The longstanding saga of Mesut Ozil’s future at Arsenal was brought to an end when he sealed a permanent transfer to Turkish club Fenerbahce. The German superstar’s relationship with the Gunners may have deteriorated in the last couple of months, but he leaves behind a certain legacy that makes him a cult figure in his seven-and-a-half year stay in north London.
In 2013, Ozil joined Arsenal in a record £42.4m deal from Real Madrid and went on to make over 250 appearances in all competitions, scoring 44 goals and making 71 assists. The 32-year-old won four FA Cups and two Community Shields, and is famously remembered for registering a staggering 19 assists in the 2015/16 Premier League season.
As in the words of former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, Ozil is an artist who feels football through all the pores of his skin and his soul; and we look back at three games where he scripted history of his own in an Arsenal shirt.
2016 - Tormenting Ludogorets not once, but twice
The 2016/17 season was Mesut Ozil’s most productive campaign as an Arsenal player across all competitions, as he registered 12 goals and 14 assists. However, if one has to signal out two games that elevated his status as modern great at the club, it would be the group stage fixtures against Ludogorets in the UEFA Champions League.
Arsenal went on a rampage in the first meeting between the clubs at the Emirates Stadium, as they won 6-0. Leading by a three-goal margin by the 46th minute, the Gunners were well in place for a comfortable victory but the celebrations wouldn’t have been meaningful without Ozil’s hat-trick.
The attacking midfielder took 31 mins to find the net thrice and became just the third German international, and the fifth Arsenal player, to score a hat-trick in European football’s grandest competition. While this was Ozil’s finest moment in an Arsenal shirt since his arrival in 2013, the reverse fixture earned him a gold status, for he secured a come-from-behind victory with an incredible solo effort.
Ludogorets went up 2-0 within the first 15 minutes, something which took Arsenal by surprise. But, in true comeback style, the Gunners saw Ozil set up Granit Xhaka for an equalizer in the 20th minute. Olivier Giroud made it 2-2 before half-time and the tie was seemingly headed for a stalemate.
In the 88th minute, Mesut Ozil had the travelling fans leap up in joy when he took up a pass from Mohamed Elneny and chipped the ball above the goalkeeper before feinting past two Ludogorets defenders to score Arsenal's third goal and seal the club's place in the last-16.
2017 - Helping Arsenal to ‘defy the odds’ in the FA Cup final
Mesut Ozil missed the earlier games of the 2017 FA Cup while battling concerns of his inability to be a matchwinner in big games. However, his on-field displays in the final against Chelsea sent out a strong signal that the German still could call the shots as an Arsenal player.
Chelsea’s midfield and defence had some visible cracks in the link-ups, and Ozil’s intelligence coupled with Danny Welbeck’s smart positioning and Aaron Ramsey’s late runs into depth from midfield created a conundrum for the Blues to keep up with the pressure.
The former Schalke and Real Madrid playmaker may have registered just one assist in the 2017 edition, but he is highly credited for laying the blueprint for Arsenal to win their third FA Cup crown in four seasons.
2018 - A masterclass to shut down Leicester City
Arsenal, in a state of transition following the arrival of Unai Emery, had won six games on the trot after losing the first two fixtures. But, the meeting with Leicester City not only showcased Ozil’s all-round capability as a matchwinner, but also cemented the Gunners’ push to fight for a top-four spot.
The Foxes took a 1-0 lead after Hector Bellerin put the ball into his own net in the 10th minute, but Ozil equalized for the hosts at half-time. A ball across the box by Bellerin was met by the left side foot of Ozil, which trickled into the bottom left corner of the visitor’s net.
As the game progressed, Ozil’s hold on the game was clear, dominating the midfield with his glare and technical abilities. The German playmaker showcased his brilliance as he lifted the ball over the Leicester back-line and set the stage for a Bellerin-Aubameyang partnership to net the second goal.
The third Arsenal goal, in particular, is one to remember in terms of Mesut Ozil’s creativity, vision and passion. The playmaker exchanged a quality set of passes with Alexandre Lacazette before he chipped the ball over Kasper Schmeichel, to allow Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to wrap up the scoring.
Mesut Ozil’s time in the Premier League is certainly one of the greatest stories for a German player in the competition, and his departure to Turkey leaves a legacy that stands out as a checkpoint of success for Arsenal in the 2010s.
Feature Image Courtesy: AFP / NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV