By Enis Koylu
With four months to go to the World Cup, dramatic losses of form are any player’s worst nightmare. But Mesut Ozil, struggling to impose himself and left out of the team at Arsenal, can rest assured that he will be a key part of Joachim Low’s plans for Germany this summer.
With Mario Gotze and Toni Kroos - both wonderful No.10s and more tactically versatile than Ozil - shining as Bayern Munich cruise towards a second straight Bundesliga title, any ordinary coach would be considering his options, but dropping Ozil would go against Low’s modus operandi.
The former Stuttgart boss has long shown near-disregard for his players’ club performances. He has his favourites and will steadfastly stick by them, whether in good form or bad.
When Lukas Podolski was struggling for regular game time at Bayern in 2008, he had no reservations about calling him up for that year's European Championship, where he scored three goals as Germany reached the final. There were no regrets in Austria and Switzerland.
As for Ozil, Low has no reason to be dissatisfied with the 25-year-old’s performances at international level. When he was at Real Madrid, he struggled to maintain his top form, but always produced when representing his country.
As the team has evolved from a collection of exciting youngsters to a slick unit boasting some of the finest players in the world, he has remained the focal point - despite the switch in emphasis from the counterattacking football Low extolled at the 2010 World Cup to the possession-based game they currently employ.
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Throughout qualification for Brazil 2014, he was their best player, scoring eight times - more than anyone else in Group C - despite struggling in front of goal at the Emirates.
Quite simply, Low knows the way to get the best out of Ozil, which Arsene Wenger has struggled to do. For Germany, Ozil has constant movement ahead of him in the form of Thomas Muller and Marco Reus. When Germany want to break quickly, his incredible vision is the key to setting loose attackers, then, when they want to manipulate possession, he can make the difference in tight spaces.
With Arsenal, you get the distinct impression that Santi Cazorla wants to dictate play in the same areas as Ozil, while the more direct Theo Walcott has spent the vast majority of the season injured. The German would be able to make the most of his English colleague’s pace, but they have started just four Premier League games together.
There’s also the fact that the Gunners often get bogged down in matches. Germany tend to go for the jugular and, when faced with a stern defence, have the option of fielding the nippy Gotze as an unorthodox striker.
For all of his improved form and admirable work rate, Olivier Giroud lacks the same subtlety, speed and movement, and can sometimes fail to make the most of Ozil’s passing ability in close quarters.
The ex-Werder Bremen man's performances for his country have not gone unnoticed. Brazil legend Zico, knowing that the Selecao may well have to tackle Germany at some point this summer, was unequivocal in his praise for the 25-year-old.
"Ozil is a great player. He's the brain of the German national team," he said. "I already get excited just by seeing him play. He has the ability to read the game and play a killer pass. Germany have not had a playmaker like him since Wolfgang Overath in the 1970s." High praise from one of the game's all-time greats.
Aside from anything else, in a young team, Ozil is a leader and an example for his team-mates to follow. The likes of Podolski, Per Mertesacker, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger have all raced to 100 caps, but Mesut represents the younger generation, having been integrated perfectly.
He is Low’s go-to man for penalties, despite the furore over his recent miss for Arsenal against Bayern Munich and has the experience of two major tournaments, something Gotze, who spent Euro 2012 on the bench, cannot boast. Meanwhile, Kroos failed to deliver in Poland and Ukraine.
Having played at Real Madrid and Arsenal, Ozil has seen football in other countries and, crucially, has vital knowledge of playing with and against a host of Spain stars. Who knows how to beat an Alvaro Arbeloa or a Sergio Ramos better than a man who trained alongside both every day for three years?
Ozil remains Low’s main man and, regardless of how Wenger uses him at Arsenal, there is zero chance of him being dropped for Germany at the World Cup.