It was a crucial Saturday for Arsenal and West Ham in their end-season aspirations. While Arsenal are fighting for the title, West Ham are still in a rat-race to finish in top-four and play Champions League football next season.
Considering the importance of games, a lot was expected from Dimitri Payet and Mesut Ozil, who have been the best players for their sides this season.
As it turned out, Payet was the star at Goodison Park as Hammers won 3-2 vs. Everton, however, Ozil went missing in a big game vs Spurs and saw his team play a 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane.
Ozil’s unconvincing performance vs Tottenham has raised fresh question marks over the German’s abilities to perform in big games and be influential for his team. There is no doubting Ozil’s numbers as he leads the charts with assists, key passes and chance created for the season, but his form in key games are still a cause of concern for Gunners fans.
Ozil was average against Barcelona, and was no better against Manchester United despite scoring a goal and adding one to his assist count. When it came down to the game against Spurs, Arsenal fans were hoping an inspired showing from their coveted superstar. But the end result was far from inspiring, rather it was depressing at times.
The heat map was Ozil’s work against Tottenham, safe to say, it felt more like watching him go through the motion than anything else. Passing was labored, and he did not look to do anything out of the ordinary to influence the match. He took the ball to wide areas, only to play a hopeful pass it to Hector Bellerin, and was slow in getting back in a position to retrieve it.
His crosses did not find Danny Welbeck in the box and perhaps the most disappointing thing for an Arsenal fan was to see the obvious lack of interest from their German wizard. It would not be unfair to say that Ozil had shown more passion on his twitter and Instagram accounts prior to the match against Spurs.
Let us switch gears and focus on a player, who has taken Premier League by storm this season. West Ham made a £10million gamble on Dimitri Payet, and it has already been paid in full. Payet has led West Ham’s march towards the top end of League table, which looked an improbable task earlier in the season.
Payet has mixed his assists and key passes with goals as well, and perhaps the most telling strike came against Everton earlier in the weekend when Payet’s goals sealed a remarkable comeback 3-2 win over the Toffees.
In a key away game for West Ham, Payet was inspirational for the Hammers. He may not be quick, but never shies away from taking players on and creating for his team. He is not the sort of player, who would rely on his dribbling technique, rather, he would look to find his teammates in dangerous positions.
Payet’s influence on West Ham can be seen from the fact where Hammers struggled to win games when Payet was out injured back in November.
Since his return, Payet has been exceptionally good, winning games on his own and keeping West Ham’s hopes alive for a top-four finish. One of the reasons why, I personally admire Payet has been his performances in big games this season.
West Ham have beaten Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City at Upton Park with each of those games seeing either a goal or an assist from Payet. His free-kicks, set-piece deliveries and the impeccable eye to find forward runs of his teammates has been exceptional so far this season.
Payet’s brilliance was recently recognized when he was named London’s Premier League Player of the season ahead of Mesut Ozil and Willian. While the Fantasy Premier League players would pick Ozil given the number of assists he has had this season, but if you are preparing a team of winners and players who can influence big games, I would pick Dimitri Payet over Ozil every single time.
With nine games remaining, both Payet and Ozil will be responsible to take their team to the eventual targets for the season. Arsenal are fighting for the title, while West Ham are fighting to be in the top4. Both players will be asked to deliver key performances over the course of next 9 weeks, and it will be interesting to see, who eventually comes out on top.
Image Credit: Getty, Stats Credit: WhoScored