EPL

Ozil gives reminder of class but will need to do more to hush critics

By Sports Desk September 15, 2019

For someone who can make even the spectacular look routine, it's fair to say little has been simple for Mesut Ozil over the past year.

Underlying hints of disquiet towards him from fans were rooted in the final season of Arsene Wenger's tenure despite the German chipping in with eight assists in the Premier League.

Injuries hardly helped matters for him last term, though there were indications Unai Emery did not fully trust Ozil after a slow start to season.

Some suggested the fact he started only seven away games in the Premier League last season is evidence of Emery's indifference towards the former Real Madrid star, seemingly preferring others when Arsenal may have their backs to the wall.

But in Sunday's 2-2 draw at Watford he was back in the starting XI for the first time since April, having been held back by fitness issues and security reasons after being the target of an attempted car-jacking last month.

Few would begrudge him time to get his head straight after such an ordeal, though he initially appeared to be on right track at Vicarage Road.

In a tight first half, Ozil did well to take up position in potentially threatening pockets of space, almost finding Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with a low cross in the 25th minute – a defender just about deflecting it behind.

Another fine pass soon after should have released Nicolas Pepe through on goal, only for the forward's poor first touch to leave the ball behind him.

Arsenal's second strike came at the end of a 20-pass move, the longest sequence leading to a goal in the 2019-20 Premier League season – though until the ball came to Ozil, there seemed to be little threat to Watford.

The polarising playmaker drifted right, spotted the run of Ainsley Maitland-Niles and split Watford's defence with a precision pass – the Gunners' right-back laying the ball on a plate for Aubameyang.

But any first-half promise disappeared after the interval.

Although 86 per cent of his 44 passes were accurate, Ozil failed to produce another key pass as Watford upped the ante and battled their way back.

In many ways it was the same old story – a superior Arsenal dropped their intensity, allowed the opponents a way back in and Ozil went missing.

Their midfield of Granit Xhaka, Matteo Guendouzi and Dani Ceballos looked directionless without a leader, and that's surely the role a player of Ozil's ability should have been filling, orchestrating and introducing calm to Arsenal's frantic centre.

Fitness may have been an issue for Ozil, but he became a passenger and was unsurprisingly hooked for Reiss Nelson in the 71st minute.

He can point to the fact Arsenal were still ahead when he went off, but youngsters Nelson and Joe Willock looked more likely to provide the spark in attack in the second half.

Even as someone capable of the remarkable, Ozil's quest to truly earn Emery's trust and hush incessant, noisy critics shows no sign of coming to a swift resolution.

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