By Walter Broeckx
After the world cup in Russia in 2018 Özil was the scapegoat of the German media and the fans. He was blamed for all that went wrong. And we know how the media report things is how the more ignorant football supporter will look at the game and will look at players.
Now we also know that the influence of Bayern Munich in German football is very big. And that many pundits and football opinion makers are former Bayern Munich players. So when things go wrong they tend to protect Bayern players and put the blame with non-Bayern players.
Germany had to win their last match against South Korea at the world cup. But they lost 0-2. Two goals in injury time when Germany was throwing everyone forward sealed the fate of Germany and they were sent home. Immediately the German media closed ranks and put all the blame at the feet of Özil, while the cold facts showed another story. When other (non Germans) made a deeper analysis of the match they found out that a certain German player created at least 11 chances for his team. At the time some even called that a world record in a world cup match.
But alas for this creative player all the chances he created were missed. Özil was that creator. And Muller, Hummels and other Bayern players were to blame for the misses. So the Bayern press quickly turned on Özil who as a result gave up on international football. This has clearly hurt him a lot.
And when we look at the way Özil is now treated at Arsenal we see that he gets no more chances to play. It is a somewhat similar position to the German situation. Part of the media has always been against Özil in the last years. Every bad performance (and yes every player has bad performances) has been analysed and the media had a field day in showing how bad he was. When he provided assists and scored goals they found it natural and made no big fuss about it.
Now after half a year we can conclude that Emery loves hard working players. Players that run around (even if it is occasionally like headless chickens) for 90 minutes are mostly in the starting line up. Özil even when fit hardly makes the bench. Now if all this running around were to result in a rise of performances and in a better position compared to last season one could say that Emery has a point. But when we analyse the situation of last season with now we see no real progress. Last season we even went to the league cup final and the Europa league semi final. As things stand we will have a big task next week to beat Bate Borisov as we must make sure we score at least 3 goals.
But with all the defensive minded players we play (who can run around a lot) we hardly create anything in front of the other goal. Emery wants runners in his team and fighters. Now that is fine and the manager has the right to want such players in his team. But the lack of progress doens’t bode well for the moment. Even the fact that Özil usually is a player who runs a lot on the field doesn’t seem to help him getting in the team. Maybe because the running Özil does is not defensive running around but attacking running around. Özil runs a lot to create room and space for himself and his team mates in order to attack and to create chances.
Now one could say that Özil has to adapt to the wishes of the manager. So Özil should start running around and defend and tackle. Even if he can’t do these things from his natural game. But from what I have learned from following football is that wanting a player to play in a different way usually doesn’t improve the player. I know Wenger could change the way a player played and this improve him. But taking away the creativity of probably one of the greatest creators in our team doesn’t make Özil a better player or helps the team.
I could take the example of Pogba. Mourinho didn’t like the attacking and adventarous way Pogba has been playing all his career. (I could have taken Hazard as another example). Pogba is a player who plays in waves, as I call it. You don’t see him for a while and suddenly he pops up with something unexpected and changes the match. Özil has always been such a player. And the more Mourinho was trying to change the way Pogba was playing the poorer he became.
And when Mourinho was sacked the first thing (I think) that Solsjkaer told Pogba was: go out and play your game. We all have seen the result. A reborn Pogba has been impressive under their new manager. Because this manager played to his character and to his strengths. 6 goals and 5 assists in some 10 matches or so. Solsjkaer let the Pogba beast go. And he delivered.
I fear that Emery is not playing Özil to his strenghts. I fear that Emerey is trying to change Özil as a player. And as a result (just as with Pogba) you get a player whose performances drop to a scaring low level.
If you have a creative player you have to let him play in a creative way. If you don’t do that then the player becomes useless. Emery wants to see Özil fight and work. Özil probably can’t do this and stay creative at the same time. Because he has to play against his nature.
Now looking at the last matches where we can’t really reach our strikers in a decent way the question is how can we solve this lack of creativity in our attack?
Özil is a player who can create something out of nothing. But you have to give him the freedom to express himself. And without that freedom you get nothing. Özil’s trademark is creating chances (mostly of good quality). If the manager doesn’t to use this creativity we have to be open about it.
We could send him to China and try to free up wages so that the manager can bring in new players next summer. We then would know that we should not expect a lot of this season anymore. Prepare for next season one could say. Or we could play him and let him do what he knows and does best: be creative.
Making a raging bull of Özil is useless. We have more than enough raging bulls on the field. Probably too many in fact. And in lower league football they usually use raging bulls on the field and can be succesful with it. But if I want to see that kind of football I would watch lower league football.
For me the fact that we play a very boring football (despite being the fourth top scoring team in the Premier League – thanks to our good scoring strikers) is because we are not using Özil in our starting line up. Even when we score it is seldom born out of beatiful attacking football. It is more based on luck at times.
But will a player that has been made clear that he is unwanted still want to perform at the top of his game? I can imagine that he is down and feels unnapreciated.
I fear we have killed a top player that could have added a lot to our game this season.
Footnote: This article does in some way challenge the slogan that has been on our masthead for some 10 years – “supporting the manager”. In a further article we’ll look at whether it is time to reconsider Untold’s long held position of supporting the club, the manager and the team.
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