Only Lionel Messi has more assists than Mesut Ozil over the past 10 seasons.
The Arsenal star has created the most chances in the top five leagues since 2006 and his departure from Real Madrid made Cristiano Ronaldo ‘angry’ – as he was the best player at knowing the Portuguese’s moves in front of goal.
Yet much has been written on Ozil since he arrived at Arsenal in 2014. From the way his body language is perceived on the pitch, to whether he runs enough for the team. Premier League tracking data from last season shows that Ozil covered 329km last term, only bettered by left-back Nacho Monreal, while his 1759 high intensity sprints was fourth only to Monreal, Alexis Sanchez and Hector Bellerin.
Arsenal head coach Unai Emery’s decision to bench Ozil for the 2-1 win against Bournemouth was a tactical decision, clearly impacted on by the choice to play three defenders at the back.
Speaking post-match, Emery explained his decision to play without Ozil, stating: “We thought about how we can be better in the match today, with a very demanding match physically," adding, however, that “every player is important.”
Ozil has three goals and one assist in 10 Premier League games this season. Of his 477 passes he has an 83 per cent pass accuracy rate.
Still, headlines including ‘you wimp’ after the Bournemouth game played on Emery’s comments, suggesting that the German didn’t have the ‘physicality’ to start at the Vitality Stadium.
Throughout the tail end of last season Ozil started matches while carrying a back injury, something that culminated with him having to be rested in the final match of the campaign. Hardly the behaviour of a weakling.
"His commitment is good, he trains well," Emery said.
"I have spoken with him and I push him to give even more quality in matches, and keep up the good performances against big and small teams, home and away.
"Every player has their challenge to help the team. They all have a challenge individually and collectively to improve. And with Mesut, a big player, we need to continue working to hold that high level of quality in each match."
Indeed, the players who started in Ozil’s absence were two national team players who played many minutes for their respective nations over the international break. Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan suit Emery’s high intensity, pressing style, although Mkhitaryan has struggled to impact games in recent weeks.
Emery’s U-turn on Aaron Ramsey shows that he is capable of being ruthless if it favours the team. A tactical decision to bench Ozil when there are bigger games coming up against Tottenham and Manchester United shouldn’t be looked into too much – especially when all signs are pointing to him being heavily involved in both matches.
Discipline remains a key facet in any footballer’s game and Emery celebrating Granit Xhaka tackling Mohamed Salah in the 1-1 draw against Liverpool last month emphasises the major difference between the Spaniard and former manager Arsene Wenger.
It is clear that Emery’s decisions are based on tactical intelligence rather than favouritism, and with 18 games unbeaten, those attempting to make it a slight on Ozil’s game should refer to the statistics which show he continues to contribute at an elite level when required.