Mesut Ozil first shone on the international stage during the 2010 World Cup when, at the age of 21, he was given a central role in Joachim Low's German side.
The starlet shined on the biggest of occasions in football. With what has become his trademark calmness and poise on the ball, he sliced through some of the most elite defenses in the world en route to Germany's third-place finish.
His subsequent rise was nothing short of meteoric.
After Ozil settled in, Mourinho clearly preferred him to the much-lauded and quite expensive Kaka, who was the club's presumptive attacking midfielder before the German nudged his way into the starting XI.
A few years later, Gareth Bale transferred to Real Madrid and Ozil was deemed expendable. Arsenal snapped him up for £42.5 million on the last day of the transfer window and suddenly one of the top few attacking midfielders in the world was a Gunner.
People initially wondered just how Ozil would fit in at Arsenal. Surely Arsene Wenger had a plan for his record signing, but the club did not lack midfielders—in fact, Santi Cazorla had occupied the role very well last season, and Jack Wilshere seemed destined for a more attacking role in the future.
Ozil is capable of playing on the left wing, and he has on one or two occasions this season when there was absolutely no one else who was capable of occupying that space and/or Wenger felt it was tactically necessary.
But everyone knows that Ozil's best position is at the tip of the midfield, ideally as a central attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation with two wingers to his side, a mobile striker to feed and defensive midfielders allowing him to roam freely.
It's probably not a coincidence, then, that this is the system in which he has played for most of his career.
Prior to this season, Arsenal mostly employed a 4-3-3, with one defensive or holding midfielder and two more flexible central midfielders. Mikel Arteta took over for Alex Song at the foot of the midfield.
But when Aaron Ramsey started to find the form that has made him a contender for PFA Young Player of the Year, Wenger decided to use both he and Arteta (or sometimes Flamini this season) at the base and switch to a more fluid 4-2-3-1.
This set the team up perfectly for Ozil's arrival, although he can have such a transformative effect on a squad that one suspects Wenger would have altered his formation to suit him anyway.
So what does Ozil do in his capacity as central attacking midfielder for Arsenal?
In short, he is the go-to option; the outlet to which the rest of the team can turn when there seems to be no way to breach the opposition's defense.
Let us call this the "Fabregas Problem."
Although it is not nearly as severe as when Cesc Fabregas was still donning the red and white, the Fabregas Problem arises when one player on a team is so obviously better and more creative than his teammates that he becomes an excuse for others to give up responsibility and an easy outlet.
Luckily, the entire squad is considerably stronger than during the Fabregas era. And Ozil is good enough that he can largely shoulder this burden, which opponents also are well aware that he carries.
During his worst games of the season, he was not sufficiently mobile and was too stagnant to do much when his teammates looked to him to make something happen. He only needed physicality and dynamism to earn the plaudits his talent deserves.
It also seems reasonable to examine what Ozil's role is for Germany, since he is about to reassume his role in the 2010 World Cup this summer in Brazil.
In many ways, it is quite similar to that he plays for Arsenal. Since the 4-2-3-1 formation is, and has been, in vogue in Germany for quite some time, he occupies more or less the same position for Low as he does for Wenger.
But the fact that Germany are considerably superior to the Gunners makes Ozil's job quite a bit easier and allows him to look quite a bit better at what he naturally does well.
For one, his midfield support is considerably better.
It is clear from his outstanding partnership with Aaron Ramsey that the staid Ozil works best with an all-action tiger behind him. But while Germany cannot call upon Ramsey, they do have Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira in defensive midfield, as well as several more elite options if the need should arise.
They give Ozil considerably better service and defensive support than he gets at the Emirates. This allows him more time and space on the ball and, crucially, concentrates his task to creating for others and slipping through balls, rather than making space for himself and wasting his time toiling with defenders.
The extraordinary quality of his German teammates compared to his merely exceptional Arsenal teammates already forces other teams to back off a bit a respect the many options that Ozil has at his disposal.
And, of course, there is the striker dichotomy.
Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose are particularly mobile strikers who always seem to find themselves in favorable goalscoring positions. The fact that their teammates are better than Olivier Giroud's helps them do so, but both are simply better strikers.
Essentially, Ozil is necessarily asked to do much less for Germany than he does for Arsenal.
This does not indicate some failure on the part of Ozil or Wenger; Germany are simply a better football team. But don't be surprised if Ozil sets Brazil aflame like he did South Africa, despite a slightly underwhelming first season in London.
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