When Mesut Özil first joined Arsenal from Real Madrid back in September 2013, it was a record deal fee for the North London club. Back in those days, Arsene Wenger was still manager and he was excited over his new signing saying the 24-year-old German was an exceptional footballer who would make a wonderful addition to the Gunners’ squad.
Arsenal’s CEO, Ivan Gazidis, commented that Arsenal were signing a world-class player who was at that time one of European football’s brightest young talents.
Since signing on at the Emirates, Özil’s contribution has been significant. He has made a grand total of 177 Premiership appearances, scoring 32 goals and making 53 assists.
Sadly, Özil did not prosper as a player under the Wenger’s successor, Unai Emery. He made the lowest number of appearances, often being discarded from the starting line-up. As a manager, Unai Emery disappointed and after his sacking, Freddie Ljungberg took over as caretaker manager. Unfortunately for Özil, not much has changed.
In the recent draw against Everton, Ljungberg said that the German midfielder missed the game due to a foot injury, but he went on to say that even if he had been fully fit, he wasn’t going to choose him to play anyway.
The relationship between managers and their players can have a profound effect with players and often suffer mentally when they are frequently criticised, dropped or regularly taken off the field of play during a game.
There was an excellent example of this in the recent match against Manchester City when Özil was substituted by youngster, Emile Smith Rowe in the 59th minute. Özil showed his frustration by kicking his gloves into the air.
Luckily for Özil, Ljungberg’s temporary reign lasted only a few weeks and Mikel Arteta became the new permanent manager on the 22nd of December. Under the new manager’s reign, the German midfielder has a new lease of life, no more aptly demonstrated than in the recent game against Manchester United.
Some soccer pundits have been slightly scathing of Arsenal’s immediate future prospects saying New Year, same old Arsenal. However, Mikel Arteta has quickly put paid to that by confounding Gunners’ critics when his team beat the Red Devils by 2-0 at the Emirates. And who was the star? One Mesut Özil, of course.
Over the game as a whole, the reborn German midfielder completed 42 of his attempted 49 passes. He set-up seven goal-scoring chances and with 56 touches in total, he won the ball back on ten occasions. Not only was it his own personal best performance in recent years, it bested the performances of any Arsenal player against United in the past three years.
It was not just a flash in the pan either. In all three games since Arteta took over, Özil has performed impressively, and he is being rewarded. The 37-year-old Spanish manager is reportedly going to restructure the Arsenal team in order to extract the best from the German midfielder. Gooners could be in for a real treat if the teams’ fortunes do indeed take a turn for the better.