Is Ozil really the big difference with Arsenal?

At a glance, a football tourist or amateur eye might attribute Arsenal’s sudden burst of life directly to this summer’s record signing Mesut Ozil.

The 25-year-old German playmaker arrived in North London from the Spanish capital where he had been the best number 10 on the continent for three years. He cost the Gunners £42.5 million and, judging by their position at the moment, you’d have to conclude he was worth every penny.

But, before we go all doe-eyed over the player, just how much impact has his arrival actually had on a team that finished (just) fourth last term, after being knocked out of all cup competitions and the Champions League and now sit top of the Premier League table, five points clear, and top of their Champions League group after beating Borussia Dortmund 1-0 in midweek?

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Since his arrival Ozil has scored three goals for Arsenal and made six assists which accounts for 7% of their goals in all competitions and 14.6% of assists. That means the Arsenal that existed prior to Mesut Ozil has scored 93% of all goals and made 85.4% of all assists. In total, statistically speaking, 89.2% of all Arsenal goals have not had much, if anything, to do with Ozil.

Obviously, that doesn’t account for Arsenal’s overall play, especially build-up play and possession retention. In the Premier League alone, Ozil’s pass completion rate stands at 87% which is good but not as good as we know the German is capable of once he’s settles in completely and, crucially, it is a way behind Mikel Arteta (93.9%), Mathieu Flamini (93.2%), Laurent Koscielny (92.8%) Per Mertesacker (91.6%), and Bacary Sagna (88.6%).

Aaron Ramsey’s pass completion rate stands at 86.6% and Santi Cazorla’s is 86.3% but the Welshman and currently the Gunners top scorer has completed 635 out of 733 attempted passes compared attempted passes compared to Ozil’s 434 out of 499.

Ramsey alone has made 23 shots in the Premier League this term, made 13 key passes, 16 successful dribbles or take-ons, and has won 11 free kicks and averages 73.3 passes per game. Ozil has taken 11 shots, made 22 key passes, 13 successful dribbles or take-ons, earned 4 free kicks and averages 71.3 passes per game. The stats alone would tell you Ozil has indeed had an impact on Arsenal so far but nowhere near the impact a rejuvenated Aaron Ramsey has. And that’s just from an attacking and passing perspective.

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Defensively, Ramsey has made 47 tackles to Ozil’s 9, 12 interceptions to Ozil’s one, 8 clearances to Ozil’s none, and three blocks to Ozil’s two. Of course, they play in different positions with different responsibilities but, nonetheless, Ramsey has had a far greater impact on Arsenal than Ozil so far.

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s actual defenders and protective midfielders have had a huge impact in terms of their performances this term – between Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs, Nacho Monreal, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini, Arsenal have made 108 tackles. Even Tomas Rosicky has chipped in with 8, Cazorla with 7, Jack Wilshere with 7 and Olivier Giroud with 12.

As a team, Arsenal have made 209 tackles in the Premier League over 10 games – the actual defenders account for 37.3% of the total, the midfielders (excluding Ozil) account for 58.7%, and Ozil alone accounts for 4% of the total. 96% of Arsenal’s defensive record is, again, nothing to do with the new record signing.

Massive credit must also go to goalkeeper Wojceich Szczesny who has kept three clean sheets (in the Premier League alone), faced 127 shots on his goal and let in just 9 goals and made 42 saves in the Premier League, many of them outstanding. Of the shots he’s faced, Szczesny has prevented 93% of them resulting in a goal against.

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At the other end of the team, up front Olivier Giroud has led the line remarkably well for Arsenal – he’s five goals, made four assists, taken 38 shots on goal, made 17 key passes, 8 dribbles, won 15 free kicks, and completed 196 passes of 294 attempted (66.7% completion rate). He’s been as good as he’s been since his arrival this season and is in fine form.

Overall, Arsenal are very nearly unchanged since last season – apart from Ozil and Flamini – and they were in fact doing just fine before they spent that £42.5 million this summer.

From January 2013 to now Arsenal have won more points than any other team in the English top tier including the champions Manchester United. From the outside one might understandably assume Mesut Ozil has completely revamped Arsenal but, on the inside, Arsenal’s ‘new found’ new wave of quality and consistency is nothing all that new. I would suggest, if anything, Ozil gave Arsenal more confidence and belief.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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