Mesut Ozil’s form has been the subject of much debate recently, with some observers claiming he does not perform in the big games.
It is an accusation the vast majority of top footballers have been faced with at some point in their career, but considering the money Arsenal spent on their club-record signing, should they expect more from him? And what exactly is the truth surrounding his form? Does he disappear on the big occasions, or is he simply getting used to a new club and a new fixture-list?
Ozil started his Arsenal career in impressive form, providing four assists in his first two matches. He would later go on to score five goals and provide 10 assists by Christmas.
That blistering start may have tailed off as the winter drew in, but at least he was still acting as the creative force Arsene Wenger had no doubt signed him to be.
And then his form took a dip, to such an extent that the sum-total of his creative contributions since Christmas is two assists.
He was side-lined with a minor injury, and he has needed to get used to a demanding festive fixture list that occurs neither in Germany nor in Spain. But is there more to it than that? Are the naysayers right when they say he does not turn up on the biggest of occasions?
Of his five goals and 12 assists to date this campaign, he has scored just one against a side in the top 10 in the Premier League (Everton) and set up three (against Southampton, Manchester City and Liverpool).
In the Champions League, he scored one and set up one at home to Napoli and set up one at home to Marseille. Against Borussia Dortmund, he failed to score or provide for a teammate in either fixture.
So that is this season, but the accusation seems to take into consideration his previous performances against the top clubs. As a result, we can also look at his contributions while at Real Madrid.
Last season Ozil scored nine goals and provided 16 assists for Real in La Liga. Of those contributions, three goals and eight assists were against sides who finished in the top 10. So in short, a third of his goals and half his assists came against top-half Spanish sides.
In Europe, he fared much better against Borussia Dortmund (the eventual finalists), scoring one and setting up three as the sides met a total of four times.
However, he only managed one other goal-scoring contribution in Europe’s elite competition – an assist in a 3-0 win over Galatasaray.
In six of his 10 Champions League appearances that season, he failed to score or to create.
Still with me, okay, one last delve into the history books and then we are done. In the previous La Liga season, Ozil racked up an outstanding 20 league assists and 29 in all competitions.
That season, of his 20 league assists seven came against sides who finished in the top 10. Although he did set up goals both home and away against Barcelona.
When you consider that was also the season that Ozil both scored and provided an assist in the Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich, it is clear the German international can step up on the biggest stages; although he is yet to do it consistently.
So perhaps the only conclusion to make is that while he is better against lowlier opponents - which you would expect of a player who commanded a £42.4million transfer fee - he is more than able to do it on the grand occasions.
He just has to turn sometimes into almost-every-time. Then Arsenal will have got what they paid for.
image: © Ronnie MAcdonald