Mesut Ozil has the talent but needs greater consistency to help Arsenal's cause
German playmaker has the attributes of an elite-level No 10 but needs to produce more often if Arsenal are to return to the top four.
Few players symbolise the peaks and troughs of an Arsenal season more than German playmaker Mesut Ozil - at times memserising and unplayable, at others frustrating and curiously underwhelming.
There is no doubting the talent of Ozil. His contribution to Arsenal since his then club record €47 million (Dh203.25m) move from Real Madrid in 2013 has been decent, but there is a lingering sense that he could, and really should, be doing more; that despite his acceptable return of goals and exemplary assists tally, Ozil has the ability to find another level.
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Premier League followers casting their minds back to the 2013/14 season - Ozil's debut year - will remember a fairly indifferent campaign. It started encouragingly before fading as question marks surrounding his ability to be effective for 90 minutes began to surface. That season ended with five league goals and nine assists as Arsenal finished fourth and claimed the FA Cup - their first trophy in 10 years.
First season adjustment period out of the way, bigger things were expected of Ozil in his second year. Again, he failed to live up to expectations as a return of four league goals and five assists in an injury-disrupted season led to further criticism that perhaps the German was a luxury player who just wasn't offering enough luxury.
Then, just as he was being written off as a player who failed to fulfill his sizeable price tag and global reputation, Ozil went on a rampage in the first half of the 2015/16 season, creating 16 assists by December as the World Cup winner began to answer his critics. But like in his previous seasons, productivity tailed off as Ozil produced just three more assists the rest of the season to go with his six league goals. He did help Arsenal finish second - their highest position since 2005 - but they still finished 10 points behind champions Leicester City and only snuck into the runner-up spot thanks to Tottenham's Hotspur's end-of-season capitulation.
Then last season Ozil was as guilty of the rest as his teammates in Arsenal's worst season during Arsene Wenger's reign as the club missed out on Europe's top cluib competition for the first time in 20 years.
His contribution to Arsenal's Champions League campaigns are perhaps an even more stark reminder of his struggles on the biggest of stages. Arsenal are yet to progress beyond the first knockout stage since Ozil's arrival, with the midfielder often accused of going missing on the big occasions. His ineffectiveness in the annual defeats to Bayern Munich perhaps more sobering given his status as one of Germany's top midfielders.
Now this isn't an attempt to diminish the abilities of Ozil or his contribution to Arsenal, which has included two FA Cup triumphs. Ozil is a marvellous player with one of the best left foots in the game; a left foot that can land a football on a postage stamp from 60 yards. He possesses the touch, turn, vision and imagination often associated with elite level No 10s.
And that is just it - Ozil has the attributes of an elite playmaker, but it is consistency more than ability that elevates the best from the rest. In a season that promises to be the most competitive in Premier League history, Arsenal's hopes of a return to the top four will rest on the consistency of their star players, Ozil among them.
As chief creator, Ozil is tasked with making Arsenal tick in the final third and fashioning chances while chipping in with a few goals. If Ozil can match his talent with consistency he has the ability to make Arsenal legitimate challengers. But if he continues to blow hot and cold, Arsenal's hopes of returning to the top four are going to be that much tougher.
Updated: August 6, 2017 03:23 PM