Do Arsenal Have The Best In The League?

The stats certainly say so, as Martin Laurence from WhoScored.com casting his statty eye over Mesut Ozil. He didn't just create chances for Ronaldo, you know...

Last Updated: 04/09/13 at 09:30 Post Comment

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Before the weekend it was clear that Gareth Bale was off to Madrid, but it didn't really matter did it? Spurs had signed some of the hottest prospects in Europe and were primed to leapfrog bitter rivals Arsenal. Just days later, how the mood has changed between the opposing fans.

It's far too early in the season to suggest that the Gunners' 1-0 victory gives them the edge in the long-run; after all the two sides are still level on six points, but this weekend's match did highlight an issue for Tottenham. Their 4-3-3 system lacked creativity and guile, while Arsenal stepped up to better the intensity of a much-lauded visiting midfield that lacked experience in North London derbies.

While Andre Villas-Boas can now boast Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen in his starting XI, Arsene Wenger pulled off what many will consider to be the deal of the summer by bringing Mesut Özil to the Emirates. He may have been the only transfer with a meaningful fee joining Arsenal in the window, but the German's arrival has all but banished the fans' fears that they would fail to strengthen.

Not only have they managed to do so, but the Gunners have recruited one of Europe's finest creators, and arguably Real Madrid's second-best player during his time at the club. Indeed, the 24-year old's WhoScored.com rating last season was 7.41 - an average which included nine substitute appearances in La Liga and advanced to 7.57 when excluding those matches.

Özil's final full season in the Spanish capital ended with nine league goals and 13 assists, with the latter representing a team high having only started 23 matches in 2012/13. His ability to play the part of provider has been a key asset to Real Madrid during his three-year spell at the club. In fact, of all players in Europe's top five league since the German international made the move from Werder Bremen in 2010, none can better his outstanding tally of 47 assists.

Arsenal's top man for assists over the same timeframe is Theo Walcott (26) and while Santi Cazorla added to the side's creative edge last summer, it's clear that they've lacked a true playmaker for a sustained period, with Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas having left the club. Many will point to the fact that Özil's figure is so high because he's had Cristiano Ronaldo to aim at, but even when excluding his assists to the prolific Portuguese his tally of 27 still betters that of Walcott. In addition, if Olivier Giroud can continue his early season form than it should be win-win for the Gunners.

The £42million man is one of the most elegant players around and one of very few that can keep the ball in the most pressurised situations in the final third. Maintaining possession in advanced areas is the key to Arsenal's free-flowing football and an aspect to their game in which they topped the league last season; their 76.9% pass accuracy in the final third sitting top of the pile in 2012/13.

Nevertheless, despite having the ability to keep the ball in and around the opponents' box Wenger's side came up short behind the likes of United, City, Liverpool and even Everton when it came to creating clear-cut opportunities (70). It's clear that while their attractive football ensured that they were on the front-foot for much of their matches last term - holding a league high of 58.2% possession on average - they couldn't always deliver that final killer pass.

Özil, however, is without doubt a master of the art. He created over one more chance per game than any other teammates (2.9) and all despite making his aforementioned nine appearances from the bench last season. When you exclude his set piece duties Özil set up 57 chances in open play, amounting to one every 35.7 minutes, on average. In comparison to the best respective figure at Arsenal last season - Jack Wilshere, every 45.8 minutes - it's obvious what he will add to the side.

The former Madrid playmaker created more clear-cut opportunities than any other player in Europe's top five leagues last season (24) despite playing fewer minutes than many of his competing counterparts. Of all players to have made at least 20 appearances Özil was the only one to set up a 'big chance' in less than 90 minutes on average (84.8) in those divisions. While Ronaldo's ability may have improved his assist tally, the fact that the German was laying on such gilt-edged chances was the biggest reason behind his success in this regard.

The stats don't lie. In Mesut Özil, Arsenal may now boast the best player in the Premier League having watched their rivals Spurs arguably hold that honour last season.

Martin Laurence - follow him on Twitter here

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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