Ozil at peak of powers, guiding Arsenal's title charge
LONDON: It's taken three seasons for Mesut Ozil to finally come good in English soccer.
The Germany playmaker's inconsistent performances and seemingly languid manner often overshadowed his undoubted talent and eye for a pass. He has divided opinion more than almost any player in the Premier League in his time at Arsenal.
Ozil is now at the peak of his powers back to the form he regularly showed at Real Madrid and could yet be the guiding force behind Arsenal's first league title since 2004.
He arguably saved his best display of the season for Monday, scoring one goal and setting up another in a 2-0 win over Bournemouth that has lifted Arsenal maybe only briefly into first place.
"As the opposing manager, I did not enjoy his performance," Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe said.
Arsene Wenger certainly did.
The Arsenal manager has always found it strange when fans and media got on Ozil's back in the player's first two seasons in England, following a move from Madrid for 42 million pounds ($70 million). Wenger said the critics weren't appreciating Ozil's talents.
Wenger was right. Ozil has 16 assists just four adrift of the record for a single Premier League season and three goals this season. He is also controlling games single-handedly, finding space where it appeared there was none and dictating Arsenal's tempo.
Then there's his vision. He created nine goal-scoring chances alone against Bournemouth, with a variety of through-balls and passes that had Wenger gushing.
"Something that I enjoy very much is the timing of his passes," said Wenger, one of the game's purists. "If you are thinking in the stand that he has to give the ball now, that is when he has done it. You have not even finished thinking and the ball has gone.
"That is difficult to achieve."
Wenger has had a player like that in the past, in club great Dennis Bergkamp.
"Yes, he reminds me of Bergkamp," Wenger said. "Bergkamp was more of a goal-scorer than him and Ozil is more about assists, but now Ozil is becoming more of a goal-scorer, so they are really comparable.
"Overall he is the complete player," Wenger continued. "I've not seen many players of his quality. He's an exceptional player and you have to give me credit I always defended that point of view even when people were skeptical."
Arsenal's injury problems have been hurt the midfield this season. Currently, the team is without Jack Wilshere, Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin.
But Ozil is an ever-present, fully fit mentally and physically and a different player to the one that appeared jaded at times in the post-World Cup year last season.
"Mesut always gets the song in the right tone," Wenger said.