Many recent reports have linked Arsenal’s Mesut Özil with a move to Inter next summer. The move could be finalized once the January transfer window opens.
Arsenal are desperate to keep the German international, but Özil is taking his time and weighing all of his options following a disappointing 2016/17 campaign and slow start this season. Of course these are just rumors and conjecture at this point, but I want to take a closer look and see if Özil would be a good fit and an upgrade for the Nerazzurri.
So far, there has been disappointment in Joao Mario, who was hoped to be the creative “Number 10” that Inter are looking for. The lack of creativity and an overreliance on log shots were evident in the 1-0 win over Genoa this weekend, especially with the winning goal coming from a corner.
In Spalletti’s 4-2-3-1, the playmaker sitting behind the striker is crucial in unlocking deep-lying Serie A defenses. I will make the argument that Joao Mario is not a playmaking 10 at all and that Özil is one of the bets possible players for that role. To do this, we simply need to look at the statistics and style of play from each player.
To make it a fair comparison, I will only look at the league performances of each player from the 2016/17 season. The Portuguese midfielder averaged 1.8 key passes per match from an average of 40.6 passes. These performances resulted in 5 assists and a pass accuracy of 83.3%.
Özil on the other hand, despite having a poor season by his standards, averaged 3 key passes per match from 63.9 passes that resulted in 9 assists and 86.6% pass accuracy. If we go back another season, the results are even more in the German’s favor. 19 assists in the 2015/16 league campaign were the result of 4.2 key passes per match, from 65.1 passes and an accuracy of 86.3%.
Even though Özil will occasionally dribble, he is much more inclined to pass the ball rather than run with it. And unlike Joao Mario, he very rarely attempts long shots on goal. The World Cup winner is a true central playmaker, the kind that will take the Inter 4-2-3-1 system to the next level. This type of player will also get Icardi into even more high percentage goal scoring situations; something the Argentine will savor.
I will also make a case to keep Joao Mario. Inter needs quality depth to be able to compete in multiple competitions next season, assuming of course that they qualify for Europe. Additionally, Joao Mario can be a great option as a “Number 8” type midfielder or to play as a winger on the right that can cut in and help in the build-up play.
I won’t make a comparison with Brozovic who played in the 10 slot against Genoa, since Mesut Özil is in a different league in all categories. Naturally, there are downsides to the German. He can check out at times and not always be aggressive enough in the pressing phase of a match, but clearly his upsides far outweigh his downsides. Adding Mesut Özil in 2018 would be huge step for Inter in further challenging Juventus’ dominance of Serie A.