It is the summer of 2013; Arsenal fans are growing impatient over the club’s lack of major signings over the summer.
The deadline day emerges and with just two hours to go, the Gunners, out of nowhere, make one of the biggest transfers of the year.
Mesut Ozil, 24 at the time, at the peak of his powers, surprisingly agrees to join Arsenal in a fee worth £42.5m that will see him become the club’s record signing and Germany’s most expensive player as well.
It all went to plan, well initially at least. The German had a stellar debut season and was a key figure in the run to Arsenal’s FA Cup win – that saw then-coach Wenger end his nine-year trophy drought. Fantastic stuff. Right?
Fast forward back to August 2019 and Ozil is a divisive figure in the Arsenal ranks. Time after time he has been accused of being “lazy” and nonchalant about football, his work rate and attitude, in particular, an issue of debate.
It doesn’t help that the German is also the clubs highest earner at £350,000 per week (second-highest earner in England) and as I always say “with great wages comes greater expectations” and with that in mind, Ozil has lived nowhere close to those expectations.
Arsenal had a great summer window by their standards but not one Ozil will be “happy” about.
With the emergence of Dani Ceballos, an improving Joe Willock and a hungry for goal looking Nicolas Pepe, Ozil will find it hard walking into the Arsenal team since his omission after being in gang-related threats.
Dani Ceballos against Burnley showed Arsenal what they had been missing – a player with a balanced eye on the ball with a vision for a pass and someone who is also willing to help his teammates off the ball as well.
Dani Ceballos' game by numbers vs. Burnley:
100% take-ons completed
90% pass accuracy
4 take-ons completed
4 chances created
3 fouls won
2 tackles made
No one could get near him. ? pic.twitter.com/3DwPY1oCkG
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 17, 2019
The fact that the 23-year-old also finished the game with the most distance covered shows how he offers something different that Mesut Ozil never would.
It gets worse when you realize that Ceballos in 90 minutes had the same number of assists Ozil did the whole of last season (two). So much for someone who is called the “assist” king.
Only recently, City’s De-Bruyne became the fastest player to reach 50 assists (in 18 fewer than Ozil) and Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold also equalled Ozil’s feat of five consecutive assists in a Premier League match (which was set by the German in 2015).
All these point to the same conclusion – the 30-year-old has greatly declined and is a shadow of the man he used to be.
Still on his Arsenal chances, Ozil faces a humongous battle for a spot back in the team.
For the first time in many years, Arsenal have a reasonable plethora of depth to call upon.
Ceballos’ impressive performances means it’s hard to drop him, the left flank which Ozil has been deployed in at times is now occupied by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and a hungry Reiss Nelson in wait.
The right flank is a no go as that man Nicolas Pepe will obviously make the position his own and also when Arsenal cough out £72m for one player, it’s because they want to see him play week in week out, not get cameos or add to the squad’s depth.
To cap it all off, Emery’s style of play is one that requires much intensity and high energy pressing football – traits which Ozil seems to have neither of.
It all begs the question – will the German still get playing time?
Well yes, he would. As much as he doesn’t offer the work rate that a Dani Ceballos offers, on a good day Ozil is second to none in splitting up opposition defences and opening up play for attackers.
It’s no surprise the German has been Arsenal’s highest chance creator for four successive seasons – last season being noteworthy as he played only “little” amount of football.
Mesut Özil has created more chances (36) in the Premier League this season than any other Arsenal player.
He's played 1,352 out of the 2,790 available minutes. 〽️ pic.twitter.com/ZNdO7sKu1J
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 1, 2019
That been said, there will be games where his technical approach would be hugely needed. Against opposition that set out all to defend and frustrate the rich Gunners attack line.
In such cases, Ozil and Ceballos can play together with the latter playing deeper and freeing up space for the German to dictate play upfront. Out of nowhere, Ozil is very much capable of creating a goal-scoring chance – which would be key to the Gunners on a number of occasions throughout the season.
Ozil might still have an important role to play for Emery but it’s more than obvious his impact and game time will be largely reduced. His skills are now more of a “luxury” and will only be called upon when it is about one of the few options left to try.
Against top-six sides, he will most likely not be looked at and might see his chances come against “lesser” opponents.
It’s a massive downgrade for him personally, giving the heavy reliance Arsenal have had on him for years in midfield to make things happen. At 30, it’s now the final straw for him – either he improves his game or happily sits down on the bench.