We have noticed you are using an ad blocker
To continue providing news and award winning journalism, we rely on advertising revenue.
To continue reading, please turn off your ad blocker or whitelist us.
As Mesut Ozil stepped up to strike his ill-fated penalty against Bayern Munich, he will have been no stranger to the pressure on his shoulders. When Ozil left Schalke 04 for Werder Bremen, he assumed the pressure of being the most expensive teenager in Germany. His performances in Bremen and for Germany in the 2010 World Cup earned him a move to Real Madrid as one of José Mourinho's marquee signings, and saw him described as "the best number 10 in the world" by Mourinho. German youth coach Horst Hrubesch once even hailed Ozil as the German Messi.
In Germany, Ozil is known as 'der Rabe' – the Raven. Frustrated Arsenal supporters will perhaps relate to Edgar Allen Poe's poem of the same name, having in recent times pondered weak and weary their own lost loves. After enduring frugal times which saw the myriad departures of top stars such as Fàbregas, Van Persie, Nasri and Adebayor amongst others, like Poe's narrator Arsenal fans can never be free of the memories of their departed. Yet Ozil's club-record transfer was supposed to mark the start of something new, the turning of a page.
Ozil's £42 million arrival marked a change of tack for Arsenal, a long overdue grand investment in the playing squad to follow the investment in a new stadium that had shackled the North London club for so long. Ozil started well for Arsenal, providing four assists in his first two games for the club, but only five more assists have materialised in the 20 Premier League games that have followed.
Ozil now finds himself a man under pressure, burdened by the expectation that he is the man to propel Arsenal forward from their position on the periphery of success, into a club that is challenging for honours on all fronts. The fact remains, however, that one man does not make a team, and that Arsenal are still a work in progress; a team that has progressed to within touching distance of greatness, but must progress further collectively to attain it.
At Madrid, Ozil was the master of the assist, his guile and technique fully utilised in a team full of dynamic forward runners. Arsenal, with Theo Walcott injured and Olivier Giroud out of form, do not offer these outlets, and their expensive summer signing has frequently been forced back into a deeper midfield role than that to which he has become accustomed, and has been asked to add defensive discipline to his game. Arsenal will only fully utilise Ozil's talents as their young players develop, and once a top-class striker that makes intelligent runs off the shoulders of defenders is hopefully purchased.
Mesut Ozil is not the first great player to struggle in his first season in the Premier League. Arsenal fans will need no reminder that even greats such as Pires, Bergkamp and Henry did not shine in their first seasons, or that Per Mertesacker spent a large majority of his first season being criticised for his lack of pace by pundits and fans alike.
Shamefully in their impatience for success in recent seasons, Arsenal fans have on occasion turned on their own, pouring scorn on the likes of Walcott, Gervinho and Ramsey, all of whom have since proved to be top players. As Ozil experiences his own dip in confidence and form, it is essential that this time Arsenal fans do not follow the media's lead and turn on their own man.
In time, Mesut Ozil will prove that he remains a world class player, and there is no doubt in my mind that he can move on from this period of difficulty to achieve great things with Arsenal. With the support of the fans, Ozil's name can be up there with the greats of Arsenal's history, and the Raven's name remembered – evermore.
An Arsenal fan who now lives in France, John can be found tweeting under the Proven Quality account @provenquality.