With two touches of his expensive left foot in the 11th minute of Arsenal’s win over Sunderland on Saturday afternoon, Mesut Ozil showed everyone why Arsene Wenger paid so much for him.
A high-looping ball was played to him on his debut by Kieran Gibbs down the left flank, and like an experienced ballerina Ozil cushioned the ball perfectly into his stride before slotting across a perfect pass for Olivier Giroud to run onto and finish first time.
In the first half Ozil was exquisite. The ‘King of the Assist’ had arrived in the Premier League.
Every time he touched the ball he oozed class. One touch, then a shimmy to get away from a defender, deft flicks around the corner to Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey and sublime passes through to Theo Walcott. He looked the real deal and worth every penny of the $60million the Gunners paid Real Madrid for him on transfer deadline day.
But despite his sensational first 45 minutes in an Arsenal shirt, the German international faded a little in the second half.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger revealed exactly why that was in the post-game interview I was in.
“He [Ozil] was like the team, he had an outstanding first half and dropped in the second half,” Wenger said. “He was sick on Thursday night and I decided only today to play him, this morning. He had a stomach bug and didn’t feel well. He dropped a bit psychically in the second half but his first half was outstanding.”
Wenger also revealed that he wanted to start the 24-year-old attacker on the bench but had his hand forced after Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla was ruled out with an ankle injury.
“He would have certainly been [on the bench], due to the fact that he was sick I would not have taken a gamble. But I didn’t have much choice,” Wenger said. “Cazorla has an ankle problem, I don’t think he will play before the next international break.”
Yet with Ozil showing flashes of his true talent throughout a totally dominant first half display for Arsenal, you have to wonder whether or not the Gunners will actually miss Cazorla. Ozil was that good. Gasps of delighted emanated from the press box and the stands as Ozil slithered between Sunderland’s midfielders and continued to thread balls through to Giroud, Wilshere and Walcott with ease.
Safe to say, it was definitely worth splashing the cash for this guy.
His movement is that of a proper player. Ozil makes the game look so easy, and you can see why over the last five seasons across Europe’s top five leagues he has more assists than any other player, with 73.
Ozil never seemed rushed on his debut, always had time on the ball and often he wouldn’t lift his head up before playing a pass, as he’d already surveyed the situation before the incoming pass had even reached his feet. That’s the sign of a true creator.
But Wenger may have a problem when Cazorla returns to full-fitness… how will he fit them all into the same team?
Ozil, Wilshere, on-fire Ramsey, Cazorla and Flamini are all fighting for three central places. England international Wilshere was shunted out to the left for the majority of Arsenal’s win on Saturday but it seems as though the flexibility between him and Ozil will see them both drift between the left and the center.
No matter where the German international plays, Arsenal’s title credentials seem to be getting stronger as the season goes on.