Arsenal's record signing, German international midfielder Mesut Ozil, has returned from injury in style in recent weeks—a solid performance in a routine 3-0 away victory at Hull City's KC Stadium was followed by a starring role in another 3-0 win, Monday's demolition of Alan Pardew's Newcastle United.
Signed for £42 million in September, this inflated fee forced similarly inflated expectations of Ozil's immediate performance in an Arsenal shirt. It could perhaps be argued that the 25-year-old's form hasn't been spectacular so far in 2013/14, but he has performed admirably in a maiden season in a far more physically demanding league.
However, following a goal-and-assist performance at the Emirates Stadium on Monday night, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told reporters that he wanted Ozil to contribute more directly in front of goal in the future, as per ESPN:
I believe the first season is always adaptable in the Premier League. What he has brought is his fantastic technique, the simplicity of his game, the intelligence of his passing and you look at his numbers, his assists and passes in the final third is very good. We want more goals from him and I think that will come naturally.
Whilst justly praising his creative assets, is Wenger putting too much pressure on his prodigious German?
In an injury-hit first season—the playmaker has missed 11 games so far this season—Ozil has performed deceptively well; the common misconception of Ozil's underperforming is magnified by his transfer fee.
As per Squawka, the 25-year-old has created 69 chances for his teammates so far this season—more than any other Arsenal player—and this includes nine assists; joint with Manchester City's David Silva in the league, one less than Wayne Rooney, Rickie Lambert and Steven Gerrard, and three less than Liverpool's phenomenal Luis Suarez.
Ozil is also, statistically, the most accurate of Wenger's charges in front of goal, with a shot accuracy of 77 percent, only missing the target on five occasions; this is the fifth best of any player in the league to have more than 10 attempts on goal.
Therefore overall—so far this season—Ozil is both creating and challenging the opposition goalkeeper with aplomb; belying Wenger's veiled criticism, the German is at least getting his shots in the right places.
Goals in the Past
Having scored five goals in 24 league appearances this season, as per WhoScored.com, Ozil's return in front of goal represents a decent contribution amid a tough first season—having previously played in the less physically demanding La Liga and Bundesliga, Ozil is coming to grips with the pace of English football admirably.
Furthermore, Ozil has far from been the traditional goalscoring midfielder in the past.
In his last five seasons, the midfielder has scored less than 10 goals a term; in his final season with Werder Bremen—before making the move to Real Madrid in 2010—Ozil scored nine goals, and after moving to La Liga the 25-year-old found the net six, four and nine times in the league respectively.
It could be argued that, with the myriad of attacking talents that Real Madrid possess—including the phenomenal efforts of Cristiano Ronaldo—less pressure was on Ozil to score, and more so on providing chances for those that were paid wholly to score goals.
However, the team setup at Werder Bremen, where Ozil scored a similar amount, was similar to that of Arsenal this season—Claudio Pizarro (16 goals) can find his equivalent in Olivier Giroud, Aaron Hunt (nine) in Aaron Ramsey, and Hugo Almeida (seven) in Lukas Podolski—and in this perspective Ozil's goalscoring level at the North London club is understandable.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, Ozil's goalscoring record is comparative to players with similar playmaking attributes.
Of predominantly creative midfielders in the Premier League this season, Liverpool's Steven Gerrard stands out as an anomaly with 13 goals; however, the majority of these efforts have come from the penalty spot—the less said about Ozil's conversions from 12 yards, the better.
Players such as Eden Hazard, on 14 goals, and the German's teammate Ramsey, on nine goals, should be considered as more traditional goalscoring midfielders—closer to the realms of a modern forward.
The closest comparisons in the Premier League this season can be drawn from Spurs' Christian Eriksen, Manchester City's David Silva, and Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho: Players who are tasked predominantly with providing for their teammates.
Danish midfielder Eriksen has weighed in with seven goals, Silva has contributed the same, and Liverpool's Coutinho has scored five goals; the former pair have played the same amount of games as Ozil, whilst Anfield's Brazilian has made seven more appearances.
Crucially, none of this trio has assisted more than Ozil this season.
Ozil's Strengths Lie Elsewhere
Naturally, as mentioned previously, Ozil's talents lie predominantly within the creative sector, and as such, it is unfair of the German's manager to put pressure on to deliver more goals.
To put things into perspective, Ozil is the fourth most clinical player in the Arsenal squad; striker Olivier Giroud has 15 league goals, Aaron Ramsey nine, and Lukas Podolski has weighed in with eight goals.
This suggests that, perhaps, Wenger's comments on Ozil's goalscoring record may be borne of an overall frustration with his squad's profligacy in front of goal in their torturous second half of the season.
Along with his 69 chances created being more than any other Arsenal player, Ozil's nine assists leave him top of the charts amongst his North London teammates—the blossoming Ramsey is second with eight—and as such it is a cruel level of pressure that Wenger lays on to his principal playmaker; despite his considerable transfer fee, Ozil was never going to be the type of player to score 15 goals a season whilst also creating at such a level.
In comparison to his form at previous clubs, and against those in the Premier League this season, Arsene Wenger is definitely putting too much pressure on Mesut Ozil to contribute in front of goal—this may not be wanton criticism, but the Arsenal manager should focus more so on Ozil's phenomenal creative talents and nurture him as the focal point of his squad.
Let the forwards supply the goals, leave the playmaker to produce.
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