The German’s comeback could force the resurgent Santi Cazorla out of the side, but, equally, his presence in the first team will have Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott salivating
By Ewan Roberts
The last time Mesut Ozil visited the Etihad Stadium, he was on the end of both a 6-3 drubbing and a furious, spittle-laden dressing down from Per Mertesacker. Having gifted Manchester City their third goal with his manager’s half-time team talk still ringing in his ears, he later shunned Arsenal’s travelling support to add to the growing suspicion that the Gunners’ club-record signing was not quite the player they had hoped he would be.
The former Real Madrid playmaker’s time in north London so far has largely been a tale of unfulfilled pedigree, and an underwhelming, often lethargic maiden campaign has been followed by a frustrating and prolonged spell on the sidelines. In the meantime, Alexis Sanchez, another big-money signing from La Liga, has delivered the electric, talismanic performances that had previously been expected of the £42 million man.
Ozil’s return to fitness, then, presents something of a dilemma for Arsene Wenger. The Gunners have only lost one of their last eight games in all competitions and have at last landed on a formula that works, with Santi Cazorla at the heart of the side’s best play – but there appears to be just one central attacking role up for grabs, and Wenger’s most immediate trade-off is to choose either the string-pulling Spaniard or the most expensive player in the club’s history.
The German’s previous outings in an Arsenal shirt do little to suggest he should merit that place so soon after a return from injury, but Wenger may be seduced by the new-look Ozil; once lightweight, fragile and tired after the World Cup, he has used his time on the sidelines to, in his manager’s words, “push himself to the limit of what you can absorb physically”. Bigger and bulkier, there are plenty of reasons to be excited by the possibilities of his return to action…