Skeptics will wait to see if Ozil can have the same impact at Everton on Sunday
How Emery changed Ozil from liability to key man

ON THE MEND

How Emery changed Ozil from liability to key man

Playmaker has impressed after starting in Arsenal’s last four games

In Summary

• Emery has given him a second chance once the window shut

• He’s now ahead of Mkhitaryan in Emery’s pecking order

Arsenal manager Unai Emery with playmaker Mesut Ozil
Arsenal manager Unai Emery with playmaker Mesut Ozil
Image: /REUTERS

Clutching his man-of-the-match trophy, Mesut Ozil was praised lavishly by manager Unai Emery and even feted by Bollywood after helping Arsenal beat Newcastle on Monday night.

Not bad for a player whose career at the Emirates has regularly been written off following Arsene Wenger’s departure and Emery’s new era of blood, sweat and tears – not Ozil’s traditional forte.

The revival of the 30-year-old German World Cup winner, whose technical gifts have never been in doubt, has coincided with Arsenal’s late charge towards Champions League qualification.

 
 

When Ozil flitted in and out of Emery’s team, The Gunners were 10 points off Tottenham at one stage. The midfield playmaker has now started the last four games and Arsenal are at par with their north London rivals in the Premier League, and reached the last eight of the Europa.

“Mesut is helping us with his quality and giving us his work,” said an admiring Emery after his team’s latest victory.

Besides his 83 touches, 63 successful passes, five crosses and two chances created, Ozil covered 10 kilometres and won the ball back 11 times against Rafa Benitez’s side before making way for Henrikh Mkhitaryan late on.

“Ozil has been all over the park,” explained former Arsenal striker Alan Smith in selecting his man-of-the-match.

They are healthy statistics for someone linked with a January move away from The Emirates and Ozil was moved to tweet afterwards: “We are definitely on the right track.”

Skeptics will wait to see if Ozil can have the same impact at Everton on Sunday, a sterner test than a Newcastle side who sat back at The Emirates and let Arsenal dictate. Even so, some of his creative play was right up there with Arsenal’s finest traditions. He deserved an assist for a perfect slide-rule pass to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang which, unusually, the striker failed to capitalise upon.

Ozil became the highest-paid player in Arsenal’s history when he signed a £350,000-a-week deal last season, the club desperate not to lose him at the same time as Alexis Sanchez. But for the first six months of this season, than deal looked a poisoned chalice for Emery who wanted more intensity from his players than Ozil was able to offer. As a side-effect, Ozil’s salary also prevented Arsenal from financially competing with Juventus over Aaron Ramsey, who will move to Italy in the summer. By the time the January transfer window was underway, Ozil had already been left out of nine league games by Emery, the manager’s excuses varying from injuries to tactical reasons.

 
 

There seemed little way back for Ozil but with none of Europe’s top clubs prepared to take on his bumper wages, Emery has given him a second chance once the window shut. He opened the scoring and ran the game in a 5-1 win against Bournemouth in Feburary, the eighth of Arsenal’s 10 home wins in a row.

He’s now ahead of Mkhitaryan in Emery’s pecking order and with Ramsey off soon, it looks increasingly unlikely Ozil will be sacrificed this summer.

The international seal of approval towards the German international was given by superstar Indian film actor and producer Shah Rukh Khan — dubbed the King of Bollywood — who watched Arsenal defeat Newcastle as Ozil’s guest, the pair posing for pictures with Ozil’s fiancee Amine Gulse.

That is the sort of glamour and attention Arsenal are always going to get with Ozil. What Emery wants to also see is the dedication and hard work associated with an elite professional sportsman. Ozil is delivering on all levels at the moment. Arsenal have lost only one of the 16 Premier League games in which Ozil has started this season — and that was back in August against Chelsea. If Emery wants to finish off the Champions League job, he’s going to need his most mercurial talent.

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