Player focus: Özil quietly effective, temporarily silencing critics

Mesut Özil is not a big-game player. He fades when his side need him most and is a luxury player, one that Arsenal cannot afford – so say his critics, especially in the media.

This is why against United on Sunday he created two key passes with a pass accuracy rate of 91.8%, drew three fouls and was Arsenal’s only attacking player who did not register an unsuccessful touch throughout the 90 minutes – whilst playing the most passes in the final third too.

The silky German’s languid manner raises criticism from many but performances like this one justify why he doesn’t need to constantly play with high energy or the hustle that Coquelin and Alexis have developed reputations for.

He’s a different type of player and one that should be appreciated, not under harsh scrutiny.

Operating alongside Ramsey and Alexis as part of a creative trio behind Danny Welbeck, Ozil made good use of possession when called upon – as he always does.

Clever use of space allowed him to spin past opponents whilst retaining the ball in his stride. Off-the-ball running was evident for all to see as he provided a genuine threat in the final third – usually unmarked as the timing of forward runs caught the visitors out.

In this screenshot, you can see that Özil receives possession at a potentially dangerous time as United players edge close to surround him, in an attempt to retain the ball.

Özil manages to effortlessly swivel past both players, drag them out of their positions whilst doing so and passes across towards Xhaka – where Arsenal’s first goalscoring opportunity is created seconds afterwards. It is moments like these where the German’s influence are underappreciated in the build-up to Arsenal’s attacking movements.

His passing combinations with Sánchez (18), Xhaka (12) and Ramsey (10) were important in helping to create chances as they edged towards United’s box throughout the game.

70 minutes in and Ozil effortlessly darted past Rooney as well as United’s backline from the edge of the box to create another chance, one which Welbeck was narrowly close to connecting with at the far post.

Ozil (L) in action against United on Sunday

Ozil was efficient and effective in helping to create chances and build-up play patiently against a United side who struggled to convincingly deal with Arsenal’s play in the final third. (Picture source: Getty Images)

Although he didn’t get a goal or assist during this fixture, his presence was important in different moments. Composed on the ball, he was smart in drawing fouls across the pitch during situations where his team-mates needed a breather or he could win a dangerous set-piece after finding no support options to pass towards.

With 72 touches, it’s clear to see that he was regularly finding himself on the ball and despite opposition pressure in the battle for possession, he consistently came out victorious.

It was another efficient display from a player who doesn’t warrant half as much criticism as he gets from the media. Long may these types of performances continue.

Stats’ source: WhoScored

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