Mesut Ozil: Much More Than A Marquee Signing

The first order of business has to be congratulating the Club and everyone who worked on that transfer.

I can’t believe there is anyone who follows the game seriously and doubts the quality of Arsenal’s latest German acquisition. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that Mourinho denying Demba Ba’s loan move to the Gunners was directly related to the Ozil signing. The former Real Madrid boss knows just how good a player Arsenal have brought in.

So let’s move very quickly from whether he’s world class to just what makes him world class. After the signing was announced Arsene Wenger said,

…he has all the attributes I look for in an Arsenal player.

It’s a simple enough statement but says quiet a lot because it isn’t an exaggeration or the typical platitude. Wenger prefers a very attack-minded approach to the game, often even at the cost of overall balance. When the attack doesn’t quite work the possession game can become a liability as we saw against Aston Villa where the visitors’ compact defence held firm against Arsenal’s attack for large periods. As more and more players took risks to break through, it opened the game up for Villa and forced the defensive players into risky tackles and errors of judgment.

There are two ways around this. One is to have a stronger defensive set up and the other is to have players who can get beyond the parked buses. Towards the end of last season and in the four wins in recent weeks, Wenger’s team have showed they are improving their ability to defend as a collective. But that alone won’t be enough – you play defensively against a relegation candidate at the Emirates and they’ll happily take a scoreless draw – and the signing of a player of Ozil’s ability will make breaching deep-lying, organized defensive units a more probable and enjoyable task on a consistent basis.

Individual Qualities…

The German international has almost everything you would need in an attacking player.

Technically he’s exceptional. His first touch, whether to drop the ball dead or lay it off perfectly, is sublime; excellent close control gives him time in tight areas that few players can find; he can pass and receive the ball on the move, on the turn; and the weight on his pass, be it a through-ball, a set-piece, a cross, or any other attempt to reach his teammate, is impeccable.

Vision is an oft-admired, yet highly underrated quality in football. I think it’s because most people can’t see the crucial pass unless someone actually makes/attempts it and thus they don’t realize what was missing until it’s actually there in front of them. Wenger, obviously, does not fall into that category and would have been aware of the need for a penetrating eye in his team ever since Fabregas left. Cazorla is a class act, Wilshere is a phenomenon in the making, Rosicky is a brilliant attacking player, Ramsey can ping balls through defences, and watching Zelalem in pre-season was a genuine pleasure. But it is not slight on these players to say that Ozil, after his spell in Spain under the watchful eye and tactical brain of Mourinho, is a player on a whole different level when it comes to seeing a pass. Throw in his technical skills and that means he can execute it just as well and quickly as he can see it.

Selflessness is the icing on this cake. Good players make others better but the truly selfless ones elevate the team to a whole different level. It frees them to make the right choices over and over again. His mind is constantly scanning the pitch and finding the best path to goal. In the process Ozil can change the pace of the game, change directions, and combine with others in search for that vital opening. He won’t just look to make half a yard for himself before letting a shot fly.

Some might consider that a weakness. In fairness, his goalscoring ability is probably the area where there is room for improvement. That said, his conversion rate is actually surprisingly good. According to stats on the official website, Ozil hit the target with nearly 78 percent of his shots in La Liga last season and converted 41 percent of shots into goals. The temptation, based on linear extrapolation and trivial logic, would be to say he should shoot more often and, thus, score more goals. However, to me, the thing to admire here is his decision making and efficiency. Shooting more will not only reduce his efficiency but also squander opportunities that could be created for his teammates. Making the right choice in such situations is extremely tough. It’s not easy even from a distance with a better perspective and the help of cameras so pulling it off on the pitch requires a special talent. I have a feeling watching Ozil will be an educating experience for Arsenal fans, or indeed, most followers of the Premier League who are willing to learn instead of insisting their opinion is the correct one.

The Tactical Options…

Ozil will give Wenger a great deal of flexibility.

