Arsenal and Germany international Mesut Özil has received plenty of criticism since his arrival to London from Madrid last September. Costing the Gunners around $66 million (absolutely demolishing the team’s previous transfer record), Özil was seen as somewhat of a savior to Arsenal fans. In the previous weeks leading up to the Özil transfer, Arsenal lost their opening 2013-14 Premier League match at home to Aston Villa and their closest rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, were in the process of spending $170 million to upgrade their squad and were picked by many pundits to overtake the Gunners in the standings.
Following the signing of Özil, Arsenal lost only one out of their ensuing 12 Premier League matches, and quickly shot up the standings to lead the league for most of the 2013-14 campaign. While the Germany international gets knocked for “not showing passion” and “looking lazy and disinterested,” Özil does what superstars do: he makes it look easy.
Although his goal and assist statistics from his first season at the Emirates may not set the world on fire, his passing numbers per game match up against other big name players in England. Özil’s 2013-14 Premier League successful passes per game (55), key passes per game (2.58), chances created per game (2.92), and passing completion percentage (88%) are all better than other top Premier League attacking midfielders such as Manchester United’s Juan Mata, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho, and Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen — these numbers for Coutinho and Eriksen are not even close to Özil’s.
Some of the same British journalists that said Özil produced a poor first season at Arsenal have also proclaimed that the Germany superstar is having a bad World Cup. Once again, the numbers never lie. Özil has had more total passes, key passes, chances created, and a better passing completion percentage than Brazil’s Neymar, and Colombia’s duo of Juan Cuadrado and James Rodriguez. Despite what the statistics prove, the trio of Neymar, Cuadrado and Rodriguez have been extensively hailed during this World Cup (and rightly so), yet Özil has been criticized.
While it appears that Özil’s critics seem to be a bit harsh, the 25-year-old has dealt with this denigration well. In an interview prior to the World Cup, Özil told Sport Bild, “I am no longer a talent but an experienced player who has played in three countries. I take responsibility. The FA Cup win means that I have won three finals. I was voted Germany player of the year three times running and in the team of the year in England – always by the fans. And that is also important to me.”
Özil went on to say, “I feel that I have the trust of Joachim Löw and Arsène Wenger and that I have earned it. I am now 25 years old and at that age every footballer in the world plays in a different way to what he did when he was 21. And, of course, my role at Arsenal is different insomuch that I have more responsibility than I did at Real (Madrid). And I like that.”
While critics of Özil can have their say on the player, there seems to be zero Özil issues with Arsenal fans, teammates, and manager Arsène Wenger. If there was ever a doubt with Özil’s on-field abilities, Wenger had the chance to replace his midfielder with former Arsenal fan favorite Cesc Fabregas. Barcelona made Fabregas available this summer, Arsenal had a buy-back clause in place for the star, and the Spain international was willing to make his return to the Gunners; however, Wenger chose not to bring Fabregas back to Arsenal because the Gunners already have a world-class attacking midfielder in Mesut Özil.