After his outstanding performance in Arsenal’s 3-0 crushing of Manchester United in the last weekend before the latest international break, Germany would have been right to expect an impressive display from Mesut Ozil as the world champions ended their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with games against the Republic of Ireland and Georgia.
It was unfortunately typical of the midfielder however that Ozil, majestic in the rout of United as he choreographed Arsenal’s electric start with an assist and a goal in a barnstorming opening seven minutes, turned in an ineffective performance in the surprise defeat to Ireland in Dublin.
Germany enjoyed a 72% share of possession but could only convert that dominance into three shots on target with Ozil a main factor behind that anaemic attacking play, playing 63 passes but creating a chance with just one of them.
Three days later and Ozil was back operating at a more familiar level of brilliance, winning the penalty for Thomas Muller’s opener before producing a sublime ball for Max Kruse’s winner in the 2-1 victory over Georgia in Leipzig.
Though an improving Georgia were stubborn in defence throughout, Ozil was excellent as he drifted around the pitch from his usual station of attacking midfield in support of the main striker and a delicate lofted pass nearly resulted in a goal for Marco Reus.
Die Mannschaft continue their search for an answer to their dilemma at centre-forward, with Schurrle and Kruse the latest to audition after Gotze picked up an injury against Ireland, but Ozil looks certain to play the number 10 role in France next summer as Germany aim to replicate Spain in achieving a World Cup and European Championship double.
Though he will have to solve the inconsistencies that dog him if he is to be an instrumental force behind Germany’s bid to win their fourth European Championship.
Unexpected big performance
What made Ozil’s role in the first-half demolition of United so special was how unexpectedly it arrived, in itself not the most favourable assessment of a player who cost Arsenal a club record fee of £42.5 million two years ago.
His goal against United, a sweeping left-footed finish following good work from Theo Walcott, was Ozil’s tenth in the Premier League since arriving in 2013 and it marked his 13th overall from 81 games.
He has fared slightly better with assists in that period, creating 21 goals, but Arsenal could be entitled to have expected more from their highest earner of £140,000 a week considering he moved from Real Madrid as Europe’s joint-top assist maker across his four years in Spain.
The accusation is that Ozil fails to produce his quality regularly on the biggest stage and the German will be aware that his goal against United, his first in 17 matches against the other members of the Premier League’s big three and Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich across his time at Arsenal, will not see them cease. His cross for Alexis Sanchez’s opener marked just his 2nd assist from those games.
His terrorising of United’s makeshift defence came just days after he remained anonymous in Arsenal’s 2-3 defeat to Olympiakos in the Champions League which now leaves their chances of qualification hanging by a thread.
They welcome Bayern Munich to the Emirates next week and Ozil has to seize the opportunity to demonstrate that Arsenal can rely on his beguiling craft and vision to steer them through against the toughest of opposition.
Having reminded everybody of his brilliance in the win over United it simply can’t be a repeat of his limp display against the Bavarians in February 2014 when he missed a penalty, retreated into his shell and summoned the kind of game he felt he had to apologise for.
Is he up for the Bayern challenge?
The 26 year old does believe that the Gunners have the quality this time around to beat the scourge of their last two Champions League campaigns, despite Bayern’s ominous domestic form.
“Our victory against Manchester United was a sign: when we play and want it 100%, then we can beat Bayern” Ozil said, “it will be difficult – but we have the potential to beat any team.”
If Arsene Wenger can get Sanchez to continue his excellent recent form, Walcott to continue his impressive start to life as a centre-forward and if the Ozil that illuminated the Emirates against Manchester United turns up then his three-pronged attack can prove that philosophy correct.
That, particularly in the case of Ozil, still remains hypothetical and it is a source of great frustration for Arsenal fans who have witnessed his wizardry and are left baffled over where it disappears to when he really needs to conjure it.
Re-positioning should boost him and his performances
Now positioned in his favoured role of the number 10 in the hole of space behind the striker, Wenger has challenged his playmaker to add more goals to his game, something the German agrees with as he admits the need to become more selfish.
Seeing the potential in Ozil to become an attacking midfielder in the mould of Dennis Bergkamp, who combined his creative side with a potent eye for goal, Wenger has set his midfielder a target of 10 goals for the rest of the campaign.
More assertion and aggression
He now has his first, but the key lies in finding a way to become more assertive and aggressive as he aims to score more.
United discovered how dazzling and delightful Ozil can be, “we gave him too much space” bemoaned Louis Van Gaal afterwards, but the German has to do it far more often if he is to convince that he is the man for the big stage.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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