Flopzil, Mesut Flöpzil…

By Daniel Cowan
In Arsenal
Mar 2nd, 2015

Mesut Özil, he’s a strange, majestic creature. I cannot remember a player dividing the fan base as much as him in all my years as an Arsenal supporter.

Is he divisive because of his price tag, the culmination of years of fan unrest, a lack of appreciation of his talents, media influenced opinions, or an underwhelming return for his reputation? Much like our annual injury crisis cannot be blamed on one thing or solved by a single solution, Mesut’s divisiveness is a mixture of all these things and maybe a few more I have missed out.

Certainly he has not delivered as many expected he would and there is a fine line to tread between unreasonable expectations and a player getting away with under-performing. There are too many variables to consider to form a definitive answer but overall he is really only just passing the one season mark when injuries are accounted for.

Indeed he was an expensive purchase but this should not be held against him as his fee, whilst double the highest Arsenal had ever paid, or agreed to pay, it was not extravagant for the day.

Surely there cannot have been a time where the fans have been as touchy as they are today? Social media plays its part in fuelling that unrest and created an impatient and unreasonable fan base. We’re trophy holders, we’re not in our 10th year of no silverware whatsoever. Less than a year has passed since we lifted a major trophy. It is testament to how touchy we are as a fan base that there is so much malcontent whilst we still have the opportunity to retain silverware.

This dissatisfaction manifests itself as scapegoating and certain players get the full force of it.

I don’t wish to suggest that my view of football is correct, or more correct that another’s, but I do get the impression there is a lack of understanding of Özil’s role, and indeed modern football, amongst his detractors.

People denigrate Özil for a perceived lack of effort and label him ‘lazy’ which ironically is one of the laziest opinions I see about Arsenal players. I find these opinions tend to come from people with an ‘old-fashioned’ view of football. The type of people who long for an era that passed 30 years ago, even if they weren’t alive to witness it.

Amongst our less, how shall I phrase this, “footballistically” cultured supporters there tends to be a preference for “work horses”. Effort is far greatly valued than effectiveness. It is was the downfall of Arshavin. Players like Alexis and Chamberlain are often immune from criticism because of their work ethic.

ozil 2015

For years now I’ve seen people of said preference calling for “The Ox” to be played more regularly and in place of such players as Ramsey and Walcott. I love Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but right now his contribution doesn’t justify his inclusion. I find him wasteful and sloppy with the ball, his end product seems to have regressed and he loses the ball far too often as he attempts to dance through 3 or 4 players. It’s okay though because he chases back and runs around a lot.

Alexis has been off colour for weeks and too loses the ball whilst dancing through players. He holds on to the ball for far too long. I love Alexis too and I put a lot of his shortcomings down to being overplayed and having to adapt to the players who have only just started coming back into the fold from injury.

Özil is not a work horse. He does not run around as though he is channelling the spirit of the result of a genetic experiment where the DNA of Scott Parker and Perry Groves has been combined. Perry Parker, now that’s an image.

I’m going to try to avoid using statistics when talking about Mesut because I find those who wish to denigrate a player will use his stats or cherry-picked examples from matches to enforce their narrative whilst dismissing positive stats with a punch-in-the-face-worthy smugness saying “stats aren’t everything, I use my eyes” (imagine that said in a really annoying high pitched voice).

I have used my eyes and have seen Mesut score goals. I have seen him make assists. I have seen him cover ground like no other in the team. He may not make last ditch tackles, shoulder barge people off the ball, or snap at the opposition’s heels like a terrier but that does not mean he isn’t contributing defensively.

Using my eyes, I have watched Mesut, game after game since he returned from injury with some extra muscle, use his body to shield the ball, chase back and double up on a player, occupy free space in a defensive position and man mark people.

He doesn’t ‘stick his foot in’ as much as say Alexis, Welbeck or Chamberlain but I would argue he does intelligent defensive work. Work that goes unnoticed by many and unappreciated by more. His defensive work is as underrated as some of Giroud’s offensive work.

Giroud brilliantly manipulates play by dragging defenders out of position and creating space for others. Defensively, Özil excellently occupies space and acts as a deterrent, or at least an obstacle until cover returns, to the attacking opposition. Against Everton I saw Özil track back with Gibbs on numerous occasions despite Alexis occupying the left side role. I watched him drop into the left back’s space when there was a glaring hole, affording Gibbs time to get back.

His defensive work is actually pretty impressive when you firstly consider that he is one of the world’s premier attacking players and secondly appreciate that defensive work isn’t just about leaping like a salmon to clear a high ball, crunching into a player on the edge of the box or making a last ditch Hollywood tackle.

Mertesacker is underrated for his defensive work because he is ‘slow’ but his quick thinking, occupation of space, manipulation of angles and positional awareness is usually an effective deterrent. Özil has the same intelligence. He doesn’t steal the ball often or make his physical presence known but that is. not. his. job. He doesn’t need to run around like a headless chicken to be effective offensively or defensively.


