Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown believes that struggling midfielder Mesut Ozil should be trying to emulate the role of Barcelona icon Lionel Messi at the Emirates Stadium.
German international Ozil, who became the Gunners' record purchase when he moved from Real Madrid for £42.4m in September 2013, has struggled to justify such an enormous outlay during his first two seasons in English football and has become an easy target for critics of Arsene Wenger's side over recent months.
The 26-year-old was once again the subject of negative media attention in the wake of Arsenal's Champions League last 16 second-leg win over AS Monaco on 17 March and drew unfavourable comparisons with Andre Santos after appearing to swap shirts with Geoffrey Kondogbia as they left the pitch for half-time.
Although Arsenal ran out 2-0 victors at Stade Louis II, they exited the competition 3-2 on aggregate and critics claimed it was yet another big game in which Ozil flattered to deceive.
"If you look at the distances Ozil is covering and the amount he's getting on the ball, he's moving into new territory. Sometimes I just want to see more determination from him," Keown, who made over 300 first-team appearances for Arsenal in two separate spells, wrote in his regular 'Tackle Keown' feature for the Daily Mail.
"I watched Lionel Messi last night, he got an assist and set up numerous chances for others. There seems a ruthlessness in his game that isn't in Ozil. Thierry Henry said after the game that Messi plays for fun, but he's quite happy to humiliate his opponents as well - knocking it through their legs time and again.
"I don't think that's in Ozil's game. He plays for fun but he's not as ruthless but he is getting closer to what you want to see from him. Someone like Messi is the benchmark if you're Ozil. You should be trying to emulate him, to have that role in Arsenal's team to create goals."
While Keown is not naïve enough to expect the World Cup winner to replicate Messi's quite phenomenal scoring run, his point regarding the need to increase his tally of assists appears to be a valid one.
Prior to Arsenal's next match against Newcastle on March 22, Ozil has laid on just five goals for his teammates this season – a number that sees him lag far behind Cesc Fabregas, who currently leads the Premier League assists table with an impressive 15.
Ozil's tally also leaves him behind both Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez, both of whom have registered seven assists so far this season and a total of 20 top-flight goals between them in comparison to Ozil's three.
Messi was in tremendous form for Barcelona as they eased past Manchester City to book their place alongside Monaco in the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Wednesday (18 March), but was denied a goal to cap off a vintage display thanks to the heroics of visiting goalkeeper Joe Hart.