Arsenal: Are The Gunners better without Mesut Ozil?

Arsenal's four-game unbeaten run has coincided with the German's absence from the team. Are Arsenal actually better off without his creative genius?


When Arsenal signed Mesut Ozil on deadline day in the summer of 2013 for a then-club record fee of £42.5 million, it was seen as a new beginning for Arsenal. After several seasons of offloading their best players to Premier League rivals, the arrival of Ozil was a step in the right direction. 

Yet, to date, he remains one of those players who elicits mixed reactions from Arsenal fans. While his skill and technique is not in question, his commitment is a constant subject of debate. There are fans who believe Ozil does not offer enough on the field due to his demeanour. 

On the contrary, there are those fans who praise him for his ability to create and play football the Arsenal way. This is the beginning of Ozil’s fifth season at the Emirates and he only has three FA cups and two Community Shield trophies to show for it. 

With Arsenal failing to qualify for the Champions League, have Arsenal progressed since he arrived at the club? What contributions has he made to the club on the field? Are Arsenal better off without him?

Amazing attacking talent

As an attacking midfielder, Ozil has enjoyed Wenger’s loyalty and regular football despite being off-form on many occasions. Of the four full seasons he has played at Arsenal, he has been played in 161 games contributing 32 goals and 55 assists. Over the same period, Arsenal scored 420 goals. This implies that Mesut Ozil has contributed to 20.71% of Arsenal’s total goals either scoring or direct assists. As an attacking midfielder, this return is decent and implies that offensively, he is a key player for Arsenal.

He could be amongst the top five best goal contributors in the club’s history. The last two seasons, 2015/16 and 2016/17, were among his best as he contributed 21 goals and 33 assists. While his attacking prowess is not in question, Ozil’s lacklustre performances come against either strong rivals or more physical matches – the matches which Arsenal need him the most. 

Missing in action when needed most

In the 2016/17 season, there are two games where Ozil’s performance were clearly below par. 

The 2-1 away losses to Everton and Manchester City in December 2016 show why Ozil is not the player Arsenal are desperate for in these kinds of matches. Against Everton, Arsenal had 59% of possession but were second best to Everton in terms of goals scored, chances created, shots on target, crossings and tackles made. In terms of Ozil’s contributions, he had two shots, created one chance and had 81% pass accuracy. While is this is fair considering the team’s general performance, Ozil’s overall performance was poor. In a fierce Goodison Park atmosphere, Ozil was nowhere to be seen.

Against Manchester City, Arsenal started the first half strongly and went ahead via a Theo Walcott goal. However, in the second half, Manchester City rose to the occasion with Kevin De Bruyne being the key man for the Citizens. He managed three shots, created seven scoring chances, made ten crosses, and had once interception. Ozil, in comparison, had no shots, created one scoring chance, made two crosses, and had no interceptions in the whole game.

Even after a poor game against Everton, Wenger insisted on starting Ozil in a top game despite his contributions in these games being questionable. Defensively, he contributed nothing in the second half when Arsenal needed every player to work hard to keep Man City at bay. Ozil shrank on sight of his opponents and most of the time wandered aimlessly and hopelessly. Only Granit Xhaka had a worse performance than Ozil in this match. These issues were also clear In matches against Crystal Palace and Tottenham.

This season, against Stoke City, Ozil was always caught flat-footed in the middle of the park with one of such situation contributing to Jese’s first goal in the league. In fact, Ozil was missing in action for over an hour before spring to life as the game drew to a close.

Toe to toe with Chelsea

Against Chelsea this season, Arsenal went into the game without the injured Mesut Ozil. In his position, Arsenal preferred to deploy the hardworking Aaron Ramsey. Without him on the field, Arsenal were on a different level. There was commitment, desire and effort from all the players. Aaron Ramsey was running the show. He tracked back when Arsenal needed to defend and started counter attacking bursts when Arsenal needed it. 

In Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi, Ramsey had two committed players who ensured Chelsea wingbacks did not roam forward like they did last season in the 3-1 loss. In that game, Arsenal’s performance was dire. Compared to this season, Arsenal were better than Chelsea between the 15th and 85th minute in their performance and workrate according to Squawka. Was the absence of Ozil the difference? Absolutely! The work rate, cohesion and players covering for each other was top-notch. They matched Chelsea in terms of attack and defence and gave in equal measure what they received.

However, Arsenal still need Ozil

Are Arsenal better without Ozil? Against fiercest rivals and physical teams, Ozil should be the last player in the starting eleven. This has been clear in numerous games over the course of the five seasons he has been at Arsenal. In games where Arsenal need to work hard to get at least a point, Ozil is not the ideal player. 

However, in the less intense games, Wenger can confidently deploy Ozil where his attacking mindset and influence would be its strongest. His contribution to Arsenal’s goals cannot be discounted as it is important when we assess the whole season. He is still Arsenal’s chief creator and I would be glad to see him sign a new contract at the club. He’s not perfect, but he is a good piece of the Arsenal puzzle and should be retained.

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Victor Oria

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Victor Oria is a graduate of Biochemistry and currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine. He has been a contributor to RealSport since December 2016.

He is a sports fan in general but prefers to spend time watching soccer, rugby or wrestling sometimes volleyball. He supports Arsenal FC but occasionally lends his fanatism to RB Leipzig, Atletico Madrid, Olympique Lyon, Inter Milan and SL Benfica.

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