When watching the opening thirty minutes of Arsenal’s Champions League clash with Bayern Munich, it was hard to tell which team were the champions of Europe. The Gunners started with incredible energy and intent, and Bayern were stunned. Young forward Yaya Sanogo looked a seasoned European talent at points in the opening sequence of the game, Jack Wilshere seemed back to his old best following a string of average performances, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was giving David Alaba real problems down the wing. It was all going so well. All that was needed was a goal to capitalise on a dominant opening display, and then Arsenal may have had a real chance at overcoming Pep Guardiola’s brilliant Bayern. Surely just one chance would be enough to ensure the tie was in their hands. That chance came, in the form of an excellent through ball from the talismanic Jack Wilshere to find none other than Germany’s golden boy, Mesut Ozil. He received the pass with a good touch, and his next was even better. Shaping his body to shoot, the playmaker switched inside onto his weaker right foot with a blissful piece of skill. The majestic turn fooled Bayern defender Jerome Boateng, and the centre-back’s trailing leg caught Ozil. He went down, and the referee pointed to the spot without a second thought. Boateng had no complaints. He had been tricked by the flair and skill of his international team-mate. Arsenal deserved their break, considering their superb performance in the opening spell of the game, and with regular penalty takers Mikel Arteta and Olivier Giroud away from the game injured or cheating on their wives, it was Mesut Ozil who grabbed the ball. Was this the moment that the £42.5m signing was to announce himself worthy of Arsene Wenger’s men? Unfortunately not. Once Mesut set up to take the penalty, it was obvious as to what the outcome of the spot-kick would be. A miss. His body language was un-disguising, un-concealing, and almost blatant. A mere two steps back from the ball without any angle may seem apt for Ozil, but to others it just shows a lack of backbone and confidence. It almost seems stupid to give off such an aura when facing the man-mountain of Bayern ‘keeper Manuel Neuer in goal. It came as no surprise when he palmed away the weak Ozil penalty with apparent ease.
It was a moment that changed the game. From then on all of the momentum and drive earlier showcased by the Gunners had dispersed, replaced by a lack of confidence and superiority. They went on to lose 2-0 to a side that they had on the rocks for the first 30 minutes of the game.
This observation could be one that reflects Mesut Ozil’s season. It would have been hard to find a disappointed Arsenal fan following the signing of the German midfielder, but many could be found now. Ozil was in the side straight away, starting his first game against Sunderland, and in turn picking up a wonderful assist. His astonishing touch and cross for Olivier Giroud to finish was the perfect way to announce his self to the fans. It seemed as though Arsene Wenger had finally found that missing link between the superb passing ability that his team possessed and a clinical edge, which they lacked. A string of similar performances led many to believe that Ozil was up there with the very best in world football. It was not to last, however. There are few doubters of Ozil’s phenomenal talent, but it hasn’t all gone to plan for the young man over here in England. Despite starting his Arsenal career with some incredible performances, he began to drift away from his usual influence on games as the long English season goes on. Rarely in the last couple of months has he influenced a game in a positive manner. His effort, confidence and flair have all dropped since his phenomenal introduction to the Premier League. Many have called for Ozil to be rested, and even Arsene Wenger has admitted that the performances of his record signing have dropped to a very low standard. The media spotlight has rarely left Ozil in the past few weeks, especially after that penalty miss that some claim to have lost Arsenal the game against Bayern. But what could possibly be the reason for Ozil’s lack of form? His confidence is no doubt at an all-time low, and it is sad to see such a great talent so unlike his usual self during games. It could be said that the lack of a winter break that he has received in all his previous seasons of European football may have affected him. You could also blame Wenger for his fall from grace. Ozil often looks tired, and it does seem as though Wenger might possibly have overused his star man, possibly out of desperation for his side to pick up silverware. The last time his men won a trophy, Mesut Ozil was still at school. No doubt a troubling fact for Arsenal fans to swallow.
Whatever the reason for Ozil’s slump, it must end now if Arsenal are to be considered contenders for a title this season. It is a worrying time for the Gunners. A mere two wins in their last 5 games leaves Arsenal in second in the Premier League with Manchester City ready to overtake should they win their game in hand, and their Champions League hopes look dashed following their defeat to champions Bayern. Their poor form was epitomized in their horrendous 5-1 defeat to probable title rivals Liverpool. They were 4-0 down within twenty minutes.
Something needs to change at the Emirates should Arsenal fulfil the promise of their sensational start to the season. A month or two ago they were clear title favourites, but now Chelsea, City and even Liverpool look more likely to win the Premier League. If they don’t turn it around now, it will be too late.
Turning a season round is easier said than done, but what must be stressed is the fact that it CAN be done. Arsenal have an array of top-class talent within their squad. Early-season sensation Aaron Ramsey is on the return from a long-term injury, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is beginning to mature and realise his potential, but without a return to form from Ozil, Arsenal have little hope. The playmaker could be crucial to their season. His passing, vision and skill are unmatched when he is at his best, and should his work rate improve he could be the missing link for Arsenal that has previously deprived them of success. A return to form for Ozil is a disturbing thought for the Gunner’s title rivals, and he will be the difference between yet another disappointing season, or quite possibly the greatest of Arsene Wenger’s reign. Arsenal must be desperate for the German to see the light, and renew his early promise. After all, the reason he joined Arsenal was to win the Premier League. Remember that. Mesut.