10th April 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
Arsenal's much needed win over West Ham was quite a night to remember for the mercurial Mesut Ozil. In what was his 150th appearance for the Gunners, he fittingly marked the occasion by bagging a goal and an assist. More than that, though, his aforementioned contributions also saw him equal his highest ever personal scoring tally in a single season (with 10) and move into sixth place on Arsenal's all-time list for EPL assists, joining Robin van Persie on 39.
Ozil's Performance May Determine the Clubs 2016/17 EPL Position
Ozil's performance extended far further than just his scoreboard impact, however, for the German international accompanied this milestone occasion with a performance to match.
From his nominal central attacking midfield role, the man who signed for a whopping £42.5 million from Real Madrid in 2013 used the vast freedom granted to him by Arsene Wenger to have a menacing impact.
While the 28-year-old found openings in the 10 spaces with customary excellent precision, the way he drifted wide and exploited the left and right half spaces (or the interior corridor) was undoubtedly the most effective aspect of his display.
By receiving possession in these areas, Ozil gave himself an ideal platform from which to orchestrate, facilitate and animate so much of Arsenal's most incisive passing moves. Indeed, with West Ham more focused on covering true central zones, Ozil's ventures into these slightly off centre locations importantly gave him time and space to assess his options away from the congested middle. Essentially, this enabled the former Werder Bremen prodigy to use his sublime passing ability and creativity to successfully playmake from deep.
The fact his beautifully placed 57th minute strike and slick cutback assist arrived from his occupation of said wider positions served as a glowing testament to the tactic's triumph. In addition, his five key passes and three successful dribbles only accentuated this component of his game.
Moreover, the way he'd often drop back into positions around the half way line when Arsenal were building out from the back certainly helped give his team superiority in midfield, plus ensured the side had enhanced connectivity to progress upfield smoothly.
Other positives to be drawn from his showing arose from his subtle, well executed interchanges with his teammates, his razor sharp close control and mesmerising dribbling qualities. The latter in particular, in tandem with his rapid changes of pace and direction, saw him comfortably manage to evade any incoming pressure from Slaven Bilic's men.
All things considered, this was an outing of the highest order from the Arsenal maestro, in a game where his understanding of space, positional intelligence, vision and imagination were crucial towards the North Londoners claiming their first league win since February 11th.
After enduring a severe recent downturn in form, the gifted trequartista's latest body of work should instill him with some valuable confidence heading into the all important run home. In his post match comments, Wenger certainly believes his star man is now back on top of his game, explaining: "I feel that he's back physically, with focus. I know him quite well. I felt he had been hit hard by us going out in the Champions League and it took him some time to recover from that mentally.
"I feel for a few weeks now in training he's really focused again, and that comes out in the game."
With Arsenal facing an uphill battle to attain a crucial top four finish, everyone associated with the club will be desperately hoping this match was just the catalyst the heavily derided and divisive figure needed to return to his best.
In Ozil, Arsenal have one of the few players in world football that can conjure up pure moments of magic out of nowhere to change a game. The trouble of late, though, has been his inability to manufacture such passages frequently enough.
Arsenal's next fixture, however, a tough trip to a Crystal Palace outfit fresh off defeating Chelsea last weekend, will be a fantastic opportunity for Ozil to weave his magic vs Sam Allardyce's typically resolute and compact defensive structure.
Rising to the challenge once more would be a terrific way to go about silencing his many critics and injecting some additional impetus into Arsenal's quest for a Champions League qualification spot.
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