I don’t buy into the general criticism of Mesut Ozil this season that he is a ‘flop’ – I think those who use that description are shortsighted and lazy in their generalization. However, I think it’s fair to say he hasn’t yet justified his fee of £42.5 million. I believe that’s mostly down to confidence, I think you can see it in the player’s demeanour on the pitch and his reactions to his own work – when Ozil loses the ball or his first touch lets him down you can see him getting frustrated and demoralised and I think it’s clear he needs confidence.
Arsenal fans shouldn’t worry too much – he has the ideal opportunity this summer to remind the world what he can do on the pitch at his best with Germany at the World Cup in Brazil where he will have some of the world’s finest attacking talents alongside him to accentuate his talent then, hopefully, he will return to the Emirates feeling refreshed and excited to start the new campaign.
Speaking of which, we must remember that this is his first season in England – it takes time for foreign players, especially from La Liga where there are only really three top-level teams compared to six or seven and the Bundesliga where they get a winter break.
Physically the Premier League is probably the most demanding in world football. The play is more aggressive, the teams are more evenly matched across the league (Sunderland can beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, for example) and the games are intense and faster paced.
We saw much the same period of adaptation with Per Mertesacker who came from the Bundesliga and Nacho Monreal who came from La Liga – they need to develop that extra gear physically and Ozil, especially with his frame, needs to perhaps gain a bit of extra core strength or muscle in his upper body as well as prepare and condition his body for the grueling season ahead. Pre-season preparation will be key to his performance next term, especially if Germany make it through to the latter rounds in the World Cup.
3) Work Rate
The biggest criticism of Ozil has been his work rate, which, for some, seems to fall below the standard set at the club by the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky and, I have to agree to an extent, that Ozil must commit more on the pitch.
I don’t think he is necessarily lazy but I do believe he must try harder to give everything he has on the pitch – we all know his exceptional and frankly unrivalled talent (despite whoever is in form at present and being compared to him elsewhere) but seldom have we really seen the true extent of his ability this season and I believe it is down to the player to demonstrate why there was a such a big value on him in September last year.
Only that way will he find consistency in his performances for Arsenal, by working to gain his sharpness and confidence back and fulfilling his potential.
Even though he is the most attacking midfielder in Arsenal’s squad and the most creative and technically gifted player, he isn’t exempt from tracking back, chasing down the ball and keeping his positioning. Everyone else does it, including striker Olivier Giroud and forward Lukas Podolski so there’s no reason why Ozil can’t give it a go once in a while.
I’m not suggesting he needs to turn his game into an aggressive or defensive game – he knows what he is and what his qualities are – but it wouldn’t hurt him to have at least an awareness of his defensive responsibility which, after all, is a responsibility not a choice, for every single player on the pitch to take on board whether they like it or not.
Finally, and aptly so, he needs to improve his finishing – he is most dangerous and effective when he is serving as a provider for a striker or a teammate but there are always going to be times in the position he plays when he has a sight of goal and he is going to need to hit the target, make the goalkeeper work and score on a more regular basis.
Besides that he is a gifted dead-ball specialist too and we haven’t seen anything like the extent of his ability taking free kicks this term. He needs to spend some time on the training ground improving his free kicks, corners, and penalties especially, and that will provide goals for Arsenal in key moments of games where open play isn’t working for them.