Under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal’s offense flowed through Mesut Özil. He controlled the matches and put his stamp on how Arsenal would attack. So far under Unai Emery, Özil has not been able to (or maybe been allowed to) find that same influence.
The most striking thing that really jumps out is that the number of touches per 90 minutes for Özil has dropped massively this season.
Over the five matches that he has played this season his touches have been 55, 29, 58, 40 and 39. The rankings of the number of touches for matches over the last three full seasons with at least 65 minutes are, 8th fewest, 1st fewest, 11th fewest, 3rd fewest and 2nd fewest.
Where the touches have taken place has changes as well. It is a subtle thing, but Özil has been about 5 yards deeper this season with his touches than he was in the past three seasons.
It is not just his touches that have gone down (although I am sure it is related) but his overall offensive contribution is way down from seasons past as well.
Over the five matches that he has played this season his offense value added has been 0.02, 0.14, 0.36, 0.53 and 0.02. The rankings of the number of touches for matches over the last three full seasons with at least 65 minutes are, 6th lowest, 13th lowest, 25th lowest, 34th lowest and 5th lowest. The scary thing about this, is that this stats is almost perfectly built to capture the value that a player like Özil creates and one that he has been at the top of for the last three seasons.
I could continue to go on showing the decline in the stats for Özil this season but I don’t want to make myself depressed.
With Özil the clubs top earner (and biggest star) it is really hard to say that marginalizing him is a great strategy for success. In a day in age where the classic number 10 play maker is going away, replaced with a player with a different role (e.g. one with a lot more defensive duties than Arsenal have ever asked of Özil) he might be the last of a dying breed.
That being said he is still a special talent and getting so little out of him makes no sense if Arsenal are to contend for the top four, and have a chance at winning the Europa League. Unai Emery want’s to play with a number 10 and he has one of the last true number 10’s in his squad, it might be time to give up the Ramsey in the position and free Özil to run the Arsenal offense.
This post originally ran on The Short Fuse