The German has been lambasted for a perceived lack of interest and effort on the pitch – but those who criticise him for that are wrong
The fallout from Arsenal’s crushing defeat to Bayern Munich is likely to be brought back into discussion over the coming months unless Arsene Wenger’s side win a trophy this season. One player who has been heavily criticised every time the Gunners have lost a game during the campaign is much-maligned German international Mesut Ozil.
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From the outside it appears that Ozil is constantly misunderstood and misinterpreted due to a perceived issue with his body language. The 28-year-old had carved out a reputation as one of the finest No.10s in world football before joining Arsenal and the World Cup winner continues to court criticism because of what he does – or doesn’t do – on the pitch.
Ozil’s agent spoke to the media following the 5-1 drubbing in Munich by taking the unorthodox approach of questioning his client’s critics. Dr Erkut Sogut made several interesting points and hit back at those who lambasted the star for being unable to influence proceedings on Wednesday night. “How on earth is a player meant to create chances when his team only has 26% possession? It’s ridiculous”, he said.
The lack of composure and inability to build-up from defence and midfield meant that Ozil’s contributions were limited. He made the most tackles (five) out of anyone in the Arsenal team but Bayern’s dominant 76 per cent possession made it impossible for the Gunners to play their usual fluid game against one of Europe’s most dangerous counter-attacking sides.
Those who feel Ozil’s agent believes the player shouldn’t be held accountable for the defeat in Munich are missing the point. His comments suggest that you win as a team and you lose as a team, with Ozil indeed a part of the collective disappointment on Wednesday night. His £42.5 million price tag and huge salary are another reason why criticism is immediately thrown his way after an Arsenal defeat – but he wasn’t solely to blame for the Bayern goal fest.
It was Francis Coquelin who showed Arjen Robben onto his favoured left foot for the opening goal before Arsenal won a penalty from Ozil’s corner. The German had a great opportunity on the stroke of half-time which was well saved by compatriot Manuel Neuer, but it was the Arsenal central midfield and defence who really struggled to get a handle on the most difficult game of the season so far.
I wrote a piece back in December on how Ozil’s body language continues to get misinterpreted – and those perceived flaws in his game are still brought up today.
“The former Schalke and Werder Bremen star is the perfect scapegoat in a country that has traditionally rewarded outward signs of aggression and passion. If you’re not ‘putting your foot in’, shouting at a team-mate or sprinting down the pitch for 90 minutes then your performance will almost certainly be questioned by the masses.”
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Ozil did admit back in April that he would try to make an effort to improve his body language, especially if he makes a mistake or plays a bad pass but it is the relaxed approach which many people seem to take offence with. Simply put, Ozil’s ineffectiveness in certain games this season has generally been because of his team-mates failure to bring him into play, although there is no getting away from the fact that he – like the rest of his team-mates – didn’t perform to their peak on Wednesday night.
For a player who created more chances in a single campaign (137) than any other player in Premier League history last season, there is no doubt that Ozil can do better and knows that his numbers aren’t as impressive right now. Germany’s player of the year cut a frustrated figure on the pitch as his side were physically and mentally overpowered by a much better side, but you can be sure that there will be a response from the No.10 who remains a joy to watch when on top form. Now it’s time for Ozil and his team-mates to respond.