Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has been told his team must be brave in possession and playing fast, fluid football in order to profit from Mesut Ozil’s vision and playmaking abilities.
Ozil’s assist for Alexandre Lacazette’s match-winning goal against West Ham was just his second of the Premier League season in his 18th appearance.
In all competitions, he has a single goal and three assists from 23 matches, having played for 1,812 minutes across those games.
It is a far cry from the numbers he has previously posted, the German’s best campaigns seeing him produce eight goals and 20 assists in 2015-16 and 12 goals and 14 assists in 2016-17.
Yet while former Gunners forward Adrian Clarke thinks Ozil’s very best form is now behind him, he thinks the World Cup-winning No 10 still has plenty to offer Arteta’s team.
Clarke is confident he’s seen more from the former Real Madrid attacking midfielder of late under Arteta, who has restored Ozil back into the starting line-up after his exile under predecessors Unai Emery and Freddie Ljungberg.
And he believes that the way for Arteta to extract the maximum of the German’s talents is to ensure the team around him are playing fast-paced attack-minded football that breathes confidence into its offensive players.
“He’s a much more effective player in an Arteta team than he was in either team Emery let behind and certainly the one that Freddie Ljungberg picked. He never included Ozil, or hardly ever,” Clarke told The Chronicles Of A Gooner Podcast.
“To get the best out of Ozil you need the team to be brave in possession to make those forward passes through the lines. Under Ljungberg that confidence was just gone, it had evaporated and under Emery as well.
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“Under Arteta there’s more confidence. The fluency is not quite there but once it does come, I think we’ll see more of Mesut. I’m a huge fan of his.
“Technically he’s outstanding and I like his movement. He is hard working, even though people don’t think that, he moves around a great deal.
“I think with the way Arteta plays it, with his five lanes – not to get too technical – but you’ve got [Bukayo] Saka, [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang, [Alexandre] Lacazette, Ozil and then [Nicolas] Pepe in a front five really in that order.
“That’s the best position for Ozil, he’s always been at his best in the right channel where he can chop back on his left and slip players in.
“I think he’s still got plenty to offer.”
Ozil is the highest-paid player in the Premier League on £350,000 a week, which is the most Arsenal have ever paid a player in wages.
And Clarke believes the criticism that Ozil attracts is largely due to his pay-packet.
“If he was earning a third of what he’s earning, I don’t think there’d be many quibbles from fans, it’s only the fact the contract is what it is and people are thinking, ‘does he provide value for money?’ It is what it is,” he added.
“We want to see him score more goals and creating more assists like he used to but we’re looking at a player who, and we have to be honest with ourselves here, peak Ozil is gone.
“He’s not in his prime anymore, we’re looking at a player approaching almost veteran stage.
“We have to understand that as well I think. For the short term we really on him but one of the big goals behind the scenes will be, ‘right, who can we get in the long term to play that role for us?’”
Defending Ozil back in January, Arsenal boss Arteta said: “The demands that we have to put on him are to make the difference every single game.
To do that he needs the right structure and players around him to help him to do that.
“I think he could have had more assists and probably more goals in the games he has played under me which has been a little bit unlucky but overall I think that his performance has improved a lot.”
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