When you have a £42million asset like Mesut Ozil in your squad, it’s not a bad idea to try to get the best out of him. But Ozil's vanishing act has frustrated Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, and the club's fans, in recent months, writes ITV Sport's Will Unwin.
Since Ozil's arrival in North London, the German has gone from being the focal point of an Arsenal side fighting for the title, to a peripheral figure who could barely make the 18-man match-day squad for a club suddenly battling to stay in the top four.
After missing out on a starting berth last week at Stoke, Wenger brought the former Real Madrid playmaker back into his attacking line-up to face Everton in FA Cup.
Ozil's talent has never been questioned, as Jose Mourinho once testified: “He's a phenomenal player. He's one of those players that you buy and you complete the puzzle of your team."
At the Bernabeu, however, Ozil struggled to complete 90 minutes in a league that is largely contested at a pace below that of the English top-flight, something that might concern a prospective employer – but any hint of physical frailty failed to put Wenger off.
Without an assist or a goal in his last seven appearances (until today, that is), including his costly missed penalty against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Wenger is right to demand more from the club’s record signing as the season's end game begins.
Speaking earlier in the week, Wenger said: “I felt that he had come to the point mentally and physically where he needed a breather.
“Now, of course, he has to be back being focused and highly motivated.”
The German’s regained focus showed itself just seven minutes into the game against Everton, as he ran into space in the Everton box, after Santi Cazorla had escaped the Bambi-on-ice challenge of James McCarthy. Ozil took Cazorla's killer through-pass in his stride and coolly slotted the ball into the bottom corner past Joel Robles.
His next notable involvement came in the 14th minute when he chased Belgian winger Kevin Mirallas the length of the pitch, catching and then tackling the Everton man on the Arsenal byline. Such obvious commitment to the Arsenal cause may have been heightened by the knowledge that the FA Cup is the one trophy his side have a realistic chance of winning this season, but it's certainly what fans want to see.
Everton kicked into gear at this point, hassling and putting Arsenal under pressure, which coincided with Ozil returning to the periphery of the game. The visitors equalised in the 32nd minute when Ross Barkley eased Matheiu Flamini off the ball, before sprinting 60 yards to cross for Mirallas, whose ball back across goal was tapped over the line by Romelu Lukaku.
The lack of physicality in the Arsenal midfield was shown up in those few seconds, as Flamini couldn’t cope with Barkley's power and the rest were unable to catch up to the galloping Englishman or his colleagues, leaving Per Mertesacker short of support at the back.
Ozil's continued failure to make a difference in the final third saw Yaya Sanogo receive little service, and the underwhelming Frenchman was replaced by his more potent compatriot Olivier Giroud just after the hour mark.
Ozil’s chances to change the game were not helped by him being stuck out on the left wing – a sign of how in-form Cazorla is preferred in the central role behind a lone striker. But he did play a role in the fourth goal, with a selfless and perfectly weighted pass into Giroud's path.
Speaking about Ozil’s first goal in three months, Wenger said after the game: “It’s important for him, you want him to take more of the chances so I hope that will give him confidence. I liked him physically, he looked regenerated, more powerful in runs. I am pleased he did a lot of the dirty work.”
Adapting to the Premier League is tricky even for the most gifted of ball players – the notion that Ozil might lead Arsenal to the Premier League title now looks wildly optimistic, but he looks to be learning from his mistakes, something that should come in handy for Arsenal next year - this is a maturing side that, like Ozil himself, could soon lose the tag of being on the periphery.
Watch Ozil score against Everton in the FA Cup Sixth Round: