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What’s up with Ozil? Actually nothing much. In fact he’s still at the top of his game.

By Tony Attwood

Take your average premier league centre forward and you will find that at various times he goes through the season without scoring.  It is called a barren spell and is considered normal.  Indeed if it is Jamie Vardy, then even a sending off during a whole season that is poor by his previous standard is excused and the FA are roundly blamed for not forgiving him on appeal.  (The Guardian’s piece on the latest Vardy escapade opens with “Gary Lineker is right. There seems no point even appealing against a red card any more because unless you have evidence to prove mistaken identity or something similar the Football Association’s independent regulatory commission is simply going to back the referee’s decision.”)

But when it comes to Mesut Özil such issues don’t apply.   So far this season he has five goals in the Premier League, and is the 17th top scorer in the league – not bad for a player who isn’t there as a goal scorer.  He’s also the fourth highest goalscorer in the Champions League this season.

The combination of Alexis and Mesut is the most productive in the league, and earlier this year Mesut was all the rage with headlines such as “Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil just replaced Eric Cantona as king of Premier League assists…   Arsenal’s German playmaker now provides assists more often than any other player in Premier League history” (Daily Mirror).

And now he is useless, overpaid, a disgrace and by and large should be deported.  In fact the sooner we leave the EU and can deport foreigners we don’t like the better.

All because of two poor games.   No excuses, no realisation that it is just two games.  No pleading that the rules have to be changed.  No nothing.  Just sheer, unadulterated hatred pouring out from bloggettas and some (not all) journalists.  He’s not just nicking a living he’s stolen the bloody stadium and the entire heritage of the club as well as the till takings from the shop.

Özil plays for Arsenal to create opportunities.  Not just assists that lead to a goal, and not just goals, but moves that allow others to transform the moment.  He does this not only by extraordinary technique (I remember the first time I watched him noting that he plays passes which after they are complete look so simple and yet which no one else on the pitch can see before they are executed) but also by a constant reading of the game.  Half the time he is distracting the opposition who know they have to stop him but have no idea how – something that makes more space for Theo, Alexis, Iwobi and the Ox.

One of the problems is not Mesut’s problem at all, but a British disease.  In Britain we are utterly fixated by the weird notion of “body language” in which you supposedly can tell what a person is thinking by the way they stand, look and move.   And Mesut has the WRONG BODY LANGUAGE.

In one sense this is right, because by the way he moves and holds himself Mesut has managed to win possession more times in the final third than any player other than Eden Hazard – 16.  The same number of times as Alexis.   And for this he should, apparently, be crucified.

Body language does suggest to simple souls what a person might be thinking, but it is a very poor indicator of what is going on (unless the person is holding an axe covered in blood and waving it towards your throat, in which case it can be quite helpful as a suggestion as to what you might do next).

Stage actors and footballers use body language to manipulate expectations of the future. Body language doesn’t tell you what the player (or actor) is thinking; it is used by the best players to mislead.   16 times he’s won possession with just 11 tackles tells you what is going on; he’s using body language like Alexis did in fooling the West Ham keeper with a step over.

So to confuse Özil’s body language and lack of tackles and demand a change, is in fact to demand that he gives up one of his best skills – misleading the opposition.  To criticise him because he’s had a couple of bad games is to demand of him a standard that is demanded of no one else.

Did we lambaste Thierry Henry because in the winter of 2004/5 he went six league games in a row without scoring?  Did we demand to kick him out?   I don’t recall that, although I suppose it might have happened.  There are some very dumb people around.

Or try this: the one player who makes fewer tackles than Mesut is Hazard but he is adored, despite having almost an entire season last year in which he played in a manner akin to Mesut in the last two games.

What Mesut does is win the ball by different means, but in England we are so fixated on “the tackle” as an important measure and so fired up to attack anything Arsenal do, that we condemn Mesut at once.   Interceptions can be far more important than tackles because they leave the opposition player travelling in the wrong directions. Winning the ball high up the pitch is not only a brilliant defensive tactic, but also a brilliant counter-attacking tactic.

Here’s another stat, and this comes from Guardian, so thanks to them for pointing it out.  I didn’t know it until I started this rant.

Having won possession in the attacking third 16 times this season, Özil is level in second in the league with Sánchez. Given that Sánchez has played an extra game, it’s harsh to suggest that Özil doesn’t contribute defensively.

Theo Walcott playing a different sort of game makes twice as many tackles as Mesut, but has won possession in the attacking third only eight times.

So as always what we have here is the English disease.  Take the last couple of games, don’t do any analysis (because you can prove anything with statistics) and then rage, shout, demand and demean.  Ultimately the player will recognise what’s going on and suggest that maybe he ought to be playing for another team preferably in another country where the crowd is not quite so stupid, and the media not so instantly reactive.

Let me throw in one more point.  Alexis runs around a lot, always chasing, always showing enthusiasm, except when substituted to protect himself from exhaustion or muscle strains, when he reacts like a spoilt little boy.  The crowd loves this.   Mesut does it in a different way, and gets the media and some of the crowd on his back.

Here are Mesut’s figures (the total column includes league cup and charity shield, not incorporated in the individual totals.

