Germany: Replacing Mesut Ozil and the impact for World Cup 2018
Mesut Ozil is in a race to be fit for the start of the World Cup with a knee problem.
The German Football Federation have confirmed that Mesut Ozil is struggling to be fit for the start of Germany’s World Cup campaign after bruising his knee in the warm-up for the friendly against Austria.
The Arsenal playmaker opened the scoring in the 2-1 defeat and was substituted in the 76th minute.
Since, Ozil has been training alone in a battle to regain full fitness and the 29-year-old is expected to miss the world champion’s final warm-up match against Saudi Arabia on Friday.
However, ESPN report that Ozil is only rested as a precaution ahead of Germany’s opener.
RealSport examine the impacts of Ozil’s potential absence and who Joachim Low could call-up to replace the Arsenal star.
With Low often deploying a 4-2-3-1 formation, Ozil was central to German creativity in the final third, deployed in the hole behind the striker, either RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner or Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller.
Ozil featured in five of Germany’s ten World Cup qualifiers, creating a goal in all bar one of those appearances and finishing with a record of one goal and four assists.
The 29-year-old was also part of the victorious squad in 2014 and the group that placed third four years prior and, as such, is one of Low’s most experienced internationals boasting the joint-most caps (90) and the third-highest number of goals (23).
Replacements within the squad
Despite a relatively poor season by Ozil’s lofty standards, coming under criticism once again for his work ethic, the Arsenal midfielder created the most chances (74) of any member of the Germany squad, including Thomas Muller (50) and Toni Kroos (56).
In total, he registered eight assists and scored four goals.
This degree of creativity will be sorely missed at the start of the World Cup, which could mean Low decides to keep him in the squad should he prove his fitness for the second or third game of the group stage.
Therefore, Low could temporarily replace Ozil from within his current crop of players. For example, Muller is a very capable attacking midfielder, having played there for both club and country in the past. In doing so, Julian Draxler would likely replace him on the right.
Moreover, the Bayern Munich star scored more goals (11) and assisted more (8) than his compatriot, but his role is more that of a second striker, as opposed to traditional number ten playmaker, thus he’s not a like-for-like replacement.
With Muller likely to start on the right flank, though, Low could, too, promote Schalke prospect Leon Goretzka into a starting berth behind the striker.
However, Goretzka is typically a deeper midfielder, tasked with linking attack to defence, denoted by his lack of chance creation in the Bundesliga (18).
The 23-year-old was Germany’s top scorer (3) at the 2017 Confederations Cup, though, and is adept at making late runs into the box to get into goal-scoring positions. Moreover, he made nine appearances as an attacking midfielder for Schalke in 2017/18.
Correcting an injustice
The biggest shock to emerge out of the World Cup squad announcements was Low’s decision to exclude Premier League Young Player of the Year Leroy Sane.
The title-winner recorded double figures for both goals (10) and assists (15) and was second only to club teammate Kevin de Bruyne in terms of assists made in Europe’s top five leagues. Sane, moreover, was second only to Ozil for chance creation (57) out of all members of Germany’s squad.
Low isn’t the biggest Sane fan in the world given ill-discipline in following his instructions and, perhaps, the fact that he doesn’t offer as much defensive protection to left back Jonas Hector as, say, Julian Brandt or Marco Reus, but he’s had a tremendous season and deserves, at least, to be in the squad.
If Ozil was to miss out altogether through injury and a replacement call-up was necessary, Low need look no further than Sane.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss the potential winners of the World Cup in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.