Is Ozil the best number 10?

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During the international break, we were able to step back from preparing for and then dissecting matches and take a look at the bigger picture. Even as we've been ravaged by injuries, one of the brightest spots has been the play of Mesut Ozil, who has now delivered assists in six consecutive Premier League matches, an historic feat, and has twice as many assists as the next most-generous man.

Does this make Ozil the best No 10 in England? Almost certainly. Does it make him the best No 10 in Europe? Probably. What's scary, though, is that he's not even scratching the surface of his talents.

Three years into his time at Arsenal, Ozil finally looks like he's comfortable: with the new league and country for one, but, more importantly, with his new role. At Real Madrid, he could more comfortably lurk in the long shadows cast by other Galacticos who craved and coveted the limelight that comes with being the leading man.

Upon his arrival at Arsenal, though, he was immediately elevated to that echelon, and that, more than the more-ordinary transition from one league to another, seems to have taken much longer for the retiring Ozil to deal with.

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This article first appeared on Woolwich1886 in November


It's not just that the man conjures scoring chances out of thin air - but, to be clear, he does, often to the extent that his own team-mates can't anticipate the passes that he threads - it's in how much he pulls defences out of shape.

Traditional No 10s might spend most of their time in the centre of the pitch in order to send passes forward to the striker or to wingers, but Ozil defies conventional wisdom by spending just as much time if not more on the wings, finding space behind Arsenal's wingers from which to send angled passes or crosses into the box (such as for the equaliser against Tottenham).

He pops up all over the pitch, dropping deep to receive the ball, arriving on one touchline or the other, all but daring a defence to track him. Assign a defensive midfielder to him, and watch as he stays wide in order to open space through the middle for others to flow into.

However, any suggestion that the man is the best No 10 in the world invites certain comparisons, and the first names that come to mind would have to be Manchester City's David Silva and Barcelona's Andres Iniesta.

Comparisons to the former are complicated by his injury woes; comparisons to the latter are complicated by his age. Comparisons to both are complicated by each squad's propensity to overwhelm opponents.

When we talk of Ozil, very often the talk turns to intangibles, at times in a sardonic sense as if his occasional invisibility indicates a lack of quality. However, Arsène has spoken of Ozil's less-quantifiable contributions, saying the following:

“He was outstanding again [during the north London derby]. He has grown into a very great player as he has added commitment, leadership qualities and responsibility, and I’m very pleased with his development.”

Yes, Arsène mentioned "leadership", which might seem an odd quality given Ozil's understated personality and the enduring image of Mertesacker berating him after a loss to Man City in December 2013. The squad has taken great strides since then, but perhaps no one has taken greater strides than Ozil.

In other words, not only is he staking a claim to being one of the best No 10s in the world, Ozil might be on the verge of taking Arsenal itself by the scruff and elevating it to one of the best squads in the world. That's a long row to hoe, but the early returns suggest that he has risen to the task.

Ozil plays a pass

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