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October 2016
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Eyes at the back of his head; football in perspective

By Walter Broeckx

After last weeks defeat I was away for a few days. Walking in Ypres and the surrounding where you can’t go more than 500 meters without seeing another graveyard with soldiers who died in the first world war.

It is the ideal medicine to see the result of one football match in the right perspective.  Graveyards full with kids who came from all over the world to die. In a way it makes me always angry to see so many young man being killed and all because of some  leaders thought it necessary to start a war.

These young men should have been at home, playing football or whatever and enjoying their young lives.  They should not die because some generals said they should. All those wasted lives. All that pain for mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters who have lost their dear ones. Losing to West Ham was just a footnote albeit a painful one at that moment.

But being back in the present time we can focus back on football. We will, very properly, remember the young kids who died in Flanders Fields, but this is a football blog and so we will focus back on football. And I thought we had a rather nice and jolly match against Crystal Palace. The only other ground in England where I have seen more than one match myself. And never against Arsenal.

In a way I like the ground as it is really embraced by the street and the hill with the field lying beneath the street level on one side. It’s smaller ground  and  the stands are close to the pitch and each time I was there it was a great atmosphere from the home fans. And we mustn’t forget it was the ground where Liverpool really lost the title two seasons ago when being comfortably in front and suddenly the eagle crashed them in the ground and they lost costly points. These games have been tight affairs in recent years and that is fitting for most derby matches, even though there are quite a few of them in London.

Looking back at this match it was a match with two halves, although not divided exactly at half time.

One came in the first half hour Arsenal was so impressive that I am still left wondering how on earth we only scored one goal. Alexis with his energy levels almost back to normal was amazing to see, as he created chances for himself or was given golden chances by other players but somehow he managed to miss the chances. He could and should have had a hattrick all by himself in the first half hour.

But I think that is where it shows that he still is behind his teammates in the preparation. I think once he scores that first goal that it will really kick him in to a higher gear. And we remember from last season that it takes him a while to start scoring goals but once he starts there is almost no stopping him.

Olivier Giroud however said something that is on that I really cannot agree with. He said: “We were more efficient up front”. Sorry Olivier that was far from the truth. If we really had been efficient we would have been 3 or 4 goals up before they had their first real shot at goal and scored from it. That is being efficient in my opinion. A bit like West Ham last week. They were very efficient. We wasted too many chances then and now.

But when it came to open play we played some amazing stuff and as a result created a lot of (mostly wasted) chances. Now I am a man who believes in team work. But when I see a good individual performance I can admire it. And certainly when that player is playing for the team. And that is exactly what Mesut Özil is doing for Arsenal.

I saw a stat from Squawka football after the match. It said:

Mesut Özil’s game by numbers:

  • 98% pass accuracy
  • 10 crosses
  • 5 chances created
  • 1 assist

And then it said “Eyes at the back of his head”.

Now those are amazing stats certainly if you keep in mind that this is a player who is trying to create things. And he did create a lot yesterday at Palace. In fact the numbers should have had more assists behind his name. If only his team mates would have taken half the chances he presented sometimes on a golden plate it would even put more icing on his match cake.

But I will not moan too much about the other players missing the chances. The most important thing is that we create the chances. And if you create enough chances you will score. But I wouldn’t mind us scoring a bit more from the chances to be honest. Those tight affairs might be nice for the TV companies but not for the heart and blood pressure of Arsenal supporters.

But I feel delighted for Mesut that he has stepped up after the whole team having a bad day at the opening day of the season. Of course for the aaa types who write in to Untold ‘wishing us to die’ (they seriously do this) only the last result matters and so they will be off our back for a while but waiting to come out whenever the result is not what they expected it to be. A defeat is not nice. But what matters is how the team reacts to a defeat. And the reaction was great to see. They bossed the match from the start and that is what we want to see from Arsenal.

Under pressure to deliver, we delivered. And when, because of missing too many chances, it stayed a tight affair our defenders and the whole team did their dirty job when it was needed and defended and gave hardly anything away.

On to the question does Özil has eyes at the back of his head? I don’t think he has. But what he does have is an amazing intelligence to see what will and what can happen long before the ball gets to him. A player who knows what he can and should do with the ball even before the ball gets to him has an advantage over any opponent. And Özil has this vision in him and that makes him such a great player. I know the pundits will not rate him and give him credit. So the least Untold can do is to give him the credit he deserves. Well done Mesut and keep it up.

The books

Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years

Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910

The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal

30 comments to Eyes at the back of his head; football in perspective

  • Gord

    Most people have a range of motion (in the plane) of about 180 degrees: if we are looking straight ahead, we can detect motion with our peripheral vision about 90 degrees to either side. It was said that Wayne Gretzky (ice hockey) had about 210 degrees of vision. Perhaps Mesut also has extended peripheral vision?

