At the weekend, Mesut Özil became the fastest player in Premier League history to reach 50 assists.
The record was previously held by Eric Cantona, who reached his half-century in 143 games. Özil however managed to reach the milestone in 141. It’s an incredible achievement and one that deserves nothing but praise, no matter the scorn directed at Özil and Arsenal for their other failings.
In many ways, 50 assists in four and a half seasons is an impenetrable statistic. Goal records are easy to quantify and remember, because goals punctuate matches in a very clear way. But even though assists are involved in those same moments, they can be more easily forgotten and overlooked unless they are truly spectacular.
But we here at Squawka have peered behind the numbers and come up with eight big facts about Mesut Özil’s record 50 assists in 141 games that will give you a clearer picture of this remarkable feat.
The biggest beneficiary
The biggest beneficiaries of a creator like Mesut Özil are the guys who score the goals. There are several players who have scored once from his assists, while Alexandre Lacazette and Joel Campbell have scored twice. Danny Welbeck has scored three goals from Özil passes while Shkodran Mustafi, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott have each bagged four.
Ahead of them Alexis Sánchez has a surprisingly low total of six, but way out on his own with 14 goals from Mesut Özil assists is Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman has been the primary striker at Arsenal during Özil’s time at the club, so it makes sense he’d be top.
Which month is Ozil’s best?
The way a football season is structured, it becomes the defining measure of time for many fans. Seasons are how we mark the passing of times, rather than the traditional method of using a calendar, with months forming its basic backbone.
So which month has been best for Özil? Well he has bagged an impressive eight assists across the both early winter months in November and December, putting paid to the idea that he (and Arsenal) struggle in the cold. His best month, however, is October – where he has assisted nine goals in total.
Ozil’s finest season
Which of Özil’s four and a half seasons have been most productive in terms of producing assists? Well his least productive is 2014/15, a season cut short because he spent two and a half months out through injury. Özil managed just five assists that term, and he has eight so far in 2017/18. In both his debut season and 2016/17 he went one better and set up nine goals. But his most successful season by far was 2015/16, where he notched 19 assists to fall just one short of the all-time record.
Which half of the season?
That record should have fallen, because by the halfway point of 2015/16 Mesut Özil had 16 Premier League assists. Getting the remaining four needed was going to be a breeze, right? Well as it turns out, no. Olivier Giroud lost his goalscoring touch and Özil only got three more assists to end with 19.
As it turns out, this is largely the pattern across his entire Arsenal career. Özil is decidedly more dangerous before 1 January, bagging 33 assists in the first half of seasons as opposed to just 17 after the new year – and remember that the two-and-a-half months he missed in 2014/15 were all in the first half of the season, so that total could even be more skewed.
The most deadly scoreline
People think of Özil as a luxury player because of his relaxed body language and propensity to disappear from the action for long stretches of the game. If you were to tell people that Özil’s assists were discardable in terms of getting results and that he was a “stat-padder” there would be many who would believe you.
The reality is much different, however. An impressive 22 of Mesut Özil’s assists have come with games poised at 0-0, with three more coming at 1-1 to mean that half of his assists have broken a deadlock and given Arsenal a lead. A further five have come when Arsenal are losing, and 15 more have occured with the Gunners holding a one-goal lead (1-0 and 2-1).
In fact only five – or 10% – of Özil’s assists have come when Arsenal have held a two-goal lead or more, with just a single one of those coming with Arsenal three-up. Mesut Özil is many things, but he’s no stat-padder.
So it’s established the types of scoreline Özil’s assists have most frequently altered, but what about time of the match? Breaking the 90 minutes up into 10-minute segments, we can see that the German is at his most dangerous just before half-time. Twelve of his assists have come between the 31st and 40th minute.
But don’t let that fool you: Özil doesn’t vanish after intervals, putting his feet up thinking his work is done. Twenty-six of his assists have come in the second halves of matches, which is obviously more than 50%, albeit only just. He makes sure to keep on creating for all 90 minutes.
Ozil’s favourite punching bag
Which clubs does he punish the most? Well this is where Özil’s critics will begin to salivate, because the only major rival among his most frequent victims is Manchester City, and their status as one of England’s big clubs is both recent and, prior to this season, was in a state of flux.
He’s set-up one goal against Bournemouth, Burnley, Newcastle and Liverpool. He’s also notched two assists against several sides, including Manchester United and Spurs. Watford, Leicester and Stoke have fallen foul of his creativity three times each, and he’s bagged a quartet of assists against Aston Villa, Sunderland, Swansea and Manchester City.
But his favourite assist victim? Everton. He’s created five goals against The Toffees over the years, putting them to the sword repeatedly. Interestingly enough he’s never managed an assist against Chelsea, and neither has he managed to create a goal away at Anfield and, more frustratingly for the Gunners, White Hart Lane.
Home or away?
Finally, Özil’s perceived problems away from home against the big sides (his only assist at Old Trafford came in a loss, ditto for the Etihad) is only slightly reflected in the pattern of his assists.
The German has created 30 goals at the Emirates Stadium, meaning 20 of his half-century of assists have come on the road. That’s a respectable ratio given that you always expect players to perform better at home. Worth noting is that his favourite hunting ground outside the Emirates is the Liberty Stadium, where he has created three goals against Swansea.