Mesut Ozil: Bergkamp figure or Arsenal's new Arshavin?
Wednesday's clash with Man United could be a key moment in the German's career as a Gunner
IF WEDNESDAY night's clash between Man United and Arsenal at the Emirates didn't already have enough riding on it for the two managers and their hopes for the season, it could also become a defining moment of Mesut Ozil's career as a Gunner.
The German's fortunes have mirrored those of his new side this season. After arriving in London on the final day of the transfer window the £42m signing from Real Madrid was hailed as the missing piece in Arsene Wenger's jigsaw as Arsenal climbed to the top of the table and Ozil dazzled as part of a marauding Gunners midfield.
But recent performances from player and team alike have lacked the polish seen earlier in the season, culminating with Saturday's humiliation at the hands of Liverpool.
The Gunners may be second in the table, just one point off the lead, but the debate about who will win the title has lately revolved around two teams: Chelsea and Man City.
Arsenal have been forgotten, and Ozil too had fallen out of the pundits thoughts, until, that is, his lamentable showing against Liverpool. As a result he now finds himself in the crosshairs.
"It was not just that Mesut Ozil appeared tired; he appeared disinterested," wrote Jason Burt of the Daily Telegraph after the game, calling on Wenger to drop his record signing.
The apparent decline of both Arsenal and Ozil has not gone unnoticed by Matt Hughes in The Times. "Mesut Ozil is living up to his billing as an emblem of the new Arsenal, although not in the manner that Arsene Wenger or the club’s fans had envisaged." he says, before warning that "there is a danger that their totemic, club-record signing could come to symbolise the team's limitations".
His form has dipped, his contribution has diminished and his body language is poor. "The unspoken fear at Arsenal is that a player hailed as the club's best signing since Dennis Bergkamp could end up as another Andrey Arshavin," he says.
Writing ahead of the United clash The Guardian suggests that "the lack of speed in Arsenal's team has dimmed his effectiveness".
But it could be that the absence of his fellow midfielder Aaron Ramsey that has made the biggest difference. Ozil was able to perform as a midfield foil to a rampaging Ramsey early in the season. Injuries to Ramsey and Theo Walcott have cast Ozil, a schemer and creator more in the mould of Santi Cazorla, centre stage and he has not prospered.
But his failure also reflects badly on Wenger, who has shown "yet again how he cannot get the best out of a big money signing", according to Adrian Durham in the Daily Mail.