  • Jerry

    Excellent write up Walter and for putting football matches in perspective!

    I am also a big fan of Özil and glad to see him getting some long overdue praise from the media as well! Looking forward to seeing his magic excel this year, just like it did when he came back from injury last year.

  • colario

    A touch of Canadian patriotism creeping to Untold me thinks.
    I’ll leave to enlighten us some more. 🙂

  • Gord

    Bad English again. Most people can detect motion (in the plane) over about 180 degrees.

  • Tom

    This was Ozil’s best game in Arsenal shirt, no doubt and we are truly preveledged to watch him play. His style of play , however, will never be appreciated by some in England and that’s just the way it is.

    It was hilarious to read on the previous thread that ” Metro’s” Rob Devine thought Ozil was the worst signing ever in the history of the PL, when just a few days earlier his coworker – Will Giles – thought Ozil would be the best in the world in assists if he only had better finishers to pass the ball to, citing 150 goal scoring chances created by Ozil and only 14 converted by his teammates. That’s less than 10% of chances ( if my quick math is correct) .

    Which begs the question; Do “Metro “writers even read their own publications articles? Probably not.

    As for your trip to visit the graves of the teenage soldiers who died for the cause in the WW1, perhaps some Arsenal players could use a trip like that to realize that sacrificing one’s body for the team is a small price to pay, comparatively speaking. I’m talking about our defenders , who seem to subscribe to the school of thought that making themselves as small as possible when facing a shot on goal is a way to go.

  • colario

    Tell us Gord, in which Country was Wayne Gretzky born and where abouts in that ccuntry ?

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    Thanks Walter, good perspective(and also the Generals are but lackeys for politicians/other forms of leadership and they are lackeys to their negative thinking).How easily people organize wars rather than really organize better societies (and WW1 took massive undertaking from the British side,as well as monetary cost; for example the seven day bombardment that mostly failed before the Somme cost 6million pounds alone, I wonder who paid for that..? What a waste of life,money and resources.
    Its interesting how easily we are dictated to and all of us are potentially suspect puppets for the opinions and command of others,or whether your team loses to WHU etc! Strange that if our team loses we think we are somehow turds and unable to enjoy life, the suffering of some people last week was quite sad to see and the search for a singular scapegoat, rather than collective mistake was desperate.But the basic aim of football is that one wins, and therefore one must lose,and what odds to allow the governing our emotions…

    The Palace support is really strong as you say, always great to hear them singing “glad all over”, kind of wish we had something like that!I knew a few Smeagles fans years ago.
    Özil is brilliant, Im shocked time and time again at the critical voices that think hes “useless” are calling for his head, but no doubt theres some other underlying issue there?Great player,great vision and as subtle as Brady and smart as Hleb Im glad he came to us!

  • Rich

    Well said about perspective, Walter. It’s the obvious truth and well worth reminding ourselves about.

    I just need the shrink from these parts to explain how that truth is able to recede at times to the extent it does! But I guess it’s healthy, or lucky at least.

    now…back to the football!

    I really feel we are close to cracking it in terms of being an astonishingly good, and entertaining, away team.

    Similarly, once in the lead at home, I believe we are extremely well equipped to punish the opposition, supposing they have any ambition to have a real go for the points (as opposed to keeping the bus in tact when behind and hoping and praying for a mistake or a set piece)

    So, yep, the season hinges for me on how good we can become at breaking buses at home. I think it requires near enough a different skillset to away style football- or any type of reasonably open game.

    It would surely be a little easier, the bus breaking, if the whole stadium and fanbase showed a good awareness of the unique difficulties of breaking through those defences, and that football with virtually no space is almost a different game to football with some or lots of space. To me it feels like people want the football of yesterday, or of Lyon after the first, or almost any game after the first, against 8-10 players in our half, mostly in or in front of the box- that’s an impossibility.

    Anyway, that’s the great challenge of the season for me. It’s a big ask but I’d say this away style of ours clicked quickly once we had it right, and stuck, and I’m hopeful something similar happens for the bus challenge at home. The new look Liverpool might just be a good test of it. The hallmarks are at least one full back being a centre back, kicking everything that moves for the first 20-30 minutes, and three deep centrally in midfield. Milner and Henderson are shoe-ins so I wonder who the third man will be.

  • Al

    Thank you Walter for this piece. This is my third post regarding how the pundits totally ignored Ozil’s efforts yesterday(starting to sound like a broken record 🙂 ), which I felt was quite ‘strange’ given his performance. Jayram pointed out the choosing of Santi as motm was designed to undermine Ozil, and I agree. This isn’t to say Santi played badly, not at all, as he was his usual brilliant. But Ozil shaded it yesterday imo.