The obvious position for him is in the attacking midfield just behind the striker. For all his qualities discussed above, Mesut isn’t a guy who can put a great defensive shift in. His mind looks for openings to unlock defences but it isn’t going to find holes that he has to plug to make the team solid at the back. He will slide delicious balls through but don’t expect too many sliding tackles. It’s not that he will shy away from his duties but the manager will surely have to create a sturdy support system behind him.

The defensive intelligence of Arteta when paired with the industry and tenacity of Ramsey can work very well. Wilshere or Rosicky in place of the Welshman and Flamini instead of Arteta are also imaginable combinations depending on the quality of the opposition. This should give Wenger a decent chance to rotate players and make subtle changes to meet the demands of individual games.

Ozil is mostly an offensive player who can move vertically and horizontally into the right space but largely in the opposition half when the team is playing the possession game. He has shown discipline when playing in a counter-attacking German line-up and can be lethal when the team breaks forward quickly. But Arsenal don’t defend the way Germany do, at least haven’t done so in the recent times. Although the structural integrity has improved considerably and the team defends as a unit a lot more consistently, the Gunners have to work a lot harder to defend. Giroud leads the line, Walcott and Cazorla have some measure of freedom, but the three central midfielders have to work their socks off to support the back four.

While there is no doubt Ozil will add further bite to Arsenal’s breathtaking counter-attacks, he’s not going to track runners or provide cover to full-backs on a regular basis. As a result it’s hard to imagine him playing in front of the Ramsey-Wilshere duo, for instance, without the defence being compromised in games where Arsenal concede possession as they did against Tottenham.

With these thoughts in mind it will be interesting to see how Wenger uses Ozil in the period when Arteta isn’t available due to injuries. Could it be that the German’s arrival actually increases the starts that Flamini gets? It should be a welcome option if it gives players who’ve suffered from injuries, like Wilshere and Rosicky, more of a break between outings.

The other option is for Ozil to play on the right. Some people have a mental block when it comes to such flexibility. For instance, many still can’t wrap their heads around the fact that playing on the left was actually the best position for Arshavin. But those who study the game more carefully will not fall in the trap of boxing players into roles (which aren’t even strictly defined anyway!?).

Ozil often drifts towards the flanks, particularly to the right. A lot of his creative moments arise from that zone and Mourinho has used him there in some of the trickier games because it brought greater balance to the side. Wenger will also do the same, mainly in two cases.

Firstly, the German international could start on the right with his compatriot on the opposite flanks if Theo is injured. It wasn’t just that Ronaldo had the quality to get into the right positions and score at Real Madrid, Ozil thrives when there is someone on the left who can make those runs and finish the chances he creates. He already has excellent understanding with Podolski from all the time with the national team. Cazorla could move into the central spot and the three will produce some eye-catching combinations.

The other option is to have him on the right when Giroud is missing and Walcott has to play through the middle. In such an instance, Santi could play through the middle with a direct player on the left or Arsenal could go with five midfielders if they’ve to rely on the counter-attacking style against a strong team.

All-in-all, just one signing should give Wenger a fair few permutations to work with from a tactical point of view

Areas of Improvement…

No one’s perfect. I’ve touched upon his lack of defensive thinking but we also have to see how Ozil reacts to the physicality of the Premier League. Highlight reels don’t capture the gratuitous off-the-ball kicks to the ankles, knees to the back, and elbows to the face that technically superior players constantly receive in the English game. And I may seem biased but there seems good reason to believe those wearing the Red of Arsenal do so more than most others. We’ll have to see how Ozil adapts to that and if he has the maturity to channel his frustrations in a meaningful manner rather than picking up cards for losing his rag. Related to physicality, we’ll also have to see if he can play at the Premier League intensity for the whole duration of the game every three days during the peak periods. Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t complete some of the games he starts.

