Mesut Özil returns a World Cup winner but there is no Hollywood ending

Arsenal’s German midfielder had the stage to start paying off his £42.5m price tag but failed to bring house down

This contest had just passed the hour mark, Arsenal were receiving something of a pounding and Arsène Wenger had two of his attacking midfield substitutes stripped and ready to come on.

Mesut Özil knew what was coming next. He stood with his hands on his hips and he looked across at the board. There was a certain inevitability about the sight of the illuminated No11. He walked off along the touchline, accepting a consoling handshake from Jürgen Klopp, the Borussia Dortmund manager, before he disappeared from view.

For Özil, the Hollywood script lines are not panning out at the moment. Arsenal had sorely needed a performance from their record signing and the stage had been set fair on his return to Germany. He was, of course, coming home as a World Cup winner.

These are the kind of occasions that Wenger is desperate for Özil to influence but, save for a handful of first-half flickers, he watched it pass him by. He was not the only one. There were precious few Arsenal players to enhance their reputations and Özil was one of several symbols of their inferiority. Dortmund packed all of the punches.

But Özil watchers could not help but feel disappointment. His form has been patchy so far this season as Wenger admits that he is not yet 100% fit. The manager has said that he tends to see “better Özil”‚ when he watches re-runs of matches and the player’s correct decisions are highlighted. It is doubtful what he will see after this.

Wenger’s eye-catching selection had been that of the 19-year-old right-back Héctor Bellerín but there had been a small will-he/won’t-he question over Özil. The midfielder’s selection had not felt guaranteed, particularly with Santi Cazorla knocking hard on the door but Wenger might have reasoned that this was no time to remove him from the firing line.

It always stood to be an emotional occasion for Özil, what with it being a first playing return to Germany since the World Cup and to his native Ruhr Valley at that. He had missed Germany’s home-coming internationals against Argentina and Scotland earlier in the month. As a youth product of Schalke, Dortmund’s hated local rivals, Özil would have been affronted to miss out.

Part of the discussion about Özil centres on whether he can be sufficiently effective for Arsenal in wide midfield, where tracking back is expected. Yet in creative terms, the role ought not to stymie him, given that he has the licence to drift inside when his team has the ball. Nobody should forget that he was effective enough off the flank for Germany to be picked in each of their World Cup ties.

Özil played on the right, in front of Bellerín, which was both surprising and bold from Wenger. Özil is not everybody’s idea of solid protection in front of a callow, full debutant, especially on a night when the intensity teemed and there was the fundamental requirement for all hands to be placed on the pump.

Kevin Grosskreutz was not the only threat up the Dortmund left; the full-back, Marcel Schmelzer, also marauded forward. Özil could see the danger from Schmelzer but he did not always seem overly enthusiastic to address it.

Bellerín’s only previous action in Arsenal colours had come as a League Cup substitute against West Bromwichwich Albion at the Hawthorns. This was the fiercest of baptisms and he looked nervous at the outset, giving the ball away on three occasions. Özil also endured a sticky start, with loose passes and one particularly heavy touch.

It was mixed bag for Özil. There were tantalising flashes of his class – quick feet in tight areas and a clutch of nice passes. A cross from the right on 28 minutes offered Danny Welbeck the glimpse of an opening. But the pickings were very slim and there was also the worry that Dortmund made in-roads up the left flank. Dangerous balls came in, including one from Grosskreutz for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on 28 minutes, which led to an excellent Wojciech Szczesny save.

Özil had been out to improve on an irritating statistic – in five previous away matches against German teams, he had won just once, when Arsenal nicked a 1-0 victory at this stadium last season. There was the low of the 4-1 thrashing with Real Madrid here against Dortmund in the 2013 Champions League semi-final and the loss to Bayern Munich with Arsenal last season, when he tore his hamstring. A happier outcome did not look likely from the moment that Ciro Immobile out-stripped Laurent Koscielny to open the scoring.

Özil and Arsenal were second-best all over the field and once Aubameyang had wriggled around Szczesny to score his goal, the evening became an ordeal for the visitors. Özil howled his frustration when Aubameyang put the ball into the net and his evening suffered another blot when he was harshly booked for a tackle on Schmelzer. There appeared to be no contact. Arsenal did not get near to Dortmund.