Last summer Mesut Özil was the biggest prize of the transfer window. This summer he has fallen to the one of the last to be spoken about of the star-studded German lineup. With the injury to Marco Reus, Özil has been the starter on the outside of the midfield during the World Cup. Özil has not filled up the stat sheet in the areas that most will look. However, his impact on Germany‘s success deserves more credit.
Özil is being played out of position. This must be taken into account as he likes to create rather than threaten the goal. Many of the teams that made it to the quarterfinals had a player in the same role who was expected to score. Özil has played his position as a hybrid of what he is expected to do for Arsenal and where he is being deployed for Germany. He has filled this role well showing that attacking soccer is not just about goals.
An out of position Mesut Özil comparison stat. Haters? pic.twitter.com/7R4wZThhmy
— Özil Wizardry (@OzilWizardry) July 7, 2014
Özil has shown great vision and awareness. In 442 minutes, he has completed an absurdly high percentage of his passes against top-class competition. This goes along with only committing two fouls in five matches. Obviously the comparison above excludes goals, but considering Özil is out of his natural position these numbers are eye opening.
Özil also played three of the matches in more of a roaming role. He has been asked to play different ways in different games. Gonzalo Higuain, who had a similar heat map against Belgium as Özil did against France, has been far less involved in Argentina‘s attack. Özil has completed over a hundred more passes, covered more ground and scored the same number of goals as Higuain.
Inadvertently Özil sets up a great super sub situation as well. Part of this is just team selection, but Özil is a more controlled player with enough pace to threaten the back line. Bringing on Andre Schürrle or Lukas Podolski introduces a new element for Germany and frustrates defenses.
As Germany take on Brazil today, expect Özil to have a few more defensive responsibilities. However, a depleted Brazil squad will open up the space for Özil. Don’t be surprised if he plays a key part in the match. Özil has been good this entire tournament. Maybe now you will take notice.