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“The anticipation and the expectation is obviously big.”

“We just want to prove ourselves and get the three points.”

Mesut Ozil's defensive contribution vs Manchester United - A huge plus for Arsenal“When you prove yourself against big teams, your self-belief increases because you believe in yourself more” explained Arsenal’s gloriously talented German midfielder, Mesut Ozil, on the eve of their massive clash against Manchester United last weekend.

The magnificent 3-0 win that followed certainly saw Arsenal prove themselves in the best possible manner. More than that, though, the heavily derided figure that is Ozil proved he can not only perform on such big occasions, but shine as well.

From his central attacking role, the 2014 World Cup winner’s influence was enormous. Barney Ronay from The Guardian depicts this accurately in his fine piece from the game, stating: “When he flexes his shoulders and pulls himself up to the full height of his talent – not to mention operating in his favoured No10 position – Arsenal have a creative player whose ability to pass and use space is a class above anything else in the Premier League, David Silva excepted.”

While the lavish praise directed at the former Real Madrid maestro’s attacking output was absolutely warranted, he deserved just as much credit for the way he approached his defensive responsibilities.

As part of Arsenal’s first line of defence when Manchester United had possession and were looking to pass out from the back, Ozil played a key role within Arsenal’s front four of making life hugely difficult for United to get out cleanly.

With Chris Smalling and Daley Blind splitting wide following goal kicks to make space for Bastian Schweinsteiger or Michael Carrick to receive possession between them, Arsenal got their marking scheme spot on in these instances. Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez would monitor Daley Blind and Chris Smalling out wide, while Theo Walcott or Mesut Ozil would share the duties of marking Schweinsteiger and Carrick.

With Manchester United’s full backs pushed higher up as a result of the central defenders splitting, Arsenal’s well orchestrated marking strategy worked wonders, never allowing United an easy get out, which often meant David de Gea had to make long clearances.

Moreover, the way Arsenal pressed made things even more difficult, especially in the first half, meaning United’s players were afforded little time to make clear, decisive decisions. Ozil, while not regularly praised for his efforts in such regards, certainly deserved plenty of credit for the way he diligently undertook his defensive duties throughout.

Further evidence of just how committed to the cause Ozil really was came by way of his selfless covering for Sanchez when he got caught out of position and also the way he’d take over the marking assignments of Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata when they’d drop deep. Crucially for Arsenal, however, Ozil made certain he never tracked back too far, so as to ensure he remained in perfect positions to receive the ball and break when a turnover occurred.

Interestingly, the 27-year-old showed his rather savvy positional sense, which, in situations when he wasn’t pressing, saw him take up zones that suitably blocked off passing lanes to United’s dangerous attacking outlets. A very positive thing to see indeed from the man who’s persistently been accused of not pulling his weight defensively.

In a match where Ozil undoubtedly stole the show courtesy of his goal, assist and all-round brilliant attacking work, his defensive work proved just as essential and went a long way towards limiting United’s impact with the ball.

With such an outstanding showing in such a huge game, coupled with his recent run of fine form, it’s clear Ozil is regaining his confidence and swagger. Playing under a manager, in Arsene Wenger, who he greatly respects and admires has only served to help him too.

“He knows exactly how I tick and I know exactly what he thinks of me. I just want to help the team as much as possible on the pitch – that’s my target,” mused Ozil.”

“He has experience and in past years you’ve seen him develop some top players. I get on really well with him and he gives me his trust. I’m thankful to him for that and to be praised by a coach like him means a lot. I thank him for that through good performances on the pitch.”

“Sometimes things work better than at other times, that’s football, but the manager believes in me and that means a lot to me.”

It’s clear that with Wenger’s unyielding support Ozil can continue to do great things, the only question will be, as ever, with what sort of consistency?

With Arsenal’s crucial Champions League clash with Bayern Munich and a Premier League fixture with Everton coming up after the international break, it’ll be fascinating to see whether he can star yet again against these high quality opponents.

They’ll be sizeable tests, but if Arsenal’s inordinately talented attacker can deliver once again and have a major impact, the Gunners’ aspirations in both competitions will be given a real boost.

A consistently brilliant, defensively reliable Ozil might just be Arsenal’s key to success in so many ways this season.

Originally published at licencetoroam.net

Post written by Edward Stratmann
for Licence to Roam, Blog: licencetoroam.net, Twitter: @licencetoroam

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