After leading the league table for the most number of weeks, Arsenal look to have run out of steam towards the fag end of the season. Lack of experience (of being in this situation), a string of poor performances courtesy of a dip in form of and injury to key players and lack of depth in the squad have derailed what was turning out to be the North London club’s best season in 9 years. Arsenal had a golden opportunity to add some quality to the squad in the January Transfer Market and consolidate their lead in the league but instead, they settled for an injured Attacking Mid-fielder who is yet to make an appearance for the club.
Arsenal’s season was rejuvenated in September 2013 after the club-record acquisition of Mesut Özil from Real Madrid. The move had an immediate impact and Arsenal were on top of the table by the end of September. A solid defence and an impeccable mid-field covered up for Arsenal’s shortcomings upfront, and after 6 years Arsenal found themselves in a position from where only they could lose the title.
Fast forward to March 2013: From being the change-factor not so long ago, Özil has become the fan’s favourite punching-bag. The buck is passed onto him, every time Arsenal fail to come out of games with a favourable result. Admirers and critics believe that Özil hasn’t been the same player at Arsenal as he was at Real Madrid and that he goes ‘missing’ in big games. But is 6 months or even a season enough to judge a player? To answer this question, I have tried to compare Özil’s stats from this season with the stats of Santi Cazorla (who joined Arsenal from the same league as Özil) from the previous season with regards to (wrt) Defending, Passing, Possession and Creativity, and Goal Attempts. Has Özil been as bad as is said? Has he been better than Santi Cazorla (of 2012-13 season)? Read on.
In 38 appearances, Cazorla attempted a Ground 50-50 every 8.42 minutes, succeeding 53% of the times. Whereas, Özil has attempted a Ground 50-50 every 10.73 minutes with a success rate of 44%. In terms of Aerial 50-50s, Özil leads Cazorla marginally. Stats show that Cazorla attempted tackles at almost double the rate of Özil and with better success. Cazorla made almost 2 interceptions every game, which is almost 12 times more than what Özil has managed so far this season.
These stats show that Cazorla had better numbers in this particular comparison. However, it may also be down to the fact that Arsenal did not have the services of Flamini (the best Free signing of the season) last season. With Arteta and Flamini guarding the defense, the rest of Arsenal’s mid-field has been able to press forward and control the game in the opposition’s half – which brings us to the next part of this analysis.
POSSESSION AND CREATIVITY
The stats for Possession is similar for both the players, except that Cazorla got dispossessed almost 3 times more than Özil.
In terms of creativity, Cazorla leads Özil in dribbling and crossing (which may be because Cazorla was often deployed out wide last season). Özil has assisted a goal every 229.25 minutes, almost 1.4 times better than what Cazorla could manage in the previous season. Both the players created almost 3 chances in every game, but the stats show that Cazorla created 2.8 times more clear-cut chances than Özil.
In totality, both the players return very impressive figures in this particular comparison. But Özil doesn’t seem to be much different from Cazorla (of 2012-13 season).
There is very little to differentiate between the two players in the comparison of their passing play stats. Özil is marginally better, but the difference is not reciprocal to the difference in the amount the club had to splash for acquiring the services of the two players. It may be argued that with Arsenal’s style of play, almost every mid-fielder will have similarly impressive statistics. So, let us move on to the final part of this analysis where I will compare the Goal Attempt stats of the two players and conclude this analysis.
Cazorla scored a goal every 3.06 games, while Özil has scored a goal every 5.1 games. Cazorla attempted 2 shots every game with an accuracy of 53% and converted 16% of the chances created for him. Özil, on the other hand has attempted a shot every game with an impressive accuracy of 80% and converted 1 out of 5 chances. Cazorla converted 1.15 out of 2 clear cut chances whereas Özil has converted 1.24 out of 3 clear cut chances. Stats show that Cazorla had a far more fruitful season in comparison with Özil wrt Goal Attempts.
Santi Cazorla was Arsenal’s player of the season in 2012-13 and helped the club finish in the Top-4. The season that followed, saw the rise to prominence of players like Ramsey and Wilshere. Arsenal had an enviable mid-field and every player raised the game of those around them. Özil fit perfectly in Arsenal’s scheme of things and promised to take the team all the way. Injuries to players like Ramsey, Podolski and Walcott have increased the burden on the German’s shoulders and he looks fatigued and disinterested whenever Arsenal have their backs to the wall.
The reason for Özil not playing at the same level for Arsenal as he did for Real Madrid could be the unavailability of pace on the flanks in the absence of Walcott and Oxlade Chamberlain. Further, in the absence of a box-to-box midfielder like Ramsey, Özil has had to be the sole feeder to Giroud and cover the gaps in center of the midfield whenever Arteta and Flamini have started together. The lack of depth has also meant that Arsenal have been unable to rotate and give the mid-fielder a breather. Stats suggest that Özil has done a decent job in all departments and the main problem faced by Arsenal is up front. Giroud looks jaded and needs to spend some more time on the training ground before he can match up with the best strikers in the league. Özil is still young and has his best years ahead of him. The only justified criticism of him is that he brings the level of his performance down to the level of those around him. He fails to be the inspiring figure when the team needs one. In the next 1o games, Özil will have the chance to silence his doubters and salvage Arsenal’s faltering season. His strong performance for the German national team in mid-week is an indication that he is not as bad as is said and has the mentality to make a strong comeback after a run of poor performances.
From what we have observed so far this season, to get the best out of Özil, Arsenal need to have better quality around him, especially ahead of him. With over a 100 million pounds in the purse, Arsenal will need to go for the best available talent early on in the next summer’s transfer window and build a team that will be capable of challenging for titles even after injury-setbacks.
There are still 10 games to be played this season and Arsenal are only 4 points behind league leaders Chelsea – a vast improvement from the last few seasons. But they look incapable of competing with the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City (on current form) for supremacy in the league. Only a miracle or a master stroke from Arséne Wenger can help the Gunners finish the season strongly. With their sternest challenge yet to come (in the next 3 weeks), the team will have to show the same desire that it showed in the first 5 months of this season to avoid another trophy-less season.
Please note that the analysis and inferences drawn are based purely on statistics, which may not always correlate with the actual performances of the players. Some of you may have a different point of view or look at the statistics differently, so feel free to share it with me either here or on twitter (@SilverHawk_24). Until next time, this is me signing off!!!