Arsenal's 2013-14 season has entirely collapsed over the past two months or so, with a succession of heavy defeats to top-four rivals ending their Premier League title ambitions and also suffering elimination from the Champions League.
While the team as a whole has been disappointing during that period, there have also been individuals who have been far below their best level, none more so than record signing Mesut Ozil.
The German playmaker has only featured for 25 minutes in the last eight league games after suffering an injury, but even before then he looked a poor, out-of-form player struggling to cope with the pressures and demands of being a big-fee player in England.
Arsene Wenger, however, has spoken out in his defence and intimates, as per the Independent, that such is his belief in Ozil that he could still be the Premier League's player of the season next term—and he is right to retain such faith.
Ozil has suffered a difficult second half of the campaign, true.
Whether because, as some have suggested, he has missed the winter break and struggled with the intense run of matches after Christmas, is open to debate.
Talk of Ozil being tired is a smokescreen. Not tired. Had a winter break & went to Morocco. Was just neutered by absent Walcott & Ramsey.— Wayne Veysey (@wayneveysey) February 16, 2014
He was a regularly impressive, if not always outstanding, performer in the early months at the Emirates Stadium, though, showing cameos of the mesmerising ability he displayed so often for Real Madrid. His first 14 appearances yielded 37 scoring chances for team-mates, while also adding four goals of his own.
Never the most regular of scorers anyway, he would likely have hoped to get close to the double-figure mark for the season. This term, he has yet to add to those four early strikes.
Some were perhaps expecting a lot more of him, but his early link-up play with the likes of Aaron Ramsey and the forwards was certainly exciting for Arsenal fans. Too often, perhaps, his best outlets for those through balls—the direct pace of Walcott, the late burst from the second line from Ramsey—have been blunted as a result of injuries to others.
Perhaps Arsenal's main issue has, in fact, been not having the players in place to replicate those movements from key players in other areas.
Either way, Ozil would always be likely, in the normal course of events, to improve as he goes, getting more used to the Premier League and learning to play more within Arsenal's framework.
It wouldn't be the first time a Gunner import improved after an up-and-down first campaign, of course. Robert Pires, amongst others, offers impeccable evidence for that.
All told, Ozil remains one of the world's top creative talents, and the money Arsenal paid for him ensures they will be giving him as much time as possible to hit top form. If he returns from fitness to help them end a trophy drought by winning the FA Cup final, he'll already have made one small piece of history for a team which has gone almost a decade without silverware.
Next season, it will be up to Wenger to provide Ozil with more ammunition to find and fire, a more solid platform behind him to ensure fewer capitulations and the same attacking freedom to make the most of his attributes.
Then we'll see if Ozil can be as good as the fans want him to be.
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