Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher has dismissed comparisons between Mesut Ozil and Dennis Bergkamp as “nonsense,” and he has challenged the German to inspire Arsenal to the Premier League title this term.
As noted by John Cross of the Daily Mirror, the Gunners’ current creator has drawn comparisons with Bergkamp, who lit up Highbury during his spell in the iconic red jersey. However, writing in his column for the Daily Mail, Carragher claimed they are premature and unfounded at this juncture:
As we head into 2016, he is the main reason Arsenal are leading the way and to have 16 assists already is astonishing. Nobody in Premier League history has got near that total at this stage. It has led some people to say that Ozil is now at the level of Dennis Bergkamp.
Others have suggested he is surpassing Bergkamp because, even at his best, the Dutchman never produced that many assists over the course of one season.
As it stands, though, it is nonsense to use statistics to try to compare Ozil and Bergkamp. The reason is this: Bergkamp is immortalised in bronze outside the Emirates Stadium because, aside from all the medals he won, he helped bring fantasy football to north London. His style had substance.
Carragher noted the Dutchman was central to an Arsenal team that won the double under manager Arsene Wenger; he also won the PFA Player of the Year award in 1998.
He is revered by those who frequent the Emirates Stadium to this day, and to be even talked about in the same company as Bergkamp is testament to Ozil’s stellar recent form.
Here’s what Wenger had to say about the comparisons between the two recently, per Cross (h/t Bleacher Report UK):
Ozil is enjoying the finest season of his Arsenal career to this point. It took the Germany international a while to fully adapt to the relentless pace of English football, but this term his technical talents have allowed him to dictate the tempo of matches and make critical contributions in the final third, too.
Already this season, Ozil has 16 assists in the Premier League, and he plays incisive, positive passes more often than any other player in European football, per WhoScored.com:
Mesut Özil: Has made a key pass more often (every 21.1 mins) than any other player with 15+ apps in Europe’s top 5 leagues in 2015— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) December 31, 2015
But as good as the 27-year-old has been this season, Carragher is correct in his assessment. Ozil has been the standout player in English football during the 2015-16 campaign, but we’ve only just passed the midpoint.
It’s at this stage when Arsenal teams in the past, bristling with flair players, have fallen back in the race for glory.
As noted by Kartik Krishnaiyer of World Soccer Talk, it seems as though this season is the best chance the Gunners have had of winning the Premier League for years:
If Arsenal doesn't win the title this season, they have no excuses. Looking at this Prem, it's weak at the top and Gunners should do it.— Kartik Krishnaiyer (@kkfla737) January 1, 2016
If they are to go all the way, Ozil will have to maintain the exceptional standards he has set so far this term.
The German is a player who has enough quality to help offset the flaws still prevalent in this Arsenal squad, and with players such as Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla missing in recent weeks, the playmaker seems to have relished assuming extra responsibility.
That should be encouraging for Arsenal fans hoping to end a 12-year wait for a league title. Ozil was a player so often on the periphery of games during his first couple of campaigns at the club, whereas now he’s at the crux of a team that finally looks capable of enjoying similar successes to the sides previously inspired by Bergkamp.