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Jack: Newcomer Ozil ignites explosive Arsenal

Kristian Jack
9/15/2013 5:06:03 PM
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It came from a counter attack and when the ball was crossed into the box with the perfect amount of weight behind it, he knew he had a chance.

He drifted off the back of the centre-back, met the ball in the air, and powerfully headed his team into an unassailable 4-2 lead.

Jurgen Klinsmann had arrived in the Premier League.

What happened next would become one of the most iconic moments in the Premier League's history as the German international, along with his Tottenham teammates, celebrated the goal by diving onto the floor, as a way of mocking the stories about the striker being a notorious diver.

Klinsmann's performance at Sheffield Wednesday, in the sunshine, on the opening day of the 1994-95 season is still today known as one of the league's all-time great debuts.

This past Saturday in the Premier League wasn't the opening day of the season but it certainly felt like it with many new players making their debuts, fresh off an international break, after the transfer window finally closed.

Much like Klinsmann's signing in the mid 90s, the arrival of Mesut Ozil in England has similarly captured the attention of the entire country. Arsenal fans are not alone in the excitement of having this player in the Premier League.

On August 20th, 1994, while Klinsmann was diving for fun, Ozil was a shy 5-year-old kid living in a relatively poor suburb of Gelsenkirchen, Germany.

Nineteen years later, his debut drew parallels to the man who now coaches the United States. A number of great players have arrived in the Premier League when they are past their best, while others have reached elite level while playing in England. Very few have been at a world class standard when they arrived, generating a real buzz about their debut.

Klinsmann was one and Ozil is another.

Like his countryman, Ozil opened his Premier League career away from North London when he travelled to Sunderland on Saturday and, like Klinsmann, Ozil ended his day with a very good performance and a standout moment for everyone to remember.

With Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla missing through injury, Ozil was placed in the side with Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Mathieu Flamini and Theo Walcott as the 'five' to play behind striker Olivier Giroud.

Arsenal are very much a 4-3-3 side, with an attacking member of the midfield three often pushing further up to make it a 4-2-3-1 hybrid.

However, with the intelligent Ozil in the side, along with a real lack of pressing from Sunderland's 4-4-2, Arsenal played a different shape than we are used to seeing from them (more on that shortly).

To understand Arsenal's different identity on Saturday, you just had to watch Ozil for the opening 10 minutes of the game, as he put on a clinic on just how to play as a creator behind a striker. Everything Ozil does well was on show in the first 10 minutes.

His first two touches of the ball came in the opponent's half but deep towards the right wing and immediately his ability to drift deep had an effect on Sunderland's positioning as a back four, with them slowly moving higher up the pitch.

Already Arsenal had them where they wanted them and Ozil's movement towards the right flank was on show again in the seventh minute when Walcott, after connecting well with right back Carl Jenkinson, needed an outlet as he drove into Sunderland's final third. There was Ozil, moving across the pitch as he does so splendidly, to receive the ball in space and continue the attack.

Keeping the ball and finding space was the theme of Arsenal's early attacks and with Ozil again drifting deep centrally, Wilshere picked up the ball on the left and used the German to play a quick one-two that opened up an alley that allowed him to drive deep into Sunderland territory.

Much of Arsenal's success this season has come from counter attacks deep in their own half. Their third goal at Fulham was a perfect example of this when all eleven players were in their half before an attack, led by Giroud, and finished by Lukas Podolski, exploded into the opponent's half.

In the eighth minute at Sunderland, Giroud again came deep to win a header that he sent towards Ozil, who allowed the ball to come across him before running across the halfway line and starting another attack. Sunderland's back four, petrified of the space between them and their midfield, again played high and almost got found out.

Two minutes later they were exposed again. Ozil, in the centre circle, facing his own goal, received the ball and immediately centre-back Mobido Diakite charged into his back to pressure him. Ozil calmly slotted the ball back to Kieran Gibbs, and before the left back even received the ball, charged into space on the left behind Sunderland's right back Ondrej Celustka. Gibbs saw Ozil's run and had time to set the ball up for his left foot before swinging it towards a sprinting Ozil, who now had the Sunderland defence in trouble. With Diakite out of position, Valentin Roberge was forced to close down the German, leaving space in the middle for Giroud to run into. Ozil took a brilliant touch, bringing the ball down on to the ground, had a quick glance across to see his striker's positioning, and then sent a perfect cross over for Giroud to finish it off. 1-0 Arsenal. 'Ossist' number one of many for the 42 million pound man.

Watch the match highlights here.

It had taken just 10 minutes and Ozil had done damage on the right, in the centre and over on the left. With Sunderland playing with ineffective wingers, Arsenal went on to dominate possession in a 3-1 win and simply using their full backs, with Walcott on the right, to provide width. Flamini played as a solo pivot once Arsenal attacked, playing more passes to Ozil than any other player, giving Ramsey, Wilshere and Ozil the freedom to play very close to Giroud centrally. They were far from narrow, though, and actually had much more fluency in attack with the constant interchanging between the trio.

(photo: fourfourtwo.com - Click For Larger Image)

A true treasurer of the ball, you can see just how effective Ozil is with his vertical and lateral movement, putting together an outstanding passing efficiency from left to right in the two attacking areas for Arsenal.

It was only one game, admittedly against an average side, but already it is clear that Ozil is exactly what Arsene Wenger needs as his side evolve into an impressive team on counter attacks from their own half and quick transitions.

(photo: fourfourtwo.com - Click For Larger Image)

Ozil is the ultimate space invader who will terrify defenders with his movement, finding space for himself like no other, and creating space for teammates to benefit from.

Klinsmann's header and dive to celebrate made him an instant box office superstar in England, someone the public wanted to go and watch live.

The ultimate space invader is going down the same path. Fitting, in 2013, it's no longer about seeing just a pure goal scorer. It appears the IQ levels might just be rising off the field; Ozil's arrival in the Premier League certainly guarantees it is rising on it.




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