Some talents demand that teams are constructed around them. Mesut Ozil of Arsenal is one such player.
He is not a mere adornment. He’s not the icing on the cake. He is, if you’ll excuse the stretched analogy, the cake. His gifts are such that any coach is obliged to make him the very heartbeat of the team.
Arsene Wenger is now building a team in Ozil’s image. When he arrived on deadline day last year, Ozil was effectively parachuted in to a pre-existing XI. He adapted well, learning to link with the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud.
However, there were teething issues too. When Arsenal lost Theo Walcott to a cruciate ligament injury, it became increasingly clear that the Gunners attack was not capable of bringing the best out of Ozil.
The German’s game is about perspicacious through balls fast strikers can chase on to. Giroud, for his many positive attributes, is not the sort of forward who is comfortable making runs in behind the defence. Ozil’s contribution was stunted by the lack of runners around him.
This summer, Wenger has worked hard to solve that issue. From the moment he neglected to sign Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona, Wenger effectively declared that Ozil would be at the core of his new side.
The most significant addition is that of Alexis Sanchez. Sanchez, like Walcott, is blessed with genuine pace and intelligent movement off the ball. He can dribble at defenders but is also willing to make sprints into space to meet raking passes.
Ozil will have a field day alongside Sanchez. The two are ideal strategic counterparts. Whether Sanchez plays wide or through the middle, Ozil’s radar will detect his perpetual sprints across the opponents’ half. When Sanchez is supplemented by a fit-again Walcott, Arsenal’s attack will make for a truly terrifying prospect.
Sanchez is not the only summer signing who will suit Ozil. Although Mathieu Debuchy is ostensibly a defender, he is also an outstanding off-the-ball runner. Debuchy loves to get forward, and his sprints to the byline are a key part of his game. It’s rare that you find a full-back so capable of stretching the opposition defence.
Building a team to fit Ozil’s requirements may not end there. According to Jack De Menezes of The Independent, the club are still looking at the possibility of recruiting Ozil's former team-mate and friend Sami Khedira. That signing would be another indication that Arsenal are being set up to get the best out of Ozil.
It’s not just on the field, either. German national team physio Shad Forsythe has been signed to help make sure Ozil is in top condition at all times. Ozil has already made clear his delight about Forsythe's arrival:
Wenger regularly insists that a player’s first year in English football is primarily about adaptation. For Ozil, that period is now over. Everything is set up for him to flourish at Arsenal.