Sorcerer's apprentice takes magical mystery tour to north London: Mesut Ozil's supreme talents will enchant Arsenal



It was a classic Mesut Ozil pass. He held the ball for just enough time to draw the defenders towards him and free up the space for Marco Reus to burst into the box, before gently and perfectly slipping the ball through to give the Dortmund forward what should have been an easy finish. Had Reus been having a better first half it would have been 1-0, and Ozil would have had his 28th assist in a Germany shirt.

In truth, it was not just Reus who was a little rusty in the first half against Austria on Friday night. Ozil too looked distracted in the opening 45 minutes. His first touch was clumsier than usual and his running not quite as incisive. He looked liked a man whose mind was elsewhere. And well it might be, with his surprise move to Arsenal dominating headlines across Europe for the last week.

Even on the quiet days, though, there is something enchanting about watching Ozil. The man once labelled "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" by Cristiano Ronaldo can drift in and out of a game when he is not at his best. But when he drifts in, the result is magical.

Like all good magicians, the trick is in the deceit. On the pitch, Ozil has the equivalent of an immensely subtle sleight of hand. When he makes a pass, receives the ball or makes a run, he has the knack of making it seem like he has moved a split-second too late, when in fact he has timed it to perfection. When he plays a through-ball his body rarely gives any clues as to the direction and power of the pass – the ball simply jumps off his foot and into the right place.

It is for that reason that Ozil has so many assists to his name, both for the national team and, even more prominently, for Real Madrid in recent years. When it comes to drawing defenders out and creating space for runners such as Reus and Ronaldo, he is almost unrivalled in the modern game. After the 3-0 win against Austria, his new clubmate, Per Mertesacker, voiced his excitement at seeing Ozil's eye for "the decisive pass" at Arsenal. "That is vital," he said. "He has a great game intelligence and his decision-making is excellent."

The expectation on Ozil's shoulders at Arsenal remains significant. As his national team coach, Joachim Löw, said: ''Mesut is a player who needs a lot of faith and support at a club and from his manager."

The 24-year-old seems to have received such support from Arsène Wenger already and, despite his naturally introverted nature, that will reinforce a confidence Ozil has in his own ability and a determination to succeed which has existed since his teenage years. This is a player, after all, who decided to move from his boyhood club, Schalke, aged 19 because he felt undervalued.

That drive for success will appeal to Arsenal fans hungry for silverware, and Ozil is certainly used to winning titles. Along with the three trophies he won at Madrid, Ozil scored the winning goal for Werder Bremen in the 2009 DFB-Pokal Final, was part of Germany's European Championship winning Under-21 side of the same year and, at the age of 17, won the German Championship with Schalke's youth team. While Ozil remains one of the most introverted superstars of the modern game, on the pitch he should not take too long to integrate at Arsenal.

He has developed a talent for establishing himself quickly in new environments. It is only seven years since the youngster with the thick Turkish accent at Schalke was expressing his excitement about training with senior players upon finally making the step up to the first team. Since then he has made himself a star first at Bremen, then with Germany and finally at Madrid.

Where a myriad other talented players have failed at the Bernabeu, Ozil wasted little time in making himself a hero to the club's fans. Despite having no Spanish, what Ozil did have, according to Ronaldo, was "the language of football". With 81 assists and 27 goals, it is little wonder he was not expected to leave Madrid. It was only the world-record signing of Gareth Bale that changed the dynamic in the Spanish capital and eventually led to his exit.

At Madrid, he had flourished in his natural role, the No 10 position which he also fills for Germany.

It not only allowed him to work his magical through-balls, but also to act as a key figure in attack. When Reus was struggling against Austria, it was Ozil's tendency to drift over to the left which allowed the Borussia Dortmund player to pick up his game and, ultimately, set up the second goal. It is typical that, even in a mediocre game by his standards, Ozil's role in the German side was crucial against Austria. Dortmund's coach, Jürgen Klopp, referred to Ozil's transfer last week as "a grenade", but on the pitch he is a far more stealthy weapon. Even when he goes unnoticed, his influence remains.

So much has been said of Ozil that it is easy to forget that his best years probably lie ahead of him. But then again, there is something indefinably intriguing about him.

He is the shy, introverted player brimming with self-confidence; the individual superstar who makes all those around him look better; the technician whose game is so simple, and yet so enchanting. One thing is for sure: even if he is not the fully fledged sorcerer yet, he is certainly no longer the apprentice.

Suggested Topics
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum