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Dublin: 2°C Friday 26 February 2021

David Meyler: Assist king Ozil won't be seen as a legend due to sad end to his Arsenal career

Our weekly columnist talks about his experiences playing against a German World Cup winner and gives his FA Cup fourth round predictions.

Mesut Ozil's time in England is over.
Mesut Ozil's time in England is over.
Image: PA

EX-IRELAND INTERNATIONAL David Meyler has joined The42 as our new football columnist for this season.

Every Friday, the former Hull City and Sunderland midfielder will give expert insight and his predictions ahead of the weekend’s Premier League action, alongside the latest William Hill prices. 

In his latest piece, he discusses Mesut Ozil’s Premier League departure for Fenerbahce and gives some thoughts ahead of the FA Cup fourth round weekend.

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Southampton v Arsenal, Saturday 12.15pm

Mesut Ozil’s eight-year association with Arsenal came to an end this week.

What a special player he was. I mean he still is, but the past 18 months have been so disappointing for both parties from a footballing point of view. 

Gunners fans rejoiced when the German attacking midfielder arrived from Real Madrid for €50 million (£42.5m) in 2013, and he was adored by them initially.

But few will be sad to see him finally off the wage bill after sealing a move to Fenerbahce.  

Ozil is the type of player who could get you off your seat. I faced him numerous times and one of the biggest compliments I can pay him is that he played the game in third gear. You never saw him looking panicked or under pressure — he did things at his own pace.

People who haven’t played the game professionally will look on from the outside and say he’s lazy, but he glides around the pitch. His ability to pick up the ball on the half-turn, create space for himself and then find a killer pass is incredible.

It is a hard skill. Many players can see a pass but getting the weight of ball right to put it into the correct channel for a winger or a striker to run on to is the difficult part.

At the same time, a lack of urgency was also one of his downfalls. Under Arsene Wenger, he was afforded such luxuries as he knew how to get the best out of him.

However, when Unai Emery arrived, the Spanish coach was looking for players to buy into his high-tempo game plan and press opponents. Current manger Mikel Arteta played him in the beginning but then decided that the playmaker was not part of his plans and he hasn’t featured in the first team since last March. 

I’ve read so many articles about what went on between Ozil and Arsenal — from his tweets supporting the Uighur Muslims in China and refusal to take a wage cut when the players were asked after the pandemic hit, to offering to pay the salary of Jerry Quy, who worked as club mascot ‘Gunnersaurus’ for 27 years before being made redundant.

Unless you’re in the player’s inner circle or high up at the club, however, it’s impossible to know exactly what happened.

Either way, it’s a great shame that someone of his ability has played so little of late and that he is no longer a Premier League player.

fenerbahce-new-transfer-mesut-ozil-arrives-in-istanbul Holding up the Fenerbahce scarf after landing in Istanbul this week. Source: Depo Photos/ABACA

In recent campaigns, Kevin De Bruyne has been top dog in the assist charts but there was a period when Ozil was doing it regularly. He registered 77 assists in 254 appearances for the Gunners and chipped in with 44 goals. In 2015/16, his 19 assists in the league were one off the Premier League record for a single season — held by Henry and De Bruyne.

Ozil is also the only player to finish top assister in the Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga, the World Cup, the Champions League and the European Championships, which tells you how effective he has been.

When Alexis Sanchez left the north Londoners for Manchester United in January 2018, seeing their stars walk out to achieve success elsewhere was a long-standing problem for them.

You couldn’t really blame the likes of Thierry Henry or Cesc Fabregas because they were joining Barcelona, but Robin van Persie’s move to United was a kick in the teeth and you can see why they threw the kitchen sink at Ozil to keep him.

It’s not his fault they agreed to pay him €400,000 (£350,000) a week and if you’re offered that amount, you’re not going to say no.

People will claim the World Cup winner downed tools because of those earnings, and refused to move on in recent transfer windows as he was comfortable living in London.

But Ozil would have been set for life even before that contract. Did he fall out of love with the game? The money is one thing but surely a player of his calibre would want to kick on in his career.

I saw an interview he did years ago and they were showing him ‘The Invincibles’ on the wall of the training ground. He’s saying ‘I want to be remembered like these players’.

He will be remembered fondly by Arsenal fans but I don’t think he will have that legendary status because of how it ended.

It is a pity the way things have worked out and I hope we see him playing and enjoying football again in Turkey, because on his day he’s one of the best creative midfielders in the world.

Ironically, he is probably what Arsenal are crying out for right now, but the boy Emile Smith Rowe has done fantastically well and I’ve no doubt he has a really bright future in the game.

They are in decent form heading into an FA Cup fourth round weekend, thanks to the 3-0 win over Newcastle. Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is back on the scoresheet too, which will come as a major boost.

The current holders have had great success in this competition and will be targeting it again. They have a tricky tie away to Southampton, who eased past Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday night.

There has been much talk of Danny Ings’ future this week. The Saints have offered their star striker a new contract but the English striker, who has been recovering from Covid-19, is reportedly keen to play Champions League football.

With Arsenal’s track record, I’ll back them for a narrow win — 2-1

Fulham v Burnley, 2.30pm Sunday 

Fulham have impressed me recently. I watched them against Chelsea last weekend and they caused all sorts of problems, even after they went down to 10 men with the sending off of Antonee Robinson. On Wednesday night, the Cottagers gave Man United a fright — going ahead five minutes in before eventually losing out 2-1.

Scott Parker has changed things up and put Ademola Lookman and Ivan Cavaleiro up front. They are improving and will cause Burnley problems.

The Clarets had a superb win over Liverpool last night and what you see is what you get with them. They’re solid at the back and are hard to break down. With Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes, they have target men who can hold the ball up well.

burnley-v-milton-keynes-dons-emirates-fa-cup-third-round-turf-moor It's good to see Robbie Brady back playing regularly for Burnley. Source: PA

My old Ireland team-mate Robbie Brady has come back into the team and is fine form, which is great to see. He has had his injuries, but there is no doubting that Robbie is a special player when his body is right. Robbie has benefitted from a run of games and looks fit. That’s a real positive for Sean Dyche.

Craven Cottage could suit Burnley because it’s a tight pitch and they can be narrow, so I’ll go for a 2-1 away win.

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