Mesut’s actual job is to make goals for the team and he does that incredibly well. He assisted both goals against Everton and made many more key passes that could have made it more.

People longing for an all-action creative midfielder are going to be very disappointed or have bizarrely inaccurate memories of Fabregas.

Mesut Özil is James Bond not John Rambo.

Mesut Özil is an incredible player and we are extremely fortunate to have him at our club. And as the saying goes, he’s better than all you c**ts.

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About "" - 425 Posts

I am a South London born Gooner now living in Leigh-On-Sea, Essex. I'm a husband, daddy, podcaster, trainer enthusiast and aspiring author. My work is my passion and for that I will always be grateful. Here is where I write my thoughts and views on Arsenal Football Club, the greatest team the world has ever seen.

25 Responses to “Flopzil, Mesut Flöpzil…”

  1. Uche says:

    Thank you for this intelligent piece. Good I wasn’t the only one who noticed Ozil’s defensive performance against Everton, whilst creating 2 goals for the team and dishing out a good number of key passes. I remember arguing with an Arsenal fan on Twitter who rated Ozil the least of all the players at 4/10, after the game (rating Alexis and Chambo 7/10 each). Funny how some people watch football. Good point on Giroud and Mertesacker too.

  2. Dave says:

    spot on!!!

  3. Micky says:

    Good article, as the saying goes “it`s not the clock with the loudest tick that tells the best time”

  4. I just knew you were as smart as me. I could tell.

  5. jun says:

    I totally agree with you. I even dare to say that Arsenal with Ozil would compete for the title and without him could only fight for 4th place. He brings confidence and consistency (at least against weaker team in EPL) the team was lacking which is the main reason why Arsenal was trophyless for 9 years prior to Ozil arrival

  6. Ken says:

    Oh my god, such insight but failure to recognize Ozil’s performance against top opponents.
    The guy can only do what you identified as overwhelming strength against lower table teams, against stronger one he is absent on full pay.
    And that is the argument that fans remember about him, cause we need our 43m player to deliver when we are in trouble, not only against below par teams.
    Great analytics for people who look at only one side of the coin, so it happens to be totally useless and can lead to wrong judgment. Try to be rational and look at the positives as well as the negatives and not be the advocate of underperforming player and manager.
    If what you believe about him to be true then we should condemn our manager, because he is not what we need. He is an added value to an already performing team and not a solution for an underperforming one, like AFC.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      You talk about looking at both sides of the coin yet to fail to take into account how few chances we created before he joined. We needed a creative midfielder and we got one.

      He does perform against big sides, when the whole team does. When we have been poor so has he. You’re looking at it from as limited a point of view as you’re accusing me of doing.

      Essentially what you are asking for is for him to dominate equal or superior teams on his own, even when the team is under-performing. That’s bonkers.

      It’s so unrealistic and such a crazy expectation. One or two players in the world can do that (win their team a game when everyone else is pants) and even then it’s not a regular occurrence.

      You forget him performing against Napoli, Dortmund, City, Liverpool and Spurs. He does well when we do well and when the team is average like against Everton he can make a difference. That’s the whole coin right there.

    • jun says:

      Can you mention any other world class player in EPL who can deliver more to his club than Ozil but less pricey. Hazard yes but he maybe valued at 80m now. Mata was bought by MU for 35m but he barely contribute to his club this season. MU pay 70m for Di Maria service (almost twice Ozil price) but in my opinion has delivered nothing special so far compared to what Ozil have done to arsenal this season

  7. Dre_AFC says:

    Very interesting take. I’ve always been a fan of Özil but will honestly declare I’m the one saying he’s slow to get back (not lazy). Looking at it from your angle I’m going to watch the QPR game with (hopefully) unbiased goggles.
    I used to think he ran into “dead” spaces or that he was hanging around in “no mans land”, but I’m willing to give it a go that I’m wrong, or perhaps lazy in my opinion.
    Thanks for the good read. First time reading your blog and I enjoyed it.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Thanks for leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your thoughts on the QPR match.

    • Ken says:

      Ha ha ha
      In reply to Cowan.
      The great analytics about Ozil, etc and the faith in Wenger makes it that AFC is very successful, isn’t it?
      Then why are trashed at home against Monaco? specially when its common knowledge that quick counters in the ‘hole’ can bring us down. It is not Ozil’s fault, that I am sure.
      But recurrently praising Ozil, would not cure that fact, that also I am sure. For a player of his caliber, we surely expect that sometimes he takes on the last defender and score, instead of passing, passing, passing .
      Nobody can deny the fact that he is no more the Ozil who used to run the whole length of the field with the ball, in fact sometimes he appears completely drained or loss.
      So stop praising him and instead encourage him to gain back his form, may be then we could expect better results than what we got against Monaco.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      This is just typical and parochial scapegoating. We lost to Monaco because the whole team were bad not because Özil couldn’t step up.

