Ozil dividing opinion

Football411 News’ Lanre Banjoko reports from the Emirates Stadium where feelings toward record signing Mezut Ozil were mixed following

After their opening day defeat at home to Aston Villa, Arsenal needed a significant signing in the summer transfer window to appease fans unhappy with a lack of significant investment in the first-team squad.

That signing was Mezut Ozil, and he didn’t come cheap. The club sanctioned a club record fee of £42million and the Arsenal faithful had a new hero. Just remember the post on Football411 online News when his signing was confirmed live on air.

Lauded upon his arrival at the Emirates, Ozil has everything needed to become an Arsenal great. The midfielder registered four goals and six assists in his first 12 Premier League games and with it, the club’s title challenge began in earnest.

Yet Arsenal fans now find themselves wondering if Ozil has gone off the boil. He was criticised for his performance against Liverpool last week, where he had only 45 touches compared to his usual average of over 80 per Premier League game. It’s hard to impress in a team that loses 5-1, but those in the press box who follow the club week in week out will tell you, he’s not been at his best for some time.

“He’s really tailed off in recent weeks,” explained The Mirror’s John Cross. “I think it’s increasingly become an issue. Fans will always forgive and forget if they can see effort going in as well. He is a lackadaisical, luxury player, and so you’re not even getting that. His assists record has gone down significantly, and I do think it’s becoming a concern.”

There’s no doubting that Ozil brings star quality to the club but remarkably after the fanfare surrounding his arrival, opinion amongst supporters is now mixed.

“It was a big boost in the beginning,” says Dan Landau, who runs The Matchday Shop, outside the Emirates, which is brimming with Ozil’s signed boots and photos. “There was this massive euphoria and I think he’s helped us get to where we are. Arsenal fans are very harsh, so he might not perform so well, and then they’re slamming him.”

Arsenal fan Jack Douglas did when skysports.com spoke to him on his way into the stadium before last night’s game. “I don’t like his attitude. I’ve seen him not say goodbye to the away fans, but he has contributed a lot in terms of assists, and we’ve got to give him time.”

Arsenal’s recent history tells you a player can still go on to become a club legend, even if they get off to a slow start. “The one I think about is Robert Pires,” Cross recalled. “He was disappointing in his first season, and I always remember a North London derby when he was bullied out of it at Tottenham. I think he found it very difficult to adapt – the physical pace and power of the Premier League really shocked him, and he couldn’t dominate. You began to wonder ‘what have they signed here?’, and as we know he went on to become an Arsenal legend, and I think that’s going to be the case with Ozil”.

On the subject of the physicality of English football, Cross says Ozil only has to cast an eye on the current form of a title-chasing rival, for inspiration. “Look at Eden Hazard for example – he’s a great example.

He’s suddenly become a lot more physical, a stronger player, and you can see that in his play. It’s really improved him. He can knock defenders off the ball, and I think that’s the sort of thing Ozil will have to work on to become a success.”

If Arsenal do win their first trophy in nine years in May, Cross is in no doubt the German will have played his part.

“If they win the League, it will be because Mesut Ozil was signed in August, and it raised the expectation level at the club. It really gave them a different philosophy and gave everyone a boost off the pitch. I think if Arsenal win it, whether he’s playing well or not, I think he’ll have had a massive say, and be a huge part of Arsenal’s title success.”

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