Four years and £74m later – has the Ozil & Arsenal relationship been a success?
Everyone has an opinion on Mesut Ozil. Some adore his laid-back style and nonchalant approach to the game, while others lambast his languid body language when things aren’t going well.
Whatever your view, there can be no argument that the German has got people talking since joining Arsenal from Real Madrid for a then-club record fee of £42.5 million in late 2013.
Ozil 13/2 first scorer v Watford
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Ozil sauntered through the Emirates Stadium doors with weighty expectations on his shoulders but immediately delivered on his debut, with a sumptuous assist for Olivier Giroud in an away game against Sunderland.
From showing his talents in the north east of England to dominating defences in north London, the 28-year-old quickly justified his reputation as the assist king of Europe due to his ability to pick out a killer pass, whatever the occasion, whomever the opposition.
The Germany international, who spoke to Goal about a range of topics including his playing style back in May, celebrates his 29th birthday on Sunday and appears to have approached a crossroads in his career, with an expiring contract in the summer of 2018.
As Goal revealed last week, Arsenal have yet to put a formal proposal to Ozil despite a series of talks throughout last season that were eventually broken off due to the uncertainty over manager Arsene Wenger’s future.
42 – Since his @premierleague debut, Mesut Ozil has provided more assists (42) and created more chances (407) than any other player. Ya. pic.twitter.com/SBeOwr0V3F
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 12, 2017
With negotiations now resumed, there is a feeling that Ozil could still commit to the club despite interest from several elite European sides – but, for most people, it is not a question of if or when he will sign a new deal, but whether he is worth one.
Looking at the stats from the past four years, Ozil is second only to Philippe Coutinho in terms of minutes per chance created (24.5 mins), while he has the most chances created, most successful crosses and most assists in the league since 2013/14.
However, while Ozil’s numbers have always been impressive, ex-players and pundits continue to use his body language as a stick with which to beat him.
Indeed, the man himself admitted a couple of seasons ago that he needs to improve that aspect of his playing style – before then explaining to Goal in May that people need to accept who he is and he won’t change for anyone.
Perhaps there was a moment of enlightenment and acceptance that Ozil doesn’t need to alter his game for anyone, given it has worked well for him in his career so far.
If you could only keep one, who would it be? #AFC
— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) October 12, 2017
Admittedly, he doesn’t assert himself on games in the same way Alexis Sanchez does. Chasing down defenders and scoring wonder goals isn’t what he does, yet creating ample opportunities and space for his forward team-mates is still something that the Arsenal team lack at times.
But can Ozil’s time at Arsenal be considered a success, given the huge investment (£73.7m, including transfer fee and wages)? His contributions have been superb and while Arsenal’s system may have exposed his weaknesses at times, the overall quality of the player in question makes it vital that they hold onto him this summer.
Encouragingly, while Alexis Sanchez flirts with the idea of joining Manchester City in January, Ozil’s agent continues to hold positive talks over a contract extension, which looks like a genuine possibility.
“I always want to control the game, give assists and help my team”, Ozil told Goal. “It was like that with me from the start.
“In my position you have many possibilities playing forward: You can demand the balls, make telling passes or score yourself. I feel the most comfortable playing as a No.10 because I’ve done it since I was young.
“Of course, that makes me proud and it is an honour [to be compared with Dennis Bergkamp]. He is a living legend at Arsenal and he was an amazing football player. But I do not want to compare myself with anybody.
“I have my own style and I’ve had it since I was a kid. I am proud of these comparisons, but I am Mesut Ozil.”
Ozil has three FA Cups to his name and his arrival came at a crucial point in Arsenal’s history. Following the barren years after the move from Highbury to Emirates Stadium, the showpiece signing from Real Madrid breathed new life into Arsene Wenger’s side and while many would have hoped for domestic or European success, the signing should be judged on his individual impact – not the collective.
Whether this is his last season or not, Ozil can hold his head high when he sees the level of difference he has made to an Arsenal team who lacked a genuine world class talent before his arrival.
Delivering a major trophy in May would be the ultimate way to silence those critics and prove himselft worthy of a new contract.