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Arsenal need much more from Mesut Ozil

8:42 PM MYT 21/01/2020
Mesut Ozil Arsenal
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has welcomed the German World Cup winner in from the cold but his numbers are not good enough heading into Chelsea clash

A lot can change in two years.

When Arsenal confirmed on February 1 2018 that Mesut Ozil had finally put pen to paper and committed to a new contract, the news was greeted by near universal approval.

At the time, Ozil had been playing some of his best football in years and the new deal also helped cushion the blow of losing Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United

He may have been approaching his 30s, but Ozil was still widely regarded as one of Europe’s premier playmakers and Arsenal tied him up until the summer of 2021.

But now, almost exactly two years since that contact renewal was confirmed, even the most ardent Ozil fan would be hard pushed to portray it as a success.

There have been factors that need to be taken into account. Arsene Wenger - the driving force behind Ozil’s decision to leave Real Madrid for north London in 2013 - brought the curtain down on his two-decade long stay at Arsenal and was replaced by Unai Emery.

The relationship between Emery and Ozil was a difficult one; so much so that Ozil found himself out of the team and sometimes even out of the match day squad altogether.

Emery wanted the World Cup winner to be more than just a playmaker. He demanded more from him defensively and, when he went forward, Ozil was often attacking from a wider area than he would have preferred, rather than from the No.10 role where he made his name.

There was also the incident at the start of this season when Ozil, along with Sead Kolasinac, were victims of an attempted robbery outside the latter’s house which resulted in the German sitting out the opening games of the campaign.

Ozil had to wait until the 2-2 draw at Watford on September 15 for his first start of the season and his next league start didn’t arrive until November 2 when Emery brought him back into the side against Wolves after his sparkling display at Liverpool in the Carabao Cup.

Since then, however, the 31-year-old has been a regular starter. Whether it be under Emery, interim boss Freddie Ljungberg or Mikel Arteta. In all Ozil has made 17 appearances in all competitions this season for Arsenal, but during that time he has not scored and has provided just one assist.

There is no doubt that Ozil's performances have improved since Arteta was appointed last month. He has been far more influential in games and is picking up the ball in better areas, with the team now being set up to play to his strengths.

But he will always ultimately be judged on his end product and right now he is not delivering what Arsenal need.

"The demands that we have to put on him are to make the difference every single game," Arteta said, while discussing Ozil’s form ahead of Arsenal’s visit to Chelsea on Tuesday night. "He needs the right structure and players around him to help him to do that.

"I think he could have had more assists and probably more goals in the games he has played under me. He has been a little bit unlucky but overall I think that his performance has improved a lot."

There are many who believe the days of the classic No.10 have been and gone; that the playmaker role is not suited to the pace of the modern game, which so often sees teams attack and create from the wings.

Under Emery, Arsenal predominantly looked to hurt teams down the flanks, with the wing-backs charged with getting to the touchline and cutting balls back for the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette to finish off.

That has changed slightly under Arteta. It was notable in his first game in charge against Bournemouth how often Ozil would drop deep to receive the ball in space before driving forward towards the final third. Had Lacazette been sharper, the German would have picked up at least one assist that afternoon.

But Ozil’s lack of key contributions in the final third can’t just be put down to bad luck. According to Opta, in the past 18 months there are 35 players in the Premier League who have a better minutes-per-chance-created rate from open play than the German.

Since the start of the 2018-19 season Ozil has set up only three goals in all competitions for Arsenal, that’s fewer than Henrikh Mkhitaryan (four) and Aaron Ramsey (six) - who both left the club in the summer - and Hector Bellerin (five), who has made just seven appearances since January due to injury.

Arteta has certainly got more out of Ozil since he arrived last month but now he needs his playmaker to start really influencing games in the final third again.

Ozil has started all of the five games that Arteta has overseen in the Premier League since he was appointed. But in that time he has attempted just one shot and, although he contributed four key passes in the draws with Bournemouth and Sheffield United, he has yet to directly set up a goal. For a player who is in the side purely to create, those numbers aren't good enough.

Arsenal travel to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night knowing victory will reduce the gap to the top four to seven points. It's been described as a must-win game by Arteta.

With Aubameyang suspended once again following his sending off at Crystal Palace, the Gunners need others to step up and fill the void left by their top scorer. Ozil has often been criticised of going missing in these type of games, there would never be a better time for him to prove some of those critics wrong.