By Tony Attwood
From “nicking a living” in the Daily Mail to the “complete player” on the BBC today; that is the story of Mesut Özil.
As you may well have read or seen on Sky, the recently sacked David Moyes said of Mesut, “I still think the jury’s out on him a bit.”
Cue the sniggering. But what the Mail didn’t mention was their own headline in March 2014,
Lost and lazy Ozil might have cost Arsenal £42.5m but he isn’t worth two-bob… and he’s nicking a living
Now of course players change, and of course Mesut is playing much better now than he has previously at Arsenal – some say better than at any time in his career. But even so, this change in the Mail from abuse of a player to sniggering at an ex-manager who says something silly, is not just childish and pathetic, it is also highly misleading.
Indeed if we look behind the drawn curtains that the football covering media never want to have pulled back, what we find is several issues that interact.
First, the media have a great interest in promoting the transfer market as the be-all and end-all of football. If the club is not transferring players then it is not at the game.
Consider the Metro on 1 September this year
Arsenal fans call for Arsene Wenger to be sacked after signing nobody on transfer deadline day
“Piers Morgan led the revolt on Twitter after the north London side only managed to land goalkeeper Petr Cech from Chelsea in the transfer window.
“Remarkably, Wenger’s side are the only club in Europe to have signed no outfield players over the course of the summer.”
As we have shown time and time again on Untold the amount of money spent in the transfer window has little to do with where a club stands in the league. Chelsea have had a net outlay of £224m over the past five years, and Man U £300m. The press respond to this a bit like an alcoholic who has a headache and who suggests that it will go away if only he can have another drink.
But more we have shown that even if players do eventually make a difference, they often don’t make a difference at once. Only 25% do that in fact. Mesut is clearly in that group. He was not useless as suggested last year, of course, but he was not as brilliant last season as he is this season.
So just like Thierry Henry, Mesut took a while to adjust to the pace, violence and lack of refereeing protection of the Premier League.
But more than that – the media whip up the hysteria about transfers but then make fun of any transferred player (and his manager) where they deem the transfer has not worked.
The fact that the media has never seriously engaged with this argument about the worth of transfers against the worth of buying in younger players and moulding them in the style you want, but instead has kept pumping out the mantra that the club that buys the most players will win the league, without ever wondering if it is true, is an absolute indictment of their ability to comment upon football.
At the heart of the problem with the reporting of football in the media is both the media’s forgetfulness about its own past statements, and the remorseless focus on the immediate. Like my three year old grand daughter who made a fuss yesterday because she couldn’t watch a video on the iplayer NOW! the Daily Mail and its allies set out to destroy the career of anyone who doesn’t reach their imagined level of satisfaction today.
Indeed one could say that the football media is now run by people with the emotional outlook of three year olds for readers with the emotional grip on reality of a three years old. In fact I’m putting my granddaughter forward as football editor of the Daily Mail.
So when we read in the Daily Mail that “Arsenal fans rounded on David Moyes after the former Everton and Manchester United manager gave a rather harsh assessment of Mesut Ozil,” we know that once again they are trying to hide their own past gibberings and set themselves out to be a benign publication that allows the “man in the street” to “have his say” and chuckle at one of the 1,850,000 unemployed people in Britain today; a once proud man now reduced to talking tripe in front of the camera to earn a crust.
Moyes had clearly not read his pre-match briefing. He should know that now the media is full of Mesut the Golden Deliverer. The Man from the Gods. “One of the standout Premier League players so far this season, racking up 13 assists, twice as many as the next best provider in England’s top flight.” (Sky Sports web site).
And of course they go scampering to Wikipedia to find out that the record for assists in a season is held by Thierry Henry with 20 assists in 2002/03. The Mirror has worked out that at this rate Mesut will get his 21st in his 25th game.
“If he plays every one of the Arsenal’s next ten games, that will be the away game at Bournemouth on 6 February. If he misses one game, it would come at home against Leicester on 13 February.”
Here’s the record list of assistants – you will note that in 2001/02 and 2002/03 Arsenal had both the assist champions of the season. It gives an interesting insight.
Five other players have also reached 15 in a PL season.
There is also an interesting point in Fabregas’ achievement of 18 in 2014/15. We all know how poor the man with the Barcelona DNA has been this season. What is often missed is that his decline started in January 2015. Fabregas got 15 of his 18 assists in the first half of the season and after that went into what looks like being terminal decline.
And here’s the present season: Most Premier League assists 2015/16…
|Kevin de Bruyne||6|
There’s also another record that’s been grabbed – the assist Mesut gave in the game against Tottenham was the sixth game in a row in which he got an assist, which broke another record. Fabregas is shown in the record books as having six games with assists consecutively in the Premier League, but only because his interval half way through that run with Barcelona to top up his DNA, game in the middle of it.
Consecutive Premier League assists
|Antonio Valencia||Manchester United||2011||5|
|Ryan Giggs||Manchester United||2003||5|
Mesut’s sequence ran from the Alexis second goal in the 2-5 away win against Leicester. (And it is interesting that on BBC Radio 5 this weekend the “experts” were unable to think when Leicester had last lost a match. The answer was rather obvious, but no they couldn’t get it).
Gary Neville on 25 August this year was typical of the media. Lacking anything much to say he went on a rant against Mesut including, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mesut Ozil take responsibility for the rest of his team. I’ve seen him have good games, where he passes the ball well, gets involved and gets assists but doesn’t get enough goals.” (He also laid into Alexis at the same time).
On 11 November he said of one of Mesut’s crosses, “It’s no surprise that it was his delivery at the end. He does a lot of the right things on the ball and delivers it into the right areas. It’s a great, great record. It’s some feat and he’s playing now at the level that we all imagined he would.”