Season League Cup Europe Total
Pld Goals Pld Goals Pld Goals Pld Goals
2013–14 26 5 5 1 8 1 40 7
2014–15 22 4 5 1 5 0 32 5
2015–16 35 6 1 0 8 2 45 8
2016–17 14 5 0 0 6 4 20 9
Total 97 20 11 2 27 7 137 29
Career total 303 52 43 8 87 13 441 74

In his total footballing career Mesut scored 16.78 goals per game.  With Arsenal it is 21.17 goals per game.  I don’t think that’s too bad for an assist master.

Untold Arsenal

Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 

The making of a referee: could former professional footballers become refs (and other one-shot solutions)

If Alexis and Ozil depart, Arsenal have plans to replace both of them with one player!

Nominations for the best of, worst of, what we need more of and what we need less of in 2016

Football in England is at the crossroads and its future hangs in the balance

The psychology of winning.

England’s refereeing in the dark ages. In Europe they are already talking about the problems AFTER the video box

And from the History Society

20 comments to What’s up with Ozil? Actually nothing much. In fact he’s still at the top of his game.

  • Leon

    ‘In his total footballing career Mesut scored 16.78 goals per game. With Arsenal it is 21.17 goals per game. I don’t think that’s too bad for an assist master.”

    Sorry if I’m misreading this, but it doesn’t look correct. Should the decimal point be moved forward a little? Or am I missing something here?

    I’m sure he’ll bounce back with a decent performance soon enough.

  • Al

    I’ve seen headlines, recently, to the effect Ozil is playing crap and steered well clear of such. It’s laughable how they rate players here, bust a gut or you are nicking a livng… And I guess the best indicator of how the media understands football can be measured by England’s success in international tournaments. A team full of such ‘world class’ stars should be doing a lot better and not struggling against minnows like Iceland.

    Ozil has not gone down a notch, no. He’s still quietly going about doing what he does best.

  • Norman14

    I’d like to see the stats on the number of times Ozil has dispossessed an opponent, only for the referee to blow up for a foul. Compare that to the number of times he “loses” possession when replays show he was fouled but the referee gives nothing.

    I’d say a combination of those things happens at the very least, 5 times per game.

  • Ben

    Don’t worry I’m sure when Ozil is back up to speed the media will be praising him again. Like that Mail reporter kind of apologised on twitter for saying he was nicking a living.

  • Alex

    I trust my eyes and the man disappear in certain games.The likes of Kouman Morinho Pochettino know how to nullify his game by shoving him and been at his face.
    Even last defeat has all the finger prints of Arteta .What mancity did was just to up the tempo and win physical duells.Guardiola has said clearly that he does not train second ball immediately after Leicester defeat.

    So why blame Ozil only ??
    What that hell is doing le prof ?
    I know the answer ….NOTHING .

    My point is Ozil he may well have some attitude issue.I mean i didnt see that kind of disapearance under Low with the international team .So why with us and also Real mad fans accuse him of the same act.
    He is a player that has come with 42mil tag after all and the expectation has to match his fee.

  • ali

    BRAVO Tony !!!

    Great Article…;)

  • markyb

    Norman 14, especially when he disposses them in a dangerous position

  • Norman14

    markyb, also when we get fouled, get a break, then referee calls play back for free kick!

  • markyb

    Or when we take a quick free kick and we in a good position, called back. Retake never happens when we are in a blind alley.

  • Polo

    Even the great Messi goes missing in some big matches. It’s normal so people need to relax and keep things in perspective.

    From an old article:

    ‘When the dust has settled on Wednesday’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Atletico Madrid, one question that will be on the lips of many Barcelona fans is: where was Lionel Messi?’

    ‘Messi has so often shone on the biggest stage in club soccer but was again superbly marshalled by the Atletico players and has not scored a goal against the Madrid club in their last six meetings in all competitions.’

    http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/european/lionel-messi-barcelona-forward-goes-missing-during-champions-league-exit-to-atletico-madrid-9250383.html

  • The truth

    I believe ozil is already out the door! along with Sanchez, you cant have two class players surrounded by average players at best, apart from Cazorla but he is injured! the best signing was Mustafi, Arsenal look frightened without him!last year wont happen agai9n and Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool are back in contention. Man U are starting to play better and will no doubt buy again in January and lets not forget Tottenham. I think this is Wengers last season at arsenal and he is in more danger of missing out on the top four than ever before

  • Top Guns

    The problem is Tony that it is not just 2 games is it?
    He regularly goes missing in the big games and is one of the contributing factors why we struggle in those games these days.

    Of course he does well in the smaller games, he is a top player.
    Unfortunately he does not belong in the very top bracket and that is why Real Madrid sold him.

  • Notoverthehill

    You can fool some of the people. all the time, Leon!

    Of course, it should be 74/441 = 0.1678.

    We understand how people can react, when they fail to check the maths!

  • Interesting that a comment from a gent calling himself “The truth” starts, “I believe”. But then it was always thus.

  • Mandy Dodd

    The Truth, I think Wengers record allows us to forget Tottenham.
    Utd…playing well….really? Ref assisted win against Palace, Rojo it seems cannot be punished, couldnt beat us when we had an off day, and bored us silly with the win over…unforgettable…Tottenham

  • Norman14

    I always thought the truth required facts, not hearsay, innuendo and opinion.

  • Leon

    Notoverthehill
    An honest mistake I’m sure 😇

  • Pat

    All this about Ozil is driven simply by the sheep like attitude of the press who follow each other in droves, and the sad view that saying something horrible about someone sells papers. What a comment on the press and their attitude to their public!

    Ozil is a rare and brilliant player and we are extremely lucky to have him.