Mesut Ozil is a mutant. Half man, half fly, he buzzes around and floats wistfully over the game. Now and then he comes into life and does something that no mere human could do.
Over the last two seasons, though, Ozil hasn’t sparked into life as much as people thought he might. For such a hefty £42.5m price tag, explosive and great things were expected of the German former Real Madrid man, but he hasn’t reached those heights yet. Alexis Sanchez’s first season at the Emirates showed exactly how you settle in a new country, and Ozil didn’t match that standard in his debut season.
But let’s be fair to Ozil. He came into the club with big expectations on his shoulders, not only was he the club’s record signing, but he was arguably Wenger’s only ‘big’ signing at Arsenal, at the time at least. And Ozil has had some fairly large personal issues to deal with in the meantime too, including being sued by his own father.
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And with all this on his shoulders, it’s not like he’s been bad. He’s just not been awesome. But I think that might change this season.
There’s a lot of optimism around the Emirates this summer, and Arsenal feel they have their best chance in years of challenging for the Premier League title. If Wenger can add another big signing, as he has done for the previous two summers, then optimism will rise again.
And Ozil should be optimistic too. He started to approach his best towards the end of last season when Arsenal themselves were in magnificent form on their way to lifting the FA Cup and nominally challenging Chelsea for the title. He’s played well in pre-season, too.
And with confidence high at Arsenal, Ozil will thrive. Everyone knows that forwards thrive on confidence, but confident forwards make confident runs. They run into positions they feel like they can score from, and if there’s one man in the Premier League who can pick out a runner, it’s the not-quite-human Ozil. With his fly-eyes he can see things on a different frequency to everyone else.
It must be wonderful for a forward like Giroud to know that if you make a clever run and outfox defenders, you won’t outfox your own teammate too. But seeing the run is one thing, getting the ball there is entirely another thing, and Ozil is pretty damn good at that too.
So even if he hasn’t matched his price tag just yet, with personal problems behind him, a few seasons of Premier League football under his belt and a plethora of exciting and confident players playing around him, this could be the season for Ozil to really show everyone why Wenger paid so much money to bring him to London.
This could be the season that Ozil stops wistfully buzzing around the game and starts actually taking control of it. If he does, Arsenal could be a team to fear, even if they don’t manage any more signings this summer.