Neil Ashton: “Mesut Ozil is nicking a living”
Steven Gerrard: “He’s a liability”
Martin Keown: “He’s frustrating to watch”
Paul Scholes: “He’s just going through the motions”
Miguel Delaney: “He plays passes we’re just ‘too thick’ to understand”
Mesut Ozil seems to be one of the most marmite like footballers in the Premier League. Alongside Paul Pogba, he’s one of the more heavily scrutinised players for reasons most Arsenal fans can’t seem to understand. Whether it’s journalists or former players, they all seem to have an adverse opinion on our mercurially talented playmaker. Having created the most chances of anyone on the pitch vs Stoke he was the butt of criticism from Miguel Delany, Steven Gerrard and Martin Keown. Why?
Superficially you can see why pundits may lambast Ozil due to the usually hectic conditions of Premier League football. There’s hardly any time on the ball, and if you’re not seen as “putting in a shift” you’re quickly singled out as being not suited/good enough for our league. He looks as though he’s covered hardly any ground as he’s often seen walking around in the middle of the park (FYI he on average covers more ground than Alexis in games), he’s also known to shirk a tackle as he’s ‘not that type of player’, however I wonder why the same criticisms aren’t made of the likes of David Silva for example? Or even the likes of Cesc Fabregas? Or Henrikh Mkhitaryan? Is it do do with the price tag? Is he not delivering performances nor the numbers we were all promised? Or is it to do with the club he pays for? Maybe it’s an element of all three.
The fact is Ozil has been at Arsenal football club for 4 years now and in that time he’s picked up 3 FA Cups along with 3 Community Shields. Not the major honours we all want at the club but still nothing to scoff at. Especially when as a club we hadn’t seen a trophy for 9 years. That aside let’s have a look at the facts. He was indeed our club record signing until this season so that alone comes with extra scrutiny, as we’ve seen with Paul Pogba. The minute you see Pogba misplace a pass, slip in the slightest or make an error of any kind there are vines of it circulated at length. With regards to Ozil we see the ‘body language’ pictures of dejection go viral on either having conceded a goal or lost a game. Because of course he must be completely happy and or aggressive at these situations. Not everyone has the ‘PASHUN’ characteristic as a footballer and in addition it’s not a pre requisite to be a great footballer. The numbers indicate that he really has delivered. For example since Ozil has come to the Premier League, if we are comparing him to the likes of David Silva who I have nothing against but seems to be one of the darlings of the league, Ozil has 23 goals in comparison to 25 for Silva. Ozil however has 41 assists compared to 34 for Silva. I’ve only used league stats as they are a pretty fair barometer for comparison, simply due to Arsenal having gone further in European competition on average. If we were to include Champions League stats , Ozil would only be further ahead and the argument that a lot of pundits seem to have is that he isn’t cut out to play in England so league stats are the place to compare them. The difference is in slight favour of Mesut Ozil if we’re counting. Why then do we not see the likes of Silva lambasted in the same way Ozil is? It brings me to what I think is a large element of why Ozil is spoken of in such a hot and cold manner.
Arsenal Football Club. So far as a club is run, there is none better in terms of doing things the ‘right way’. Whether the definition of ‘right way’ is indeed correct or not is up for debate, but in terms of operating as a club within its means Arsenal FC are the only elite level club in the Premier League doing so. Man United, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool and even Sp*rs have spent more money than they’ve earned in the Premier League era. We’re the only ones that haven’t. This has come to the fore in recent times and journalists, pundits, players, fans and the like have all lamented the fact that we’ve approached it this way. In addition in doing things the right way we’ve previously achieved the magical unbeaten season, which is another sore point for some people outside of the Arsenal sphere. Some claim the football was boring and others that Chelsea’s 93 point tally is superior to the unbeaten season etc etc. It’s likely to be born from jealousy as we all envy things that are better than our current situation. Who didn’t look at the Barcelona of 3 years ago and drool with envy? Messi, Suarez and Neymar at the top of their games? Loving and hating them at the same time for being so good is a common thing for us all. Lastly, Arsene Wenger. He’s the man that brought so many talented players to the club. He’s the man that convinced Ozil to join and Ozil’s loyalty to him seemed to have had an impact on the pundits of today. Arsene Wenger is a man who divides opinion both in and out of the club and Ozil is a reflection of him in player form. It’s a combination of the above 3 reasons that Ozil is much maligned in the press, however what has to be questioned is – are those valid reasons? Not in my humble opinion but that’s not going to change how the media feel about him.
We just have to accept that he will always be viewed with either love or hate and nowhere in between. The important thing is that we all know what he can do and in fact does do on a weekly basis. He sees things that some can’t even imagine. I sure hope he can see that contract offer…
Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.