8 signs that Mesut Ozil has finally become the king playmaker Arsenal needs
The signing of Mesut Ozil two seasons ago was heralded as a game-changer for Arsenal due to his impact at Real Madrid and the club's decision to review their policy of expensive acquisitions. However, he struggled with the initial expectation level and the price tag.
This term though, he has shown what he's capable of with seven assists in his last five league matches and important goals in big games against Bayern Munich and Manchester United. Ozil has more assists than any other player in the Premier League and has created more chances, whilst he currently has the best assist rate of anyone in the competition's history.
Here are eight reasons why he's now the chief creator...
1. Higher quality team-mates
At the Bernabeu, he always complemented the more expensive 'Galacticos' and was never required to carry the burden of the side, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo in the ranks. However, at Arsenal his hefty transfer fee meant that initially others looked towards him to provide the spark.
The purchase of Alexis Sanchez helped relieve the German of being the centre point of the side, and now the emphasis to carry the team is more often placed at the feet of the Chilean and Santi Cazorla. Arsene Wenger's squad is much better than it was two years ago and as a result Ozil's clever little touches and flicks are understood by his fellow professionals rather than curiously observed as wasteful play. Also, the squad have now learnt the former Real Madrid star's game better, knowing when and where to pass to him, and vice versa
2. Slide rule passes come second nature
Ozil's relationship with Sanchez is often advantageous for Arsenal, as the 27-year-old not only links well with the Copa America winner, but uses his pace to breach an opponent's defence. When Ozil roams between the lines, it's imperative that the team has vertical runners to get behind the back four.
Arsenal have a number of fast players and with Theo Walcott operating as a striker it's perfect for Ozil to slip the ball into his path. There are few players in world football that have the capability to open their body up to side foot perfectly weighted passes with such elegance.
3. Lateral movement
In Ozil's finest season at Real Madrid, he had two wingers either side of him that liked to cut inside onto their preferred foot in order to shoot on goal. With Sanchez looking to do the same at the Emirates and Aaron Ramsey naturally a central midfield player, then it allows for Ozil to make similar movements.
By drifting into wide areas it becomes extremely difficult for the opposition holding midfielder to follow him, and when done at high speed on a counter attack, it can provide enough hesitation on the other side to unlock a defence.
4. Crossing from wide areas
When taking up positions on the wings, it's not just Ozil's aim to disrupt the opposition for his teammates' benefit. The German international can also deliver superb diagonal crosses into danger areas.
It means that he doesn't have to beat a full-back, but simply float a ball into the box for Oliver Giroud to head home - as he did against Everton recently. This is particularly effective from the right-hand side, with Ozil predominantly left-footed, as the speed of the ball does most of the work and the forward only needs to guide it into the net.
5. Assist champion
It can be hard to quantify the success of assists, as it ultimately depends on another player to finish the opportunity. But some assists are so good that the goal is harder to miss than score.
Ozil certainly has the capacity to aid his fellow forwards and he has provided four assists for Giroud already in the Premier League. His vision ensures that he reads the game exceptionally, whilst his intelligence means that he understands familiar patterns. "He was the player who best knew my moves in front of goal," admitted Ronaldo upon Ozil's departure from Madrid.
6. Disguised passes
The likes of Ronaldinho and Zinedine Zidane perfected the non-look passes to create opportunities and Ozil has certainly got the move in his repertoire. His distinguishable face makes it unachievable to look into his eyes and judge his immediate plan, whilst his speed of turn means that it's impossible to interpret his next action from his body position.
Ozil knows exactly how to create space for others so he will happily draw attention to the ball before providing the killer pass to those that have gone unnoticed by defenders. With renewed confidence, the playmaker is able to execute technical moves with an assured mind.
7. Set-piece delivery
His accuracy from corners and free-kicks is a useful weapon for the Gunners, as the more physically imposing players profit from his distribution. It was Giroud once again that headed home Ozil's out-swinging corner against Swansea City, whilst the centre-backs are able to cause problems.
He rarely scores directly from set-pieces, although he has netted a few top class efforts. It's in his nature to provide for others and perhaps the rationale as to why he doesn't score more goals for a player of his talent.
8. Tricks and skills
The No.10 isn't blessed with lightning quick pace, although he isn't exactly slow either (witness the outpacing of Gareth Barry in the 2010 World Cup for one instance). But it's his sheer balance and sublime ball control that enables him to leave opponents in his wake without the acceleration that many players require.
Like Zidane, it often appears like he's about to lose possession before a shift of weight or a shimmy ensures that he moves past defenders with ease and grace simultaneously. Ozil doesn't unnecessarily showboat and every move has a specific reason or significance.