The central midfielders at Arsenal have to cover a lot of ground and play a major role in retaining possession. They usually clock up a ton of passes and a lot of that is just safe circulation. I don’t know if Ozil is up that kind of donkey work, so to speak. It’s linked to his tendency to go missing from some games where it’s a hard grind in midfield. Will he drop back to pick up the ball from the defence when the deeper midfielders are being marked? Will he keep on passing and moving till an opening becomes available or will he go direct more often? Can he tune his mind to a more safer passing channel when the need arises? This might be an area where Wenger will have to help him evolve tactically.

Having played with a goal machine like Ronaldo, it’ll also be interesting to see how the German adapts to teammates who can be a bit more frustrating. It’s not easy for a player to see the perfect through-ball squandered by a heavy first touch. Ozil will also have to calibrate his game/thinking to suit the strengths of his new teammates so that wasted opportunities are minimized. What’s the point if the passer and runner aren’t on the same page!? This fine tuning might take a while. It’s not really a weakness but will surely be another test of his maturity and on-field leadership.

Final Words…

Mesut Ozil is more than a marquee signing. He is a signal of Arsenal’s ambition and the hard work and sacrifices of recent seasons bearing fruit. It’s by no means enough but his arrival will surely lift the players and should boost the atmosphere around the ground. It should also give the detractors some food for thought, if it suits their taste that is. I see this as a first step in a measured approach and there’s more to be done to guarantee serious title challenges. But the discussions about transfer policy and predictions about Arsenal’s season deserve articles of their own so I won’t get into it right now.

The analysis of the Tottenham game is pending. I was going to do it tonight but this took precedence. Will be posting it tomorrow, there are some interesting observations to make. Thank you for bearing with me on that.

29 Responses to Mesut Ozil: Much More Than A Marquee Signing

  1. Kalp says:

    I see Ozil swapping flanks with Podolski more often than not as it seems Wenger has understood Podolski’s strength lie when he drifts to the center in open play. In such a case, Gibbs or Ozil will go out wide and can see a nice cut back near the edge of the box where Podolski is waiting or a pass to Giroud on the near post.

    Also, I feel Walcott will get a lot more service with Ozil’s arrival. Team with slightly weak wing back on the left side will play a lot more conservatively with the fear of Theo making a diagonal run. That will naturally free a lot of space for Sagna or Jenkinson to overall Theo and deliver a sweet cross or a cut back..

    One thing is for sure, ozil will breed a lot of Plan B tactics which Arsenal although have improved recently in the last season but are yet to master.

    Sooo many permutations, feel like getting a drawing board and scaling it down.

    • atid says:

      well u wont see ozil and poldi in the same line up until December as he just been ruled for 3 months. for me that is a big worry as chamberlain is also out for that period. similarly there has not been much news on arteta and diaby and the last minute bid for cabaye suggests they are not coming back soon.

      as for the striker I can see a midfield 3 chosen from Wilshire cazorla ozil and rosicky playing behind the pace of Walcott working really well on occasions, I mean you have to a pretty crap player not to feed off of that creativity. ramsey and flamini will be good until the others retun from injury

  2. Siva says:

    Desi, look forward to your NLD review. I also feel Flamini was a cute , opportunistic signing. Imagine his enthusiasm, versatility and knowledge of the Arsenal style of play. Cost $0. He can be a back up for Mikel or either full backs. that also frees up Bac to be a centre half if needed.

  3. jeff says:

    I am still worried with the fact that we didnt sign another striker. Both Sanogo n Bendter are far too similar with Giroud.

    • AP says:

      If you want different, we have Theo (or Poldi, when he’s back). Villa wudve been good but i think he might have wanted more football than we cudve given him.

  4. Arinzechukwu says:

    Let keep faith, I see tittles coming. I pray giroud would not get got till January so we can get back up for Giroid

  5. Dis is very 9c coup frm d manager bearing in mind d quality of dis player. But it is yet 2 be seen how gud d lads upfront are gonna convert d defence splitting passes of ozil, but one thing I believe is dat he gonna improve d scoring abilities of giroud.. Anoda option is playing him frm d right wing and walcot runs throgh d middle 2 receive cut bck passes wch can result to goals. Lastly a striker purchase wuld hv make arsenals more frightening 4 oppositions.