      Özil tends to perform at or just above the general level of the team on any given day. When we are great so is he, when we are crap so is he.

      What people are really asking for is for Mesut to single-handedly drag Arsenal to victories when the whole team is shit. One or two players in the world can do that. Players like Özil/Alexis/Aguero/Suarez/Ibrahimovic etc etc (world-class players) have the ability to make something happen even when you are playing poorly but that is quite different from single-handedly dragging your team to victory. A super pass, a goal from nothing etc is what these players bring to the table – and yes Özil has done these things for Arsenal.

      You seem to be asking for him to win games when the defence is neglectful, when the midfield can’t string two passes together and keep losing the ball, when the attack can’t get a shot on target. Messi can do that. Ronaldo can do that. Few others can.

      If the team is playing ‘poorly’ he can make a difference even if he does little else for the rest of the match. When the team are abject like they were against Monaco he cannot. You might call your expectations “high standards” but really they’re just unrealistic demands.

  8. Jake says:

    My thought on Ozil :

    Every player has only so much energy. Even the most fit players can only run so far, sprint so many times, etc….It all depends how you use that energy.

    There’s two options if you lose the ball or have to get back on defense…..

    Option A) Let the more defensive minded players sitting back take care of winning the ball back, you drift back down the field keeping defensive formation, cutting off angles, get in the way of passes, but generally conserve your energy so you can keep sprinting on offense…..

    Option B) Sprint back after the ball and all around the field, POSSIBLY winning it back but more likely than not just putting a little pressure on the players, in this way you lose a lot more energy so you will have less left for attacking later. Fly in and make aggressive tackles, risking winning the ball, but also fouling setting them up for free kicks and increasing injury risk…

    Using some forwards and midfielders as examples
    Ozil, Giroud, Walcott more often chooses A,
    Sanchez, Ox, Ramsey, Cazorla more often choose B….

    B looks way more appealing to the casual viewer. It’s generally what a lot of English fans prefer lets face it. You get a lot more immunity from criticism if you play that way. Sometimes it does work, like last game Alexis did win a ball back after we lost it and converted it into a decent chance (where Ozil almost scored). More often than not, It’s what I would call running around like a headless chicken wasting precious energy.

    The big thing that the person who looks down at players who are more the Option A types (your Ozils, etc.) are missing is player B will have less energy than player A as the game goes along for other aspects on the pitch…

    …When it calls for a crucial sprint or run on offense later player A will be more likely to deliver that…… Decision making becomes impared the more tired you are, etc.

    Which is why even though Ozil looks like he’s not trying…. the distance covered (which he was the leader against Monaco and Everton….on 3 days rest mind you) is a good way to show that Ozil does work hard, close to as hard as Sanchez which may not come across to the casual…just in different ways…

    And honestly…. I don’t want my creative maestro tiring himself out running around on defense a la Sanchez, but doing what he does play angles, etc… I want him making smart decisions running the attack or counterattack and picking apart defenses with creative passes or deft runs…

  9. eduardo says:

    great article DC, it reminds me of when England fans wanted Glenn Hoddle to be Bryan Robson

  10. Yvonne says:

    Some very good observations here and I feel reassured that I am not alone in finding some of the recent criticisms distasteful. I am becoming increasingly angry at the tirade of abuse Ozil gets from all quarters. I have to sit amongst the same people every game and despair at their myopic and mis-informed views. The guy has been here 18 months and doesn’t always have the best of games true – but who does? We, as a club and supporters, have been very patient with some players who to be frank we are still waiting to produce after years of development. ‘Support’ seems to be a tad lacking where a number of players are concerned recently but the venom seems to be reserved for Ozil. If its the price tag that is the problem, more would do well to remember he didn’t set it himself – indeed he said he “would have come for nothing. It wouldn’t have been a problem” – sadly, Real weren’t keen on that.
    I do agree with the player types a) and b) – several players attract the attention, either by making like a whirling dervish, or running head down, never looking up to spot a team mate and ultimately straight into a defender. Who has often covered the most kilometres in a game? Only Cazorla or Flamini cover more ground and then only by a small margin. The difference is they ‘look’ like they are all over the place – Ozil doesn’t – but still is.
    All players have their strengths and weaknesses – thats what makes a team, but for some reason everyone is coming down hard on one player. My fear is that if this continues and he feels no one really cares if he stays or not, he will find somewhere else. That will be a great loss and I for one will miss him.

