Just two months ago, Mesut Ozil’s Arsenal career seemed to be at a crossroads with the German falling out of favour with manager Unai Emery.
The former Real Madrid playmaker had enjoyed an aura of near invincibility under Arsene Wenger’s tenure at the Emirates ever since his arrival at the London club in 2013.
However, Ozil has seen his star fade big time at Arsenal this season with Emery adopting a ‘tough love’ approach with the German. Once an automatic starter for Arsenal with his superstar status, Ozil has found himself not even make the matchday squad on several occasions over the course of the season.
Reports have kept emerging throughout the campaign about how the Spanish coach has been unhappy with Ozil’s work-rate on the pitch. Ozil’s lack of defensive contributions on the pitch has been evident from several seasons but while Wenger was happy to accommodate the German’s shortcomings, Emery has not allowed it to slide.
The Spaniard has time and again stressed that Arsenal are capable of functioning without Ozil while freezing out the 30-year-old from the matchday squad. There were even rumours of a potential January exit for Ozil but two months later, things have turned around drastically for him.
Since not making the squad for the loss to Huddersfield in February, Ozil has featured in five consecutive Premier League games which included a sterling display in the 5-1 thrashing of Bournemouth.
It would have been easy for the German to sulk and down tools in the wake of Emery’s criticism but he has remained professional throughout the episode and kept his head down.
When his chance did finally arrive, Ozil has taken it without a second look and has been a man transformed. There has been a noticeable increase in the German’s work-rate and defensive contributions with the playmaker making a point to Emery that he can excel in the Spaniard’s setup.
That Ozil was handed the captain’s armband in Arsenal’s clash against Everton on Sunday shows that the playmaker is firmly back in the good books of Emery. It is now time for Ozil to continue that resurgence against Napoli in the Europa League. The slightly disappointing poerformance against Everton should only be a minor blip, despite the jacket throw incident when he was substituted.
The Italians are bound to take the game to Arsenal and as such, Ozil’s creativity and vision from the centre of the pitch will be desperately required for Emery’s men if they are to mount lethal counter-attacks.
Can the German pull out a masterpiece at one of the most crucial matches of the season for Arsenal?