  6. lorde says:

    All I can say @ this moment is, I love u Desi! Your analysis is second to none.
    And for Arsene, this is another masterpiece by Arsene. I’ll say I Love him so mch too.
    For Ozil, I’m short of words because I watch him almost every weekend in the Real Madrid shirt and he’s just breathtaking. I hope he adapts quickly.

  7. Uchir Jettoe says:

    A marvelous piece with all the necessary ingredients to spice up the joyful mood in the team over the acquisition of a midfield genius in Mesut Ozil. Surely an improvement for an already enterprising gunners. Wenger has silenced all the critics.
    Keep up the good work brother. Ciao!

  8. good read. Great points. Thanks again!

  9. Jussi says:

    Good food for thought. I’m excited to see how Wenger can further develop a player of this quality…

    With the many options we have in attacking midfield, I could imagine the current often moving/changing places triangle in midfield could be 1-2 more often than the 2-1 that has been preferred. Would add possibilities in pressing high to regain possession (and risks).

  10. atid says:

    no disrespect to the other players but ozil is a genuine world class player. the excitement shown by our other almost world class players proves that, I think they realise that playing alongside him can take them on to that level, a bit like the bergkamp effect. I just cannot believe we have got ozil for half of what Madrid consider bale is worth. I honestly believe that wenger will not have to worry about wingers now and that this is the time to convert theo into a striker to rival giroud and poldi when he returns.

  11. Rossinho says:

    remember guys henry was just 22 when we signed him, nd a potentail genius.We signed bergcamp around the same time which let him flourish . Now we signed ozil and have also signed sanogo, history repeats itself— especially when you have a master chef doing his tried and tested recipies .
    Dont be so down guys,yeah we didnt buy everyplayer that came our way, but we have taken a first vital leap in the right direction

  12. Henry says:

    Nice Post mate. Just confirmed some of my thoughts regarding d permutations and him not finishing some matches he started and also playing right with Caz center n Poldi left. I Believe his presence will help Poldi and Walcott more dan it does Giroud. But Desi can u plz enlighten more y u tink AA23 position was more left dan central. Tanks, expecting d Spurs game analysis tomorow. And i also thinks its put an end to Fabregas home coming. Hav a gud day

  13. Cupsui says:

    well said desi…

    masterstroke. I was absolutely head over heals for Ozil’s game when he was at Bremen and was hoping more than anything we would sign him then along came Madrid… dreams busted. But out of nowhere here he is!! I didn’t allow myself to even believe it was happening until the official announcement. This is a massive move. Huge also with the injuries to Poldi and the Ox.

    We have a really solid squad now.
    GK: Sczeczney-Viviano-Fabianski

    LB: Gibbs-Monreal-(Flamini)
    RB: Sagna-Jenko-(Flamini)-Yannaris
    CB: Mertesacker-(Sagna)
    CB: Koscienly-Vermaelen

    DM: Arteta-Flamini-Frimpong
    CM: Rambo-Wilshere-Diaby
    AM: Ozil-Rosicky-Eisfeld

    LW: Cazorla-Poldi-Gnabry
    RW: Walcott-Ox-Ryo
    ST: Giroud-Sanogo-(Walcott-Poldi)

    The one area I am still worried about injury is at CB. Sagna gives cover but it is dangerous having cover for CB as a starting RB. Flamini could probably do that job too but I still think we really need a promising young CB that is in the Per Mertesacker game reader, tactical genius style.

    But honestly best looking squad in years. I am literally giggling like a little school girl at the attacking combination of Rambo/Wilshere-Ozil-Santi-Theo-Giroud. There is none better in the league!! WOW!

