first leg and will be determined to make amends. This is an immediate opportunity to restore his pride on the European stage. It's easier said than done, but upsetting Bayern would restore any damage Ozil's reputation sustained after the first meeting between the two teams.
Wenger's final prognosis on Ozil was emphatically positive: "I think he is over it. He has a good opportunity to show on Tuesday night how good he is."
The Allianz Arena awaits, and Arsenal expects. Ozil seems primed to deliver.
James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here.
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