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Is Ozil Running Out of Time to Leave a Legacy?

Mesut Ozil was one of Kaka’s favourite players to line up alongside during the Brazilian’s final years at Real Madrid, and when they were playing together, the goals had a tendency to flow.

While at the Santiago Bernabeu, the German looked as though he would go on to be considered among the best players in the world. But since joining Arsenal, Ozil’s form has been somewhat erratic. Both Kaka and Ozil left Madrid at the same time, and there is no doubting the legacy that the 2007 Ballon d’Or winner has left behind. However, the chances of Ozil being remembered in the same way as his former teammate are getting fainter each year.

Ozil began plying his trade at Schalke where he was described as the next big thing. But it was when he moved to Werder Bremen in 2008 that the playmaker started getting attention and earned a call-up to the national side. In the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Ozil made a name for himself as one of the top young talents in Europe and attracted interest from a number of elite clubs, including Barcelona and Arsenal. In the end, it was Madrid who snapped the player up, where he was initially brought in as backup for Kaka. But due to the Brazilian suffering from a knee injury at the time, the German walked straight into the side.

Ozil registered 25 assists across all competitions in his first season with Los Blancos, and instantly became a fan favourite in the Spanish capital. Jose Mourinho awarded Ozil with the number 10 shirt at the beginning of the 2011-12 campaign, and this signalled the manager’s intent to use the German as his main attacking playmaker. It allowed Kaka to sit back slightly and influence attacks from a more central position.

Ozil joined Arsenal in 2013 for £43 million, making him the club’s record signing at the time. The player had reportedly felt unhappy at Madrid after the arrival of Luka Modric, but with 29 assists he had been in astonishing form in his final season, regardless of any in-house rivalry. Arsene Wenger certainly thought he was acquiring one of the best footballers on the planet and the potential key to winning the title.

Unfortunately for Gunners fans, though, Ozil has never managed to recapture the same kind of devastating form he displayed in La Liga while playing at the Emirates. He has frequently shown flashes of brilliance, but he has always lacked consistency. Ozil’s best ever season in North London was in 2015-16, when he scored six goals and got 19 assists. Since then he has failed to reach the same heights as other elite players in attacking midfield positions such as Eden Hazard, Cristian Eriksen, Dele Alli, David Silva, and Kevin De Bruyne.

Under the stewardship of new Arsenal manager Unai Emery, Ozil’s role in the Gunners squad is still unclear. The German has started most games in the Premier League, but his new manager has also chosen to omit him on three occasions against West Ham, Fulham, and most recently Bournemouth. Arsenal were tipped to struggle against Eddie Howe’s high-flying cherries at the Vitality Stadium, but they managed to get the better of their south coast rivals with a 2-1 victory. Ozil didn’t feature in the game, though, and was an unused substitute as Emery decided to plump for a 3-4-3 formation.

Emery has been experimenting with different ways to line-up his charges since entering the hot seat, and using a 3-4-3 is a great way to get the best out of superstar forwards Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. The problem with this is that it doesn’t allow for a traditional number 10 behind the attackers. Ozil could operate on the flank in this situation, but this is not where he is most effective.

The rebuilding project at Arsenal could take some time, and it may be time that Ozil does not have. The 30-year-old only has a few playing years left in him, and if he is to leave behind the same kind of legacy as Kaka he needs to lead Arsenal to glory before he retires. The chances of him doing that appear to be getting slimmer and slimmer by the year.