    Ozil is exactly what we have needed to get our creative edge back. lets hope wenger can keep our defensive stability in tact and balanced with this line up…

    biggest bummer is now its a two-week wait until we see them play together…PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE NO INTERNATIONAL INJURIES

  14. soglorious says:

    I know we are title contenders with the signing of Ozil, even Mourinho confirmed your assumption about Ba’s loan. Lot have been said about him, all true and correct. Welcome to the Goonerland. Hope U become a legend. I know we are title contenders with the signing of Ozil, even Mourinho confirmed your assumption about Ba’s loan. Lot have been said about him, all true and correct. Welcome to the Goonerland. Hope U become a legend. I know we are title contenders with the signing of Ozil, even Mourinho confirmed your assumption about Ba’s loan. Lot have been said about him, all true and correct. Welcome to the Goonerland. Hope U become a legend. I know we are title contenders with the signing of Ozil, even Mourinho confirmed your assumption about Ba’s loan. Lot have been said about him, all true and correct. Welcome to the Goonerland. Hope U become a legend. COYG

  15. santori says:

    Any Spurs players able to get into Arsenal at the moment bar Lloris and maybe Soldado if we need someone to take penalties?

    Top signing and transformational.

    No less impactful has been the signing of Flamini.

    He affords us cover at DM and RB but also allows Sagna to hold in the middle if need be.

    BBC ‘journalist’ as per usual missing the point and several centuries late in their analysis. They were wondering who would track back for us.

    Quite obviously they haven’t heard of Arteta, Flamini and the vastly improved Ramsey or seen our midgets run rings round the orcs that Spurs bought.

    Ozil is exceptional and where we could not find joy in finding the top striker this summer (for various reasons), Wenger was right to shift attention to him quickly and spend the money there instead.

    I think we will need to revisit striker again in january. Wenger likely realises that the Suarez situation is far from resolved. More so, Falcao may be let go with Monaco and their tax issues threatening to have them do a Santi. Whilst we may not go for him (or maybe we could) it may precipitate other players being available down the line for eg Benzema should Madrid be tempted to take on the Colombian with another silly money bid.

    And on that note, them buying bale at 85m with his 7 goals more than Walcott but half the assists really looks daft in context with letting one of their top players (in assists) go for half that price.

    Muchos Gracias as they say, it would not have been possible without Spurs and Bale.

    Spuds shot of their wad prematurely. Got themselves 7 reasonable players but our one has transformed the team entirely.

  16. […] While Ozil’s signing is massive, in case you missed my article from yesterday click here, Arsenal’s performance in this game was equally impressive as the Gunners made it four wins […]

  17. […] read a superb analysis of the player and what he brings please read this quite brilliant piece from Desi Gunner. I am more interested in the formation options and flexibility his arrival gives […]

  18. Kilo G says:

    Great read as always.
    I feel like a little kid, I can’t wait!!

  19. NW says:

    Have been reading post after post about Ozil. A few things is very clear.

    1) He provides flexibility in positions
    2) He provides many more ways to tackle opponents
    3) He brings alot of experience different type of plays of top quality (German national, Real Madrid, Low, “the special one”… and anti- Barcelona tactic)
    4) He can’t contribute too much to defence
    5) but he can after Arsenal breaks up the otherside and counter
    6) he is not selfish and makes very good decisions

    I really wanna see what sort of experience and tactics he brings into the team. He’s seen almost all the best stuff available (except Sir Alex)… Spainish, German, Barca…

    And no one should say “he can’t score”. Yes he DOES. He just do all the calculations to find the move that creates the best chance of scoring. He would stop his run and provide the assist if there are better options but if the best chance is under his feet HE SHOOTS and scores more often than not. Expect him to shoot more often when our front guys aren’t as good as those in Real Madrid.

  20. winston raj says:

    As ever, exceptional in depth analysis.congratulations!!

  21. thetaeo says:

    I’m waiting to see how teams lower down the table react to our first team stepping out onto their pitches. I remember seeing some of these teams having already lost the match before kickoff during the reign of ‘The Invincibles’ since they were so intimidated by the ilk of players we had on the park! Glory days await! COYG!!!

  22. […] As discussed here, the German isn’t the type of player who is very comfortable in dropping deep and receiving […]


    Mesut Ozil: Much More Than A Marquee Signing | Desi Gunner

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s