Since our impressive display in Basel, our performances away from home, prior to our visit to Swansea, had been disappointing to say the least. With us suffering defeats at Everton and Manchester City, despite being in front in both games at one stage. Earning a draw at Bournemouth, having recovered from a three-goal deficit and requiring a late winner to secure the victory at Preston.
It is easy for some supporters to argue that there is no shame in losing at Goodison Park or the Etihad Stadium but it was the manner of those defeats that many of us found a little hard to swallow. The performances of the entire team during the second half of both games, was woeful and lacked movement, energy and desire. The same can be said about the first seventy minutes at Dean Court and the first forty-five minutes at Deepdale.
This mentality of sugar-coating poor results and performances, once other teams have lost at the same ground later in the season, is a bizarre one amongst our supporters too. The number of comments that appeared on social media, suggesting that our defeat at Everton was suddenly acceptable, following their four goal thumping of Manchester City last weekend, was embarrassing.
Those supporters seem to have conveniently forgotten that Everton had won only once in their previous eleven games when we faced them and were short of both form and confidence. If anything, their victory made our result with City look worse, opposed to making our defeat at Everton, look better. It is evident that Pep Guardiola’s team is an ageing one and in need of an overhaul. Pep’s apparent blind spot where goalkeepers and defenders are concerned is not helping their cause either.
For the first thirty-five minutes of our game at Swansea, it looked as though we would be subjected to another disappointing display. The team looked bereft of pace, creativity and any serious attacking threat. However, a goal from Olivier Giroud completely changed the momentum of the game, with the home team, arguably the better side up until then. After half time, we immediately looked more purposeful and a deflected second goal killed the game as a contest.
Although our third goal was also fortuitous, when you put teams under pressure as we did during the second half, the impressive Alex Iwobi in particular, you make your own luck. Alexis Sanchez added a deserved forth goal and all was well or so we thought. With ten minutes left on the clock, Sanchez was withdrawn from the action and replaced by Danny Welbeck.
Disappointingly, instead of accepting that the game was won and that his teammate was to be given a ten minute run out, Alexis’ reaction resembled that of a petulant child. Some supporters defended his behaviour by saying it is because he is a winner but at four-nil, it was unnecessary. It showed a complete lack of respect towards his manager and teammates. Had a lesser player behaved in the same way, he would have been slaughtered so best player or not, pack it in Alexis.
After dictating the play in the second half, the Mesut Ozil fan boys were back out in force. From whom, I received criticism for saying that his performance did not wow me. The reason for me saying this is that for a player with Mesut’s talent, my expectations are high. The very minimum I expect, is for Mesut to shine against poor opposition, in games where we are winning comfortably and the opposition allow him time and space on the ball, as Swansea did.
I have never denied that Ozil has exceptional spatial awareness, vision and passing range. However, for him to wow me, he would need to dictate play in a similar fashion against the top teams. If those supporters who are quick to attack anyone who dares to suggest that Ozil is capable of more, actually looked at the bigger picture, they would recognise that people like myself, are not talking down his talent, in fact, we are doing the opposite.
As good as Mesut is at finding space, he is not the only player in the league who is able to do this, as some members of our fan base would have you believe. I watched the Leicester vs Chelsea game last weekend and Eden Hazard and Pedro were linking up and finding space in the final third with ease. At Liverpool, Coutinho is exceptional at finding space too.
To some supporters, dictating play against the Premier Leagues bottom clubs might be enough from Ozil but it is not for me. He has the talent to do more than just that, as does the team as a collective unit. Unfortunately, we are yet to demonstrate this on a regular basis against the better teams. When Oil starts consistently replicating his Swansea performance against the likes of Chelsea and Bayern Munich, I will happily become a fully paid up member of his fan club.
Over to you Mesut….