This article was first written in 2015 and we’re re-publishing it now to show how little has changed in the intervening years
When you watch Ozil week in, week out, it’s easy to appreciate his ability and his intrinsic value to this Arsenal team, but our number eleven has found it difficult to convince those outside of Arsenal of his talents. The question is why?
2. Mesut’s style
As well as eschewing the limelight in favour of making the right decision, he also focusses on doing the simple things perfectly rather than trying the spectacular. Of course, he shows us in glimpses exactly what he is capable of, with tricks to rival the best of them, but he only uses them when he is pinned in a corner and has no alternative.
Instead, whether it is a pass or a touch, Ozil delivers each stroke of the football with exquisite accuracy.
Against moany Pardew’s men, he completed 98% of his passes, with over three-quarters of those being in the final third. If we look at the opening goal, there is a beautiful moment of contrast between Alexis’ uncontrolled one-two with a Palace defender, and Ozil’s pin-point cross which lands in the perfect area for Giroud to strike it first time.
There is a place for both these approaches, but Ozil’s is that bit more understated and garners less attention as a result.
It is the same when we are defending. Mesut’s style is to focus on the team position rather than his individual situation. It’s hard to think of an occasion when Ozil would chase down the keeper as he attempts a clearance unless the team are in a position to back him off, again a stark contrast to the likes of Alexis and Giroud. It’s ultimately that most German of traits – his efficiency – which sees Ozil focus on the benefits of each action and only do that closing down if it will have a chance of success.
If you watch him defending, it comes back to that mix of efficiency and selflessness – rarely will you see him making a tackle of any kind, let alone the brutal type idolised by the English media, but instead he will block passing lanes and effectively control the direction of play even when the opposition have the ball, by forcing them to pass in a particular direction. It’s no mean feat to direct the way your opponent plays.
This strategy often leads to Arsenal pushing teams back into awkward situations and allowing another of his teammates to make the tackle or interception that turns the ball over again. It’s not something you see in statistics, as he’s rarely the one to perform the action that does eventually win the ball back, but he is instrumental in causing it, the director general.