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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Mesut Ozil's performance against Leicester wasn't just 'sexy', it was borderline obscene

Playmaker looks back to his brilliant best for Arsenal now Germany are out of the equation

Mesut Ozil had a hand in all three Arsenal goals as the Gunners came from behind to beat Leicester 3-1. Reuters
Mesut Ozil had a hand in all three Arsenal goals as the Gunners came from behind to beat Leicester 3-1. Reuters

When Joachim Low visited Arsenal's London Colney training ground last month initial reports said the Germany manager was turned away by the club as he sought out talks with Mesut Ozil fter the midfielder's decision to quit the international team following a disastrous World Cup in Russia.

It later transpired that Low had a pre-arranged meeting with Per Mertesacker, the former Germany defender now in charge of the club's academy, and held separate talks with current internationals Shkodran Mustafi and Bernd Leno ahead of October's round of Nations League fixtures.

Ozil was not even at the training ground on the day of Low's visit. Even if he had been, it is unlikely he would have been in the mood to grab a coffee and discuss the English weather with his former manager. Ozil announced his international retirement following Germany's humiliating exit from this summer's World Cup, their worst showing at the global finals in more than 80 years.

Ozil accused the German football association (DFB) of racism following criticism of his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Ozil was born in Gelsenkirchen but is of Turkish heritage) ahead of the World Cup as well as being scapegoated for the country's poor showing in Russia. "In the eyes of [German FA president Reinhard] Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose," Ozil wrote in July.

Low says Ozil has repeatedly ignored his phone calls in an effort to reconcile, and the contrasting fortunes of national team and player since then could not be more pronounced. Germany sit bottom of League A Group 1 in Uefa's new qualifying tournament on one point. After holding World Cup winners France in their opening match, Germany suffered their first defeat to the Netherlands in 16 years before losing to the French on Matchday 4. The ignominy of relegation for Germany from the top tier of the Nations League looks a certainty, while the DFB's decision to allow Low to carry on in his job following the Russia debacle now looks a wrong one.

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Read more:

‘Sexy football’: Aubameyang stars as Arsenal make it perfect 10

Ian Hawkey: Agony of Amsterdam shows a Germany in crises, not just a blip

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Ozil, on the other hand, is playing arguably his best club football since leaving Real Madrid in 2013, the creative fulcrum of an Arsenal side who on Monday beat Leicester City 3-1 to record their 10th win in a row.

Arsenal's playmaker was the game's outstanding player, his passing and vision the catalyst for a comeback win after falling behind to a Ben Chillwell deflected effort. Ozil's give-and-go with Hector Bellerin for Arsenal's first had the hallmarks of the club's halcyon days when walking the ball into the net was as much a compliment as a criticism.

The same two combined to set up Arsenal's second. Ozil's slide-rule pass to release the Spanish full-back was weighted so perfectly the scales barely moved, while the dummy that left Leicester's defenders dumbfounded and the poise to pick out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang under pressure from the advancing Kasper Schmeichel was borderline obscene.

Ozil, handed the armband for the match, tweeted that Arsenal had played "sexy" football and that he was proud to be captain. Unai Emery agreed. "From Mesut Ozil today, it's a very good performance," the Arsenal manager said. "I think he can play very much with this commitment, behaviour, also with his quality, [as] captain or not captain."

The main criticism levelled at Ozil is that performances like Monday's are too few and far between for a player of his immense talents. The last club match in which the 2014 World Cup winner was so completely unplayable was as the architect of Arsenal's 3-0 win over Chelsea in September 2016. Free of international commitments, it could be that Ozil is primed to restore Arsenal's place among the Premier League's top four having missed out on Uefa Champions Legaue football the past two seasons.

How Low wishes Ozil would just return his calls.