Solutions to Getting Arsenal's Mesut Ozil Back to Form
Mesut Ozil has been arguably the most divisive player on Arsenal's payroll this season.
Many feel that the German star has not played at a level commensurate with his club-record £42.5 million price tag and criticize his often lackadaisical performances. Others point to statistics like his team-leading eight Premier League assists as evidence that Ozil has performed better than one might think.
The general consensus is that someone who prior to this season was considered among the top attacking midfielders in the world has been performing well below his potential.
Let's look at some ways to get Ozil to his peak form.
Surround Him with Speed
Ozil needs someone to pass the ball to in order to be effective. Giving it to someone who is on the move is perfectly within his capacity.
Therefore, it really helps Ozil if he can distribute the ball to a runner on the flank who is able to get in behind the defense and cause the sort of disorganization and havoc on which creative players thrive.
That is why he was so much more effective when he had Theo Walcott as an outlet on the right flank. Ozil will have to put up with the Englishman's absence until next season, but Arsene Wenger should look to get Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into the starting XI as much as possible to recoup some of that uncoachable speed.
Let Him Breathe
A few weeks ago, Bleacher Report's Clark Whitney dropped this telling and rather incredible statistic in his article about "the enigma that is Mesut Ozil":
"In three full seasons in Spain he completed the full 90 minutes in just 25 Primera games, a testament to his lack of fitness."
No doubt Ozil's stamina has forcibly increased since moving to Arsenal as a result of his playing almost every minute of almost every game. However, that gigantic workload has also taken its toll on him, sapping his energy and contributing to the malaise for which he has been so criticized this season.
Rotating him a bit more with Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky and even Jack Wilshere would be a good idea.
Intelligent Running and a Quick Tempo
Ozil often gets criticized for slowing things down in and around the penalty box, but a close viewing of the game often reveals that no one else around him is either in a favorable position or moving toward one.
Often, the static culprit is Olivier Giroud, who seems to want to wait for the ball to be played to him rather than getting in a position that would compel Ozil to pass it.
All of the Gunners' forwards and midfielders wait for Ozil to make something happen, especially against teams who like to sit deep and absorb Arsenal's pressure (a la Chelsea, West Ham, Aston Villa, etc.).
That is quite a contrast from the aggressive and incisive running of Cristiano Ronaldo from which Ozil benefited when he was at Real Madrid. Arsenal have no one of that caliber, but they could certainly do more.
It is hardly unique for a foreign player to take an entire season to adapt to the rigors of the Premier League before fully settling in with his team. Only then can he perform at his peak level.
Arsenal might need delivery now but final judgments on Ozil can't be made in first season. Hazard and Suarez prove that— Jeremy Wilson (@JWTelegraph) February 12, 2014
The fact that he has produced what he has in his first season is commendable, if not quite satisfactory. However, Arsenal supporters are right in demanding more from him considering his huge price tag and obviously prodigal talent.
Next season will be a much better indicator of Ozil's ability to thrive in England. He's 25 years old. Fans should take comfort in the fact that the course of his development is not unique.