    Has anyone ever got a 98% passing accuracy in one match previously? Is this not a record? On top of that create 5 chances and one assist. Never mind not getting motm, but barely getting mentioned at all during the match, with a performance like that? Its like theres a rule at Sky/BT that says noone should praise Ozil. Even TH14 said, at half time, Santi had been immense and everything was going through him- something I instantly disagreed with as I thought ‘we can’t be watching the same match, monsieur’. Like Jayram said, it appears there’s a concerted effort to undermine Ozil, an attempt to create a rivalry perhaps?(I recall seeing Santi getting motm a few times last season where I thought Ozil had shined but didn’t think much of it, was just happy that our players were performing well, but after yesterday it seemed a little odd). Come to think of it, i dont recall Ozil ever getting motm since his return from injury even though he’s had arguably his best performances for us since then. Perhaps theres an agenda to try and frustrate him even. I mean what more does he need to do if you get the above stats but still get overlooked? It’s like they think only mention his name when he’s not performing well, when he does play well just blank it…

    Agree that we as fans need to acknowledge the talent and performances our players are putting in, and not wait for these bunches of so and sos with their hidden agendas to set the scene.

    P/s I thought Nacho was another player who had an excellent game too yesterday. Sanchez too, and I think that that goal belongs to him (it was going in with the keeper beaten, with the defender just managing to divert the angle/course). It doesn’t matter though anyway, as I’m sure Alexis doesnt need it; he will still bag another 20+ this season, ones that will not have any debates/controversy about them 🙂

  • Samrat Jha

    We have had enough of sacrificing one’s body or leg to be precise. The very thought of it sends shiver down the spine.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    The 98% pass completion doesn’t really impress me. Continual sideways at midfield passing can deliver that number. What impresses me is that Ozil did this largely in the final third. I don’t mind him misplacing the odd pass as long as he keeps seeing runs opening up for the other players and tries to deliver the incisive passes. If anything it is the other players who don’t make the runs they should.

  • JohnW

    I was a bit worried there, when Coquelin had a few mishaps. Thought he was going to walk. Would have love Hayden to stay, he’s the closest to Coquelin we have. Don’t know whether anyone saw how Coquelin had Cabaye in his pocket all the time, until he was subbed then he used the fact that Arteta is not that fast to start playing. Love the win very much, I have this feeling that we will repeat the 2-0 result at Liverpool like it was a few seasons ago. It was the third game too, then.

  • jayramfootball

    The truly amazing thing about Ozil is the way he played against Palace is pretty much the level he has played at since the first minute of his first game for Arsenal (I think in that first game he created 6 chances, 4 of them 1v1’s for Walcott, who missed them all). He has had a few (very few) poor games which were seized upon but in reality his game has not changed at all.

    The only thing that is changing is perception and understanding of his game by others.

    The thing I most enjoy watching is Ozil’s weight of pass. Its not just that he seems to see a pass before and better than anyone else, its that his execution is nigh on perfect. Exactly the right place and pace on the ball. He reminds me of Bergkamp in this regard. If he only manages to become half as good as Bergkamp then he will become the best player in the league by a distance. I personally think he already is (by a distance)

  • Tom

    Samrat Jha

    We are talking about two different things here, I’m afraid.

    When your central defender turns his back on a shot from distance while standing directly in line of his keepers site, it’s hardly the right way of defending.
    Taking a hit from a ball traveling at speed could be painful but it won’t brake your leg. It might get you a free dinner from your keeper though.

  • Usama

    Excellent piece on Ozil, Walter !.

    On a side note Michael Oliver has been appointed as the referee for our next match against Liverpool.

  • Andy Mack

    Gord, there’s a big difference between sensing motion and being able to recognise what’s actually moving (a bird, supporter or an official etc) but many of the best athletes (especially in team games) have that extra focus within their peripheral vision. Didn’t AW say that Bobby Pires had that vision but only on his right side, which is why he only played him on the left side. Another countryman of yours, Gilles Villeneuve consulted an optician especially to train his peripheral vision to help in many ways but particularly for racing in the rain where forward vision is pretty much zero. For the few short years he raced, he did eye exercises every day to improve that ability.
    Yes I’m a petrol-head as well.

  • Andy Mack

    Walter, there are ‘Grave’ reminders all around the world that Shanklys comment is rubbish and there are much more important things than football.
    A bad result definitely affects my mood for the week, but not as much as the death of a loved one would (or even just a friend)!

