Do you prefer the new Mesut Ozil, or the old one?
14th December 2015

It is only short column from me today on Mesut Ozil, but in my opinion a pertinent one. Arsenal’s German playmaker has been nothing short of inspirational for the Gunners since the start of the campaign in August. In fact, he has been so since March in reality. However it has not always been like this.

On my own blog and on social media last season and the one before, I was not always so enthusiastic. Whilst observing that Ozil was the closest I had seen to Bergkamp in an Arsenal shirt, I was unwilling to readily bestow upon him the ‘World’s Best Number 10’ title with which he arrived. I was often criticised for suggesting that when we played the 4-1-4-1 formation, he might be left out as he did not at that time fit the system in big away matches.

I believed at that time that he did not have the physicality to play centrally in that formation, and it was why he played wide when Wenger deployed him in midfield. If I or anyone else observed this or questioned his work ethic, it was met with derision and comments like ‘You don’t buy the world’s finest playmaker and ask him to tackle.’ Equally, if one questioned his lack of shots or goals his blind defenders again pointed out ‘politely’ that it was his job to assist, not to shoot and score.

29 November 2015 Premier League Football : Norwich City v Arsenal : Mesut Arsenal celebrates his goal for Arsenal. Photo: Mark Leech

Ozil celebrates his goal for Arsenal at Carrow Road.

It was never a case of me not believing he was a sensational player, more that I felt there was just so much more to come from him once he adapted fully to the Premier League. Now many will still argue with me for the sake of it, but are we really to believe that the broad-shouldered muscular player who returned in March after a long injury spell was an accident? I prefer to believe it was the Arsenal management team and physical team working on him as they did with Theo. That change in physicality does not occur without a considered programme of hard work with an objective.

Yes he used to cover the ground in games, but he was not putting in the challenges at the end of the tracking back and now he is. No longer do we see the head dropping exacerbated Ozil when he loses the ball, we see a man determined to win it back, just as Henry did when he lost the ball. It is personal. I also prefer my Number 10, when not creating, to be busting a gut to get on the end of things – which he now does – and a player with his talent and technical ability should be shooting on goal.

Anyway I could always be entirely wrong but in case you still think so, I will pose a question.

Do you want this Ozil from before the injury at Chelsea and the rehab?

Aug 2013 to Appearances Goals Assists Shots Shots on Target
Oct 2014 52 8 16 53 32

Or perhaps you prefer this post-rehab model?

Jan 2015 to Appearances Goals Assists Shots Shots on Target
Dec 2015 47 9 19 64 31

The figures may not look that telling, but at the very top of one’s profession, and when your profession is being a top side’s Number 10, those fine margins are the differences between being class in your own team and league and being world class. The current version is shooting, scoring and assisting at a higher rate. Ozil is back where his talent suggests he should be, and in 2015 he may well just be the world’s best number 10, but in 2013 and 2014 he was not.

I could go into more detail and research the distances he now runs and the tackles he now makes, but I really don’t need to as my eyes and your own will tell you the story. What I will leave you with is the astonishing fact that Mesut is on target after 13 assists in 15 Premier League fixtures, to deliver over 32 assists in a league season. The fact that the record is held by Thierry Henry and stands at 21 gives you an idea of the magnitude of our German’s current generosity for his team-mates.

The most by any midfielder is 20 and our ex-skipper Fabregas shares that honour with Frank Lampard. If Ozil continues uninjured and at his current rate, he will surpass all these achievements early in February with three months to spare!

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