Flopzil, Mesut Flöpzil…
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.
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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