How the Arsenal midfield will shape up with Mesut Ozil

Blog by: Shubi

After a tumultuous transfer window which started with the club’s chief executive suggesting an ‘escalation in financial firepower’, it all seemed to go downhill for the Gunners as the departures continued, but the acquisition part appeared to have hit a roadblock. Apprehensions cropped up, allegations were flung as the club hierarchy found itself in the middle of  a possible meltdown, and the opening day defeat against Aston Villa didn’t do anything  to help their cause.

With the deadline day looming large, Arsenal were expected to be the big movers in the market. Desperate times called for desperate measures and they didn’t disappoint (maybe a little, considering the striker situation).

Boom! And in came Mesut Ozil, like a beady eyed unicorn gliding in all his glory, shattering  the club’s transfer record with a sledge hammer, becoming the most expensive German player ever in the process, briefly distracting from the bigger  problems on hand. Across the summer, a certain bidding pattern has emerged (Jovetic, Higuain, Rooney, Suarez et al) which indicates that Arsenal were desperate for a striker, a pursuit in which they ultimately faltered. Now, doubts are being raised about if Ozil is really the player that Arsenal needed.

To put things in context, when an opportunity presents itself to sign one of the most exciting, not to forget, consistent attacking midfielders of the world, this is precisely one of those moments when you grab the prospect with both hands, haul it down by the scruff of its neck, sit on it and never let go (okay, maybe not, if you are as spoilt as Chelsea). What does Mesut Ozil bring to the table? He is the damn table.

Now that Arsenal have their  £42 million man, we will have a look at how their midfield might shape up with ‘The Wizard of Ozil’ now in their ranks.

The 24-year-old has steadily gained the reputation of one of the most intriguing playmakers in Europe over the past three seasons. Known for his technical and creative prowess, he comes across as a strong passer of the ball, having a passing accuracy of almost 84%, with a strong ability to run and receive the ball in small pockets of space. A great first touch, accompanied by exceptional close control, means that he can efficiently manoeuver space in an opposition midfield.

What Ozil brings to Arsenal

One advantage of Ozil’s move to Arsenal is the convenience with which he can settle into the playing system. Arsenal have been known to deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation, the same pattern which he is used to playing with Real Madrid as well as the German NT. Hand to Glove stuff.  Having created a total of 353 chances over the last five seasons, 91 of them (via Squawka) coming last season itself will mean that the likes of Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott will have a field time feeding off Ozil’s through balls. No wonder he racked up 112 assists over the last four seasons, only second to Andres Iniesta.

Despite playing in the ‘hole’ behind the striker, Ozil’s versatility will ensure that all the playing roles in the attacking midfield can be interchangable, offering a lot of flexibility to the team. He being a naturally left- footed player means that he’ll be equally adaptable to the flanks, be it on the left or on the right, as an inverted winger.

The role of an attacking midfielder is not confined to the assists he lays on; another aspect happens to be the number of goals he scores. Cazorla, who scored 12 goals last season, had a conversion rate of just 10 percent while Ozil, who has been criticised for not scoring enough at Madrid, converted 18 percent of his shots to goals last season, averaging 33 shots per season over the past three years. Clearly, he doesn’t shoot enough because he’s too busy creating  for others.

Ozil’s versatility will come in handy (Courtesy: lineupbuilder.com)

 

With Ozil presumably playing behind the striker, Santi and Walcott will ply their trades on the wings, making the team very potent on counters. With Arteta’s composure in front of the defence coupled with Wilshere or Ramsey’s tenacity alongside him in a pivot, the midfield structure seems like an intriguing spectacle. Unlike Ozil’s backup at the club, Tomas Rosicky, he’s not the type to jump into tackles or put a defensive shift in. Hence, tracking runners in midfield or covering for full- backs are not amongst the best of his assets.

His resourcefulness to play anywhere across the midfield though, will give an extra alternative up top in the absence of the club’s main striker, Olivier Giroud. The likes of Lukas Podolski, who seems to have an understanding with Ozil from the time with the NT, and Theo Walcott who have sought the role of the ‘main man’ up front will have their work cut out with the German’s left footed flair. What is a given though, it will give Wilshere a more defined role, putting his prospects of a  #10 role on the back burner.

The Arsenal setup (Courtesy: lineupbuilder.com)

 

What the ‘Cazozil’ combination does to the balance of the team

The presence of Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil is a mouth- watering prospect, identical to the Chelsea duo of Juan Mata and Eden Hazard last season. In the absence of Lukas Podolski, Cazorla, who has found himself playing on the left side, has this pretty evident nature of drifting to the center, switching roles with Rosicky. Although he does ensure better possession retention and more creativity, it also exposes the full backs to counter attacks.

Cazorla who started on the left against Spurs last weekend

 

With Ozil, being touted to enjoy a more free role than the one he had under Mourinho’s reign, lessening the burden on Cazorla, there have also been suggestions of a possible ‘overcrowding’ in the middle of the park due to the absence of any pacy focal point on the left wing and a proper defensive midfielder to sit in front of defence. It’ll be interesting to see how Wenger rotates the likes of Wilshere, Ramsey, Arteta and Flamini for the two spots in central midfield.

Final word

The signing of Mesut Ozil has been likened to that of Dennis Bergkamp. Having been in the shadow of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo in his time at Madrid, this Arsenal side doesn’t have the same ‘celebrity’ edge to it. And post Gareth Bale’s arrival at the Bernabeu, it was apparent that he didn’t find himself at the centre of the club’s plans any more. At Arsenal, he finds himself in the company of humbler surroundings.

For the Arsenal fans, he comes off as a coup signing (the biggest one in the club’s history) which has rejuvenated their ‘faith’ in the management up to a certain extent. For a community which had gotten used to seeing their star footballers depart year after year, Ozil has arrived like a breath of fresh air. Now, how this ‘top, top player’ adjusts himself to the physicality and pace of the league will be a compelling watch.

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