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Arsenal: Mesut Oezil and the death story of the classic ‘number 10’ (part 1)

Remember the 2015/16 season when Leicester shocked the world football with the Premier League championship, despite the odds of 1/5000, but that season also saw the top performance of Mesut Ozil, the most creative midfielder in the top five European leagues in this decade.

According to TruMedia’s data, Mesut Oezil created 146 chances to score in 35 Premier League matches in the 2015/16 season – 20 times more than any other player since 2010. The German midfielder carried out 19 assists – a Premier League record in this decade, as well as creating 28 clear chances (Big Chances). From September 26 to November 21, he scored assists in seven consecutive matches – an achievement that no Premier League player has ever done before and even after that. In fact, only 18 other players scored 7 assists in the whole 2015/16 season.

Despite leading the expectations score (xG) and losing expectations (xGA), Arsenal finished the season in second place, behind Leicester. If Arsenal’s results are consistent with their performances, perhaps Arsene Wenger and his coaches have won the championship and Mesut Oezil could win the ‘Best Player of the Year’ award. But even the German midfielder did not appear in the ‘Typical squad’ voted by PFA. Instead of being remembered as an achievement of top creativity, Mesut Oezil’s 2015/16 season gave another indication: Player and his position will never be important.

Mesut Oezil’s position will never be important again

Think about the best teams in the world. Not many of them are built around classic “number 10” gameplay. Man City turned both their “10s” – Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva – into traditional midfielders. Bayern Munich did the same with James Rodriguez, while their top-class footer was Joshua Kimmich, a full-back. Liverpool did so, depending on the creativity in the two wing corridors, and they won the Champions League in 2019 after selling “No. 10” Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona. The 27-year-old midfielder struggled in Spain, when Barcelona built a play around Leo Messi – the world’s top superstar. Meanwhile, in Italy, the Juventus squad doesn’t have any players scoring more than 10 assists in the last season of 2018/19.