  11. basil says:

    What an arrogant attitude with your footballistically cultured tosh.Ozil,like Arsenal,and Wenger,is a flat track bully who can only perform against the best teams,who is easily dispossessed and who sulks like a baby when he doesn’t get a free kick.Maybe some of you Ozil lovers should try watching a few other teams where you will see better midfielders who can pass just as well as Ozil,who score goals and who can tackle and defend and not just leave it up to their teammates.But hey Arsenal fans in their insular little bubble where Wenger is still relevant and Arsenal play good football always overrated their players.Funny how Brendan Rodgers can get Liverpool playing football that Wenger could only dream of.Ozil or Coutinho? 42 mill or 7 mill!Bet you slagged off Di Maria too.Theres more to being world class footballer than pretty passes but I wouldn’t expect the footballistically ignorant to understand this.Still when he hands in a transfer request in the summer because he came here to win the PL and CL ( you do realise this don’t you?)I’m sure he will be seen in a different light.Wenger told him he would make him one of the best players in the world and hes got worse!Ozil hates it at Arsenal and who can blame him after being at Madrid playing under the motivational Mourinho as opposed to the hapless Wenger.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      I have always held the theory that those who show the most anger about general comments are the ones who identify most with it.

  12. ayo says:

    If at all I’m permitted to critizise any Arsenal player, I would throw my weight at Karen Gibbs. That dude refuses to grow up. I was a freshman in the university when he was given his first chance at the highest level of football competetion and now I’m a professional engineer. I can bet I do my job better than him. Some players can’t just develope, Gibbs is one of them. I assume Arsenal FC is bigger than him, he shoud probably try a lower team. As regards Ozil. I would play Ozil 90 minuts every game if I was the boss. Some people are born with football brains and they don’t have to do much to deliver, Ozil is one of them. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the most intelligent passer on that team. He knows when to play low corners or high ones depending on the crowd in the box and Giroud has benefited a lot . He studys players well. He’s able to reduce his pace and time of delivery to creat allowance for Giroud’s heaviness. He’s simply my best player in the world of football presently and his poster is hanging over my head in the room.

  13. Nikhil says:

    If everybody in the defense does their work properly then their will be no need for the attackers to defend. Sure. The attackers need to do some defensive duty, but their defensive work is to press, not track back and win tackles. That’s the job of the DM and the box midfielder not attacking midfielder. How do you think Özil survived in a Hosay team at RM without tracking back?
    In champions league, Real Madrid faced a lot of big teams and Hosay was defensive and played on the counter. Not only in CL but also in many la Liga matches. There were two defensive players covering up for Özil (Khedira and Alonso). What I really hope for is that we also in the future have the similar kind of formation to ease things off Özil’s shoulder. Maybe Coquelin and Wilshere(the role he plays for England) could work like that of Khedira and Alonso.
    Santi is kinda playing that role right now, not exactly a defensive role but he is putting on those crucial tackles and tracking back. But still people expect Özil to track back. I would personally have him press forward than track back.

  14. joshuad says:

    i have no problem with özil not running around too much. i don’t believe that’s required for an attacking player to play good defense. however, when arsenal players are attempting to develop the situation on the field with pressing, it burns me to see everyone switched on and doing a good second and 3rd defender job but özil.

    it’s untrue that he often occupies good positions when arsenal are defending. the space that özil should occupy in defense is the space that he often fails to and is typically the way a team escapes the arsenal press. occasionally, he does the job but more often than not, he gets it wrong and it’s often plain to see. that’s what upsets arsenal fans. it happened yesterday against everton and happened last wednesday against monaco. the only difference was everton are a poor team and couldn’t turn their ball possession into a goal. had everton scored first, ala monaco, arsenal would have been in big trouble as the everton tactics, at the emirates, would have surely changed.

    no one can argue with his mobility in attack. it’s top notch. it’s his lack of mobility in defense that disappoints. he doesn’t have to run around all over the place. he doesn’t have to make tackles. simply occupy easy escape routes for defenses. force them into the more difficult/less productive passes. if he continues to get assists against bad teams, he will continue to get a pass. against the likes of liverpool, spurs, man united, and chelsea who work hard, you simply can’t afford to carry this man. arsenal were under massive pressure yesterday at home against a poor everton and the worst 1 seed in the champions league. i’m not excited by his defensive performance yesterday maybe i’m wrong. time always tells.

  15. ARSENAL 13 says:

    I think Ozil is the most efficient footballer ever.

    Of course he has his weakness. He doesnt have a massive engine as, say, Ramsey. But his technical ability is second to none. Therz no point running around and wasting whats in the tank, when you can do better.

    Media and the “Ozil is shit” fans down play Ozils importance to the team, but number of players marking Ozil is a clear sign of what opponent teams think he is….

  16. […] Arsenal fans that watch Giroud week in week out will know that he offers a lot to the team. In this brilliant piece on Mesut Ozil by North London is Red, the writer mentioned how Giroud’s offensive work is underrated. The […]

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