“Mesut Ozil has been Arsenal’s best player this season”
This season, Mesut Ozil has reached new heights in his skin-tight Arsenal shirt – his form over the 2015/2016 season has been sensational when compared to the slightly jaded performances of the two previous campaigns.
Arsenal’s best player this year? He’s certainly been up there. Whilst I’d personally suggest that Nacho Monreal’s astonishing ascendancy to become one of the best full-backs in the league merits the accolade, there would be very few grumbling cynics if Mesut was voted Arsenal’s ‘Player of the Year’.
Indeed Ozil was named Arsenal’s ‘Player of the Month’ for the 4th time season just this afternoon.
Out of 26 Premier League starts, Mesut has conjured up 5 goals and 18 assists and remains well on course to smash the Premier League assists record, set by Arsenal legend Theirry Henry in the 2002/2003 season (20).
You certainly can’t argue with the man’s stats… well, unless you focus on 2016 alone.
It’s worth pointing out that Ozil’s rate of assists has fallen off dramatically since the turn of the new year. Everyone was predicting that the German playmaker would easily surpass the 20 mark for assists, having racked up 15 after Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Manchester City on December 21st.
3 assists in 3 months is not such a flattering statistic for an Arsenal playmaker – particularly when 2 of those were set pieces converted by Danny Welbeck headers against Leicester and Manchester United respectively.
A good ball whipped into a crowded penalty area requires a reasonable level of skill, but do 2 good set-pieces over the course of 5 games warrant ‘Player of the Month’?
“Ozil can disappear completely in games”
Mesut Ozil is not without his critics and this article isn’t about to start bandwagoning on him being lazy nor branding him with the loathsome title of being a ‘luxury player’.
Lothar Matthaus, who won the World Cup with Germany in 1990, believes Ozil doesn’t merit a place in the German national side when compared to the other talent available to Joachim Low:
“My line of front three looks like this: right Karim Bellarabi, left Marco Reus and central Mario Gotze,” the former Bayern Munich midfielder wrote in his column for SportBild.
“There is no place for Mesut Ozil. His achievements are mixed.
“Sometimes, he is world class, other times he disappears completely.”
Ozil was a World Cup winner with Germany in 2014, but was considered one of the more disappointing performers of the tournament squad.
As far as old cliches go, ‘there is no smoke without fire’ – there must be an element of truth behind the negative accusations surrounding Ozil, as the former-Madrid man has never succeeded in shaking his reputation for being hot and cold.
It’s a trait that’s evidently considered to be Ozil’s biggest weakness amongst professional players. Ahead of Arsenal’s defeat to Manchester United last weekend, midfielder Ander Herrera described the flair player as being ‘not so consistent’:
“Mesut isn’t so consistent, although he makes the difference when he’s on his day.”
Arguably, this quote from one of United’s more innocuous players perfectly epitomises Mesut Ozil. He is exquisite when he’s on song, but you can forget he’s on the pitch when he fails to find his rhythm.
Consistency is what really separates great players from truly world class performers – which is why you’ll never see Mesut Ozil grouped in the same category as playmakers such as Zinedine Zidane or Andreas Iniesta.
It’s not a matter of inferior talent, Ozil has the ability to be compared to these players – yet his inconsistency to reach the peak of his abilities may forever serve as his greatest flaw and hold him back from being likened to the playmaking greats:
Where Zidane and Iniesta may have had poor games, as all players do, you never allowed yourself to forget that they were on the field – you always expected that they could change their fortunes in a single moment.
You don’t get that same unwavering expectation with Ozil – if he starts a match poorly, the likelihood is that he will progressively fade as the game continues and as a spectator, you’re resigned to that.
Where Zidane and Iniesta may have had poor games, you would rarely see a prolonged period of underperformance. Ozil is frequently guilty of this, as many of his critics are all too keen to point out.
