Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil has attracted plenty of harsh criticism for going missing in games, and has even found himself under attack for being in a 16-year-old’s pocket after his poor performance in the opening day defeat against West Ham. The condemnations of Germany’s World Cup winner are odd, given how highly thought-of Ozil is by those within the game.
“Özil is unique,” said Jose Mourinho, “there is no copy of him – not even a bad one. He is the best number 10 in the world.” (Apologies for the positive Jose reference on this site. It won’t happen often – Editor.)
When Mesut Ozil was playing his trade with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and co at Real Madrid, he was one of the most decorated players in world football. In Germany, he was practically a demigod. The roar which greeted him when he signed for Arsenal was deafening. It was a cathartic blast of noise which no new signing had experienced for many years.
However, this was all to change after he moved to England. Mesut Ozil stopped being appreciated.
No doubt, Arsenal fans have always admired the German’s qualities even when he was savaged by the English press. Everyone knows full well that the English media savage many players and lambaste their every move. But this agenda on Ozil was something different, something personal. He wasn’t overrated which is a common charge that is levelled at many players who move from another league but he was a lazy, careless and petulant individual.
It was all nonsense. His first season at Arsenal was statistically better than David Silva’s first season at Manchester City. He ran more than people said, made more key passes than they let on, and dished out assists without having a formidable forward in front of him.
Opposing fans and pundits insist that in order for Ozil to be one of the best in his position, he must do what a fictional Lionel Messi does: dribble past everyone, score numerous goals, have the work ethic of a Lee Cattermole and win everything. Clearly, this cannot happen. You would be silly to think otherwise. Ozil remains one of the most exciting, accomplished and misunderstood players in European football.
With Ozil in the team, Arsenal’s attacking play becomes truly succinct. Most football fans know that short passing can only penetrate a defence when it’s done at pace and with momentum. Ozil is one of the best in the world at doing this. Ozil plays the game at his pace. He influences the speed by which Arsenal create most of their attacking opportunities. He’s a chess master.
In a Premier League culture which thrives on hard hitting tackles and work ethic, Ozil is an easy target to criticise when Arsenal perform badly. It’s inevitable that he will be one of the first players to get blamed after a bad performance due to his stoic mask of seeming disinterest within the game around him. That said Ozil covered more ground than any of his Arsenal team mates last season. Lazy? I beg to differ.
During his time at Real Madrid, Ozil established a good relationship with Jose Mourinho. Mourinho would usually take Ozil off after around 60-70 minutes during a game, due to his energy levels dropping. At Arsenal, Wenger knows that Ozil is vital even when he’s physically not at his best. At times, when Arsenal have needed a goal we have seen players like Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere etc lose their heads and not think intelligently to how they are playing and what’s the right pass to make. Ozil is different. He thinks the whole process through even when times ticking.
As Arsenal pushed in the closing moments against Monaco in the Champions League, they looked to breakthrough a disciplined defence. The ball kept falling to Ozil’s feet and he was still able to create openings from nowhere. His brilliant pass started the move which Arsenal scored from. In short, it looks like the German is not there, even when he’s dictating the play. That’s the sign of an intelligent footballer.
The subtle German does more than meets the eye. His understanding with his fellow team mates is a sight to see. Olivier Giroud may not be in the same bracket as Cristiano Ronaldo, however by having a player of Ozil’s calibre behind him; it allows the Frenchman to play short, technical football. Other than Giroud, Aaron Ramsey has understood Ozil’s game with good effect as the Welshman continues to make forward runs and grab crucial goals as he knows Ozil will find him. Arsenal players are aware that if anyone holds the solution, it is Ozil.
The German World Cup winner put in a sensational performance in Arsenal’s victory against Crystal Palace as he quietened his doubters. The German conductor was at his best as he barely put a foot wrong with some delightful passing. Ozil continuously manipulated the Palace defenders and provided a constant attacking threat with his incredible vision and ability to pick the right pass. Misplacing one of 55 passes in a game is no easy feat but to a player like Ozil it seems an easy task.
Mesut Özil’s game by numbers:
98% pass accuracy
5 chances created
Ozil may not have the leadership qualities like the Charlie Adam’s of this world but he’s a rare breed of speciality within the Premier League. Ozil is simply Ozil, an individual who plays football at the highest quality.
So let’s enjoy him.