Just who is Mesut Özil at Arsenal football club? Our club’s record signing, and current iteration of the man we signed from Real Madrid, is a player whom so many expected to be the tonic to lift us in to the stratosphere of the footballing elite. And while things have yet to reach that height for him at Arsenal, there is every chance that the Mesut of Arsenal can realize that potential in the coming years.
The Mesut Özil who came to Arsenal – who hit the ground running, and at the time galvanised the team after a shock defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day of last season, isn’t exactly the same player he was at Real Madrid. It must have been hard to be sure what his new role was. Sure he could still perform the silky passes, and beat his man with minimal effort, but what was he to become for Arsenal football club.
Was he to be the all conquering worlds best number 10 like so many had named him? Or would he be the master of assists like his time at the Bernabéu? For Arsenal’s number 11, initially it was a mixed bag – and soon enough the performances dropped. The pace and power of the Premier League was clearly affecting him.
Easily being knocked off the ball by people you’d hope he could hold his own against and then sometimes being a passenger in games, he must have thought: “life was so much easier when all I had to do was pass to Ronaldo and have Xabi Alonso covering my back.” But unlike the top teams in Spanish football, we don’t have a fantasy league of top echelon players in every position. The top two teams in La Liga are exactly the kind of players you’d buy in your video games and be overjoyed with. Welcome to the real world.
That’s not to say Arsenal are miles behind. But in terms of playing football in a realistic league, where the challenge was clearly harder, and the gap between the top four and those below closing every year, things got hard for our soon to be World and FA Cup winning midfielder.
Injuries derailed part of his first season, and maybe some of that time off would serve to be the realisation the former Werder Bremen starlet needed. He now was in a team who are trying to play a team game. As we struggled to make the top four, Mesut returned and by seasons end, was part of an Arsenal squad who won its first trophy in near on 9 years.
Not much changed in this season’s early months. He got injured while Alexis Sánchez proved to be the main man in the squad. Maybe that was the shock that finally awoke him and now he sees what it takes to make it in this league. Considering the price tag involved with his transfer, some of the relentless media vultures had already written him off completely.
But this is a player you should never write off. He has done his best to show Arsenal fans he means business time and time again – both on and off the pitch. Making videos, posts on Facebook – he wanted the fans to know that he isn’t just another money hungry footballer. He is a person who does care what people think at times. He is a footballer with a heart and someone who enjoys the game and wants to prove his worth here.
While it’s only been a short while since his return, you can see he has bulked up a little. And has been, along with Theo Walcott, hitting his stride very quickly after returning from a three month lay off. You’d like to think the only way is up from here. But the Mesut Özil of Arsenal football club isn’t ever going to be Alexis Sánchez. He doesn’t play that way and when he has a man of the match performance like he did against Villa, those media men who are so quick to criticise him, are nowhere to be found.
Not much has been made outside of Arsenal circles of his mesmerising flick to set up Giroud on the weekend. But this is just a taste of what you get with a consistent Özil on a regular basis when fit. He is a player who, while looks occasionally lethargic, does play on emotion. And it does affect him when people say things like “he’s nicking a living at Arsenal.”
He is a player who wants to be loved and respected. But make no mistake, every time you doubt him he will come back stronger. The Mesut Özil of Arsenal is doing everything he can, on and off the pitch to repay the faith shown in him by Arsenè Wenger and indeed us fans who adore him.
For me personally, outside of Arsenal, he was one of my favourite players in the world. Even in his Bremen days with Per Mertesacker. We may not play in the Spanish league or possess a Ronaldo who can score 45 goals a season – but you can believe that in Mesut Özil we have a world class player who, if you’re patient with, will find the right pass; play the perfect ball; and at any moment, can win you a football game. If you ask me, we have only scratched the surface with the boy who started his senior football career at Schalke.
What lies ahead is going to be the very best of our number 11. In turn, we will see what version of Mesut Özil Arsenal have got themselves but I believe the only way is up. Mesut Özil of Arsenal can be as good as he wants to be – let’s hope his stay at Arsenal is a trophy laden one.
By ‘#ABW Regular Columnist’ Jake Arsenal (@JakeArsenal1)
Jake also writes about Arsenal on his own site, The Loaded Cannon. Go check out his stuff and say “hello.” – OG