By 90Min
July 27, 2018

Since completing a then club record £42.4m transfer from Real Madrid on deadline day in summer 2013, few players have been more divisive than Mesut Ozil during his five years at Arsenal.

The mercurial German playmaker arrived at the Emirates to unprecedented levels of excitement from Arsenal fans, shaking the foundations of north London, largely through the sheer levels of ecstasy among Gunners enthusiasts.

Much was expected of Ozil to be the messiah of a new era at the Emirates under Arsene Wenger. For many, that prophecy has largely come to fruition. For others, the German has generally flattered to deceive.

It is very unlikely that any two Arsenal fans would provide a correlative opinion on the degree of Ozil’s success in north London to date.

Within the pass master’s first four years at the Emirates, Arsenal had won three FA Cups, with the German at the heart of each triumph. Many would point to that record as an indisputable barometer of the positive impact of Ozil’s influence. After all, the Gunners had not won a trophy for nine years prior to the first of those FA Cup successes in 2014.

For others, Ozil’s direct impact on matches is simply not good enough. A return of 27 goals in 142 Premier League matches is regarded by many as inadequate. The German’s workrate is often called into question, too, with his running and tackling often accused of going missing in matches.

On the other hand, his record of 50 Premier League assists stands above that of any other player since Ozil’s arrival in England. It is in this area which the German shines. Ozil is, after all, a playmaker.

Now aged 29 and five years into his Gunners career, it is unlikely that the debate over Ozil’s worth to the Arsenal team and the value of his contribution will stop any time soon.

With the political tensions which have forced Ozil to confirm his international retirement following Germany’s World Cup exit this summer, it is likely that a greater spotlight will be beamed upon Arsenal’s number ten than ever before in the upcoming season.

It is emblematic of the critics’ constant heckling of Ozil throughout the years that the scapegoating of the Arsenal midfielder for Germany’s poorly suffered exit from the World Cup has pushed him into early retirement, despite being one of the real stars of Joachim Low’s squad and one of the brightest inspirators behind their World Cup win just four years ago.

The allegations of racism and disrespect which fuelled Ozil’s statement and reasoning behind his decision are another matter, although it was a brave and admirable decision to stand against what he perceived to be injustice.

Moving forward, Ozil has now returned to Arsenal and joined them on their pre-season tour of Singapore, now under the management of Unai Emery. With much of the off-field discussion surrounding Ozil set to be dispelled by the start of the new Premier League season, the German may now find that he has the ideal conditions to thrive with his club.

With the 29-year-old now able to focus solely on club matters, Ozil has become the subject of a much different kind of campaign to what he may have grown used to in recent years.

Rather than suffering as the point of derision and criticism from fans, pundits and critics alike, Ozil is now the subject of a support campaign from the Arsenal supporters, generally referred to under the social media hashtag: #IStandWithOzil.

The Gunners fans’ support of their superstar German is no longer based purely on his ability to thrive on the pitch, but simply on their pure affection for Ozil as an individual who represents their club.

Ozil has responded to the fans’ support with graciousness and class which epitomises the nature in which he has gone about all of his business in the face of his international situation.

The German posted on Twitter: “Thanks to the Gunners in Singapore for showing so much love tonight,” in response to the glowing reception which he received from the crowd during Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid during their pre-season preparations.

Ozil was not actually selected in the squad to play in that match. Having returned late to the fold from the World Cup, the playmaker was simply supporting his teammates from the bench, but still received the biggest cheer from the fans as he was displayed onscreen in the stadium.

Much of the German’s previous campaign was disrupted by speculation over his future at the Emirates. Along with Alexis Sanchez, Ozil ran into the last six months of his contract, with much speculation surrounding the player as to whether he would remain in north London beyond this summer.

Ozil put that speculation to bed by signing a new three-and-a-half-year deal at the start of February, and with the newly increased ‘love’ which he is receiving from the Gunners fans, many of whom idolise the German, and his international dispute now put to bed, Ozil can truly feel at home at Arsenal and focus purely on his football.

Many of Ozil’s struggles prior to this summer also hinged on an over-reliance on the playmaker and Sanchez as the only two players truly capable of striking with quality against top opposition.

Ozil’s game thrives on playing incisive, line-splitting balls into his teammates as they make forward runs. In recent times, the German has often been left wanting for anyone to supply with his first-class quality delivery.

Pakawich Damrongkiattisak/GettyImages

Now, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Henrikh Mkhitaryan around him in Unai Emery’s new-look, star-studded attacking line-up, of which the German is the technical leader, Ozil should be able to thrive to similar degrees as he did alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid.

Under the guidance of Emery, who has repeatedly stated his belief in Ozil’s quality and his importance to his side since the Spaniard’s appointment as Arsenal’s new head coach, Ozil finds himself in a situation which is finally tailor-made for him to achieve maximum success in an Arsenal shirt. 

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