With 16 assists, Mesut Ozil has been one of, if the not the, best players in the Premier League this season. However, when Ozil was injured for Sunday’s match away at Stoke, the Gunners failed to create clear-cut chances, and eventually ground out a 0-0 draw.
Arsenal currently lead the way in the Premier League after 22 games played, and many see this as their best chance to win the title since the Invincibles in 2003/04. Arsene Wenger’s men have been helped out by the consistent failings of the sides around them. Manchester City have struggled defensively without their inspirational captain Vincent Kompany, while Leicester appear to have stalled in recent weeks.
In the red corner of Manchester, Louis van Gaal’s job is still under scrutiny with his side’s below-par performances, while Chelsea’s title defence has fallen flat on its face. This seems like the perfect time for Arsenal to finally make a sustained challenge for English football’s biggest price.
Last season, Alexis Sanchez was Arsenal’s main man, with the Chilean scoring 16 goals and providing six assists. With the former Barcelona man struggling to get consistent game time due to injury, it has left the former Real Madrid player Ozil with the job of filling his boots.
He has done that and much more. The German has been in incredible form for the Gunners, and has been the key man in their rise up the division. In the past, Arsenal have become known as a side who try to “walk the ball into the net”, and are too slow on the ball.
Ozil’s style of play has changed all that, creating 86 chances, 22 more than the next highest in the division, Kevin de Bruyne at Manchester City. He has improved the club in other areas as well, with 61% of his passes forward, meaning his side can play faster, more adventurous football.
At Stoke however, with the 27-year-old missing with a foot injury, Arsenal were pretty blunt in attack. They only carved out two real chances in the match, both falling to Olivier Giroud, both well saved by Jack Butland. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was given the chance to impress playing in the role behind the striker, but never had a real affect on the game.
The lack of chances showed just how instrumental Ozil is to the success of this Arsenal side. They have shown in recent weeks that with Olivier Giroud, Joel Campbell and Theo Walcott all chipping in, they are capable of making up the goals for the injured Sanchez.
But Sunday went to prove that without Ozil in the side, Arsenal really struggle to function as an attacking force, and would face an uphill battle to win the league if he were to be injured for an extended period of time.