Perhaps inconsistency IS what makes Ozil such a chronic underachiever but I’d argue there’s a deeper element than that.
The Apple of Arsenal Fan’s eyes
Arsenal fans near-worship Mesut Ozil and if anything it’s detrimental to his development. Ozil was criticised frequently during his time at Real Madrid and it spurred him on to earn the adoration of the Bernabeu terraces.
Following the German’s £42.5 million move to the Emirates, he was instantly adored by Arsenal fans and remains a fan favourite for all Gooners; despite a shaky first couple of seasons.
Arsenal fans would throw themselves in front of a bullet for Mesut Ozil and are not shy to engage in firefights when criticism is thrown his way; as one Stormzy imitator creatively demonstrated:
At risk of being told ‘Oi rudeboi, shut up’, if Mesut Ozil is all that Arsenal fans make him out to be, there is no excuse for them not having won the league at a canter this year.
Arsenal fans started twitching when rumours began to circulate that Ozil had rejected Arsenal’s latest contract renewal offer; reportedly eyeing a move to Barcelona.
I’ll die in pain if Arsenal fail to extend Mesut Ozil’s contract.
— Arsenal News (@__arsenalnews_) February 13, 2016
— Kristof Terreur (@HLNinEngeland) February 13, 2016
If Arsenal fail to win the league this season (which after tonights defeat it looks like they won’t), Ozil will remain a chronic underachiever and will do so for as long as Arsenal fail to win any significant silverware (sorry Gooners, I’m just not putting the F.A Cup in the same category as the Premier League or Champions League).
A move to an overwhelmingly successful club, such as Barcelona, may be the only way for Ozil to achieve what many expect of him domestically.
Can Ozil stop being a chronic underachiever at Arsenal?
The simple answer is no – not in the current Arsenal side, nor would he have done in any Arsenal team for the past decade… and that’s the real kicker.
Just like Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and even Andrey Arshavin before him, as much as Arsenal fans will tell you otherwise – the Arsenal setup will always hold back these so-called ‘luxury players’.
It’s not Mesut Ozil’s fault that he’s not achieved what we expected of him in the Premier League so far – it’s Arsene Wenger’s.
Wenger has utilised Mesut Ozil incredibly poorly, he simply hasn’t built the right team around him nor did he with any of Arsenal’s 3 previous playmakers.
Look at Robert Pires during Arsenal’s Invincible days. Patrick Vieira openly admitted that the midfield had to work twice as hard to make up for Robert’s defensive flaws.
This was all completely acceptable because Arsenal were capable of carrying passengers defensively, especially if in exchange they gave you a lot going forward, which Pires did to devastating effect.
The Invicibles boasted two defensive powerhouses in the form of Gilberto Silva and Vieira centrally, whilst Freddie Ljungberg worked tirelessly on the opposing flank.
The current Arsenal side lacks these solid characters and it’s holding Ozil back. During Arsenal’s defeat to Manchester United, which player would you point to in the midfield as being capable of protecting their more delicate, attacking players? Which player would you point to, to rouse Arsenal when morale is low?
The Gunners lack stature in the middle, both physically and mentally, and not being able to control the middle of the park denies the platform for talented, creative players to cause damage when facing up to more robust opposition.
You need only take one look at the domestic success David Silva has reaped at Manchester City over recent years to see how a player with Ozil’s qualities needs to be employed. A midfield stacked with the likes of Yaya Toure, Fernando and Fernandinho offer the physical protection needed to provide a platform for the likes of Silva to tear the opposition apart.
When Mesut Ozil lines up alongside Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez and even Oxlade-Chamberlain, they’re all wanting to fulfil the no. 10 roll.
Arsenal have a whole midfield stuffed full of the same type of players and when Mesut suffers in a similar fashion to his peers, he’ll always be highlighted because of the weight of expectation on his shoulders.
The reason Mesut Ozil is often considered a chronic underachiever is because Arsenal, as a team, are chronic underachievers.