It is startling how quickly Mesut Ozil’s career at Arsenal has nose-dived. From being hailed as one of the Premier League’s best signings of all-time last summer, there are now calls for him to be dropped.
The German playmaker has yet to register a goal or an assist this term, and has looked a painfully limp figure for the Gunners.
Arsenal have won just one of their past five games in all competitions, hardly ideal form heading into a Champions League match away at Borussia Dortmund they are a lengthy 11/5 to win.
Arsene Wenger masterminded a 1-0 victory in Dortmund last season, but will need his record-signing on form to repeat the feat. Here are five ways Arsenal can revitalise Ozil.
Move him into the middle
Wenger has experimented with a 4-1-4-1 formation of late in an attempted to get the best out of summer signing Alexis Sanchez, with fine results as the Chilean has netted in each of his past three games.
However, this has pushed Ozil out wide on the left, where he is too peripheral to affect the Gunners’ attacks and unsuited to the defensive demands of tracking an opposition full-back.
The German’s fantastic start at Arsenal, where he notched four goals and eight assists in his first 13 league matches, came from a central position at the heart of every attack, and this is where he must be stationed.
Free him of all defensive responsibility
There is no point to asking Ozil to put in a defensive shift. He is bad at it, and it draws him away from the positions where he can do real damage.
As demonstrated by his failure to track Seamus Coleman for Everton’s opener in the recent 2-2 draw at Goodison, the German just doesn’t have it in him to pull his weight at the back.
That’s a shame and it’s understandable why fans get frustrated at him, but it helps no-one to have Ozil putting in half-tackles miles away from the opposition goal.
Get the ball forward quickly
Arsenal have played the fewest long balls in the Premier League so far this term, averaging 42-per-game, and have scored no goals on the counter-attack.
Ozil is a master of taking advantage of poorly-organised defences, as he demonstrated in his final full season at Real Madrid.
Los Merengues scored 11 goals on the counter in La Liga in 2011/12, the most in the league, and played the seventh-most long balls with 63-per-game.
Stop playing him for 90 minutes
Ozil’s stamina issues are well known and undeniably a little embarrassing for a professional footballer, but consistently playing him for the full 90 minutes is hardly helping the situation.
Instead tell the German he has 60 minutes to play at full-throttle, rather than drifting around trying to save energy, before he is removed to allow Arsenal an injection of vitality in the closing half an hour.
Surround him with pace
Danny Welbeck, Sanchez, Aaron Ramsey all look like ideal foils for Ozil, with their ability to break beyond defences and make clever runs a natural fit for his throughballs.
The German has played just once with Welbeck, and a handful of times with Sanchez. Give him time to settle in the middle of an attack containing this trio and Ozil will run riot.