It began with a smile and a raised eyebrow from Arsene Wenger.
It was September 2013 and following a 1-0 victory over Tottenham on the Emirates Stadium, the Frenchman was invited by Sky Sports activities’ Patrick Davison on Arsenal’s plans for the ultimate days of the switch window. “Possibly we’ll have a pleasant shock for you,” he stated.
Arsenal’s summer time signing at the moment amounted to 2 free transfers. One to re-sign Mathieu Flamini from AC Milan, the opposite to herald Yaya Sanogo, a promising however injury-prone striker from Auxerre. Followers had been dissatisfied and agitated.
They needed extra and 48 hours later they obtained it, with Wenger’s ‘nice shock’ materializing within the type of a sensational £42.5m deal for Actual Madrid’s Mesut Ozil. He was the third costliest signing in British soccer historical past and practically tripled Arsenal’s file spending within the switch market.
Ozil arrived on the Emirates Stadium as one of many recreation’s most enjoyable inventive skills. A gifted playmaker who lit up the 2010 World Cup with Germany and whose assists for Actual Madrid – which had been plentiful – had made him Cristiano Ronaldo’s favourite teammate.
It took simply 11 minutes of his debut, a 3-1 victory over Sunderland on the Stadium of Mild, for Ozil to register his first for Arsenal, deftly controlling a protracted go from Kieran Gibbs then handing the ball to Olivier Giroud to to finish.
“We’ll all should verify if he has any pretend footwear,” Sunderland supervisor Paolo Di Canio stated afterwards. “They had been like a glove.”
There can be many extra moments like this within the years to return.
Ozil has at all times had totally different sides to him. Good and unhealthy. Jaw-dropping and head-scratching. However few gamers can match his technical genius. Few may even see the sport the way in which he does, not to mention do the issues he does with the ball at his ft.
His first two years in north London yielded back-to-back FA Cups both facet of a World Cup triumph with Germany. However on a person stage, it wasn’t till his third that it actually clicked for him at Arsenal. His 2015/16 season was a heady show of expertise and creativity.
Throughout this marketing campaign, Ozil was immediately concerned in 28 objectives in 45 appearances. He offered 19 Premier League assists, one shy of Thierry Henry’s file, and created a staggering 146 probabilities, a staggering tally that is still the best in a single season since Opta began taking data some time in the past practically 20 years.
Arsenal had been prime of the Premier League on New Yr’s Day with a 2-0 win over Bournemouth through which Ozil scored one aim and arrange the opposite – “he is develop into a very sensational soccer participant”, stated stated Wenger afterwards – however finally they failed within the title race, permitting Leicester to clinch the crown by a margin of 10 factors.
It felt like a missed alternative. And though Ozil was named Arsenal’s Participant of the Yr ultimately, he by no means reached these heights once more, along with his output steadily dwindling from season to season, with the moments of inspiration turning into extra uncommon because the scrutiny of his physique language and software turned extra intense.
2018 summed up the ups and downs of his profession at Arsenal, beginning with him signing a brand new contract price £350,000 per week and ending with him unceremoniously shedding his place within the crew.
In the meantime, Ozil misplaced Wenger, his most ardent supporter at Arsenal, and introduced his worldwide retirement after a tumultuous World Cup marketing campaign with Germany.
This worldwide retirement was introduced as constructive for Arsenal. A call that may permit Ozil to focus completely on his membership. However Wenger’s verdict turned out to be extra correct.
“A small a part of the motivation disappears when that you do not have to be prepared for a World Cup, a European Championship,” stated the previous coach. “He loses a bit if he does not play at worldwide stage.”
Unai Emery actually felt motivation was a difficulty.
He talked about “inflicting friction” with Ozil with a view to get one of the best out of him in an interview with sky sports activities in January 2019. However these efforts had been unsuccessful, culminating in Ozil’s omission simply months into his tenure.
Emery finally reinstated him, such was his desperation for outcomes, nevertheless it was an analogous story beneath the Spaniard’s interim substitute Freddie Ljungberg, who let Ozil down after a present of petulance in a 3-0 defeat in opposition to Manchester Metropolis, and naturally beneath Mikel Arteta. .
Ozil, seemingly unwilling to stick to Arteta’s ‘non-negotiables’ and unable to duplicate his inventive output from previous seasons, was left within the background, a pricey waste of assets at a time when the membership desperately wanted them. want.
It’s a testomony to his contribution in higher instances, nonetheless, that after three troublesome years through which he performed sporadically, throughout his time within the Premier League, he sits second in probabilities created. Christian Eriksen ranks above him, however solely by taking part in 42 extra video games.
“What Mesut has performed on the soccer membership is indeniable and it’ll stay,” Arteta stated in January 2021. “It does not matter if he performs two extra video games, 10 extra video games or none. What he has performed is there for the data, for the historical past of the membership. Nobody can argue about that.”
Arteta insists he gave Ozil each probability to win again his place within the squad earlier than dropping him out of his Premier League and Europa League squads, the implication being that he has no didn’t take them.
However Ozil just isn’t solely liable for the flip of occasions.
It isn’t his fault, in spite of everything, that Arsenal didn’t strengthen the squad round him sufficient within the ultimate years of Wenger’s reign. Or that Wenger’s successors had been unable to construct attacking methods to maximise his skills. Or, certainly, that the emphasis in fashionable soccer has shifted so shortly from technical to bodily.
However it’s telling, in spite of everything, that the prevailing sentiment amongst supporters on the information of his departure was one among reduction fairly than unhappiness. Few might have predicted such an consequence on that heady night time in September 2013 when his transfer to Arsenal was confirmed. Ozil leaves a conflicted and sophisticated legacy.
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