  • AL

    off topic
    Just seen an article about a Rangers player who’s been banned for 3 matches by the Scottish FA for being disrespectful to his opponent after he attempted to flick the ball over him. Outrageous I know. I don’t know what counts as good football in these parts of the world but this is the sort of thing I’d pay my hard-earned money to watch every day of the week. Ronaldinho was a master at this sort of thing, and was a joy to watch; which is why he won the ballon d’or among other things. As long as the other player does not use his hands or any other illegal part of his body then I don’t see anything wrong with that. Seems there are too many phil nevilles around…

  • AL

    Ok, looks like the banning isn’t actually true, just a spoof. But apparently there has been such an uproar about the player’s actions, even the BBC covered it. Makes you wonder though what the point of playing football is if one cant showcase his skills.

  • Menace

    Gord – I was thinking exactly the same thing, Gretsky the phenominal vision & premption of where the puck was going to be. I was fortunate to be (in flight) close to the Oilers when they won the Stanley Cup & were bringing it back from Toronto to Edmonton. I was told about Gretsky & watched several matches on TV while I was out there. He was Ozil & more. Much more.

  • Menace

    Colario – patriotism is one thing. An exceptional sportsman is another. Gretsky was 22 (I was 32 & in Canada troubleshooting IT) & held the record for holding the most records in Ice Hockey. He was quick & his vision was just out of this world. I played field hockey & didn’t realise the physical side of Ice Hockey. He was better than Messi & would have been great at any sport. Just a gifted young man in a good team.

  • Gord

    Thanks Menace.

    Gretzky was a tremendous passer of the puck, he created a lot for himself, but he also created a lot for the entire team just from his passing. Hockey has fighting, and many teams would try to get physical with Wayne to stop him. So, teams got enforcers. One of Edmonton’s better ones, was Dave Semenko (aka Cement Head). Wayne would get him going towards the net, and told him to keep his stick on the ice. Wayne would hit his stick every time. Did Semenko score, or did Wayne bounce the puck of Semenko’s stick? Wayne was one of the few hockey players to score a goal, from behind the net. That was where Wayne liked to set up his “office”.

  • Gord

    If a person looks across all sports, there are exceptional players. Probably none of which are EPL muppets (oops, I meant pundits).

    For me, the beginning outlier is Bob Beamon in 1969. Up until then, World Record Long jump had been going up by inches (or less), and Beamon pushes it almost 2 FEET!

    The way hype and TV go, I don’t know of a way to search for exceptional athletes. I am not suggesting Gretzky is the best, he is exceptional in a team sport of consideration for association football.

    After presenting that, I guess one is forced to acknowledge that JamramFootball is the world’s best athlete of all time, as well as the best manager of any sports team and the best owner of any sports team ever.

  • semeotist

    Ozil is exceptional with the passing. He and Santi see gaps because there is a footballing intelligence which is innate and often called genius. But the true genius is in Wenger’s coaching of the rest of the team that provides the opportunities for the pass. The players have been trained to run into the spaces and positions and it is this variety of options that make the Arsenal system work so well. The evidence is in how players like Overmars, Song, Flamini and even Cesc struggle once they leave and wasn’t Febregas a study in frustration against Oil City. Its the genius of Wenger’s methods again.

  • Menace

    Gord – Your last line is priceless 😉 .

    If Ice Hockey was global like football (soccer) Gretsky would stand head & shoulders above all sportsmen. However, his contribution to sport is magnificent.

    Ozil has a lot of similarities in that he passes with perfection & has vision. In both cases the team they play within makes them sparkle.

  • Gord

    When land seldom sees rain, any rain can turn into a problem (flash floods). Hiking around Las Vegas is like that. Get caught in a box canyon in a flash flood, and you could easily get hurt or killed.

    Well, Chile has been getting rain, including the north. Tocopilla has been seeing flooding, and Alexis has sent help.

  • Gord

    Thanks Menace.

  • Gord

    I had seen the twits at Arsenal from Mesut, wishing Indonesian’s well on their Independence Day. Apparently Mesut’s wishes were well received in Indonesia.

    It seems that Coconuts is a multi-country media network in SE Asia: Bali, Bangkok, กรุงเทพ, Hong Kong, Ibukota, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore, Yangon. Unusual name (to me) for a network.

  • Gord

    More on the flooding. The flooding a few days ago, was the result of seeing 3 years worth of rain falling in 12 hours. Apparently back on March 25/26, an even bigger rainfall deposited about 5 years worth of rain over 24 hours.

  • Gord

    The Daily Star has an article on Alexis helping his home town. In there, they reference a Spanish language news article from 2 days ago. Google translate is a little rough on the translation. But, if you read Spanish, or know how these translation engines work, it is an article worth visiting.

    Picture from the story shows some Arsenal graphiti in Tocopilla.