With large sums of money comes a huge amount of expectation and for Mesut Ozil this burden has become all too evident of late. The Arsenal playmaker has suffered a severe dip in form, something that many have been quick to pick up on and exploit. With Arsenal’s Premier League title challenge fading, the criticisms of Ozil have only intensified in recent weeks.
Ozil clearly isn’t playing anything like he can, but shouldn’t we all be a little more understanding?
Mesut Ozil is clearly a quality player, you only have to look at his performances for Werder Bremen and Real Madrid to realise this. So we aren’t looking at an unknown, we all know what he can do and when he doesn’t the natural response is to start asking questions. Wenger tried his best deflect some of these concerns a couple of weeks ago, speaking to the Mirror he said:
“You want the guy who plays behind the striker to score some goals and sometimes he is too obsessed with making the perfect pass when he could take a shot at goal,” said Wenger.
“For me, he is an exceptional player. He feels the pressure of course, because he knows a lot is expected when you are a big transfer like that.”
“There is a big expectation level, but he should not worry about that, just play in the team and enjoy it, give his best. That’s the best way to deal with it. You must say he doesn’t come from a small club. He comes from Real Madrid, where the pressure is always huge as well. So he’s used to it.”
“He needs understanding. Because he always wants to do well. He cares. He’s not a guy who doesn’t care. His style can sometimes look like that, but he’s really the opposite character. He cares about the game, he wants to do well, he needs more support.”
It is widely accepted that the Premier League is one of the hardest leagues in the world to adapt to, you only have to look at the likes of Drogba and Henry to realise that all is not lost for Ozil in England. Fans though are much more accepting of players that work hard even when they aren’t playing particularly well, Ozil though has a tendency to look disinterested and isolated, something that doesn’t help when trying to deflect criticisms.
Comparisons to Madrid though are difficult, because there is such a stylistic difference. At Madrid he was given a free licence to roam without the concerns of tracking back and defending. In La Liga Madrid’s primary thoughts are towards scoring ahead of anything else, and Ozil flourished with this mentality. The Premier League is different though, with Arsenal’s midfield quintet expected to chase back as well as contribute offensively, a definite change in style for someone like Ozil.
The other issue is whether people actually understand what Ozil is all about; because it seems some are confusing him for the likes of Bale and Ronaldo at times. Ozil is a playmaker and the dictator of tempo; distinctions should be drawn with the likes of Luka Modric rather than attacking showmen like Ronaldo. There seems to be this expectation that Ozil will score 30-yard screamers on a weekly basis or that he will be in and around the final third wreaking havoc. This isn’t the player Arsenal bought, and whilst he has been disappointing as a playmaker to date, I still think people’s expectations of him are misguided.
Clearly Ozil needs more support; he didn’t place the price tag on his head and much of the animosity towards him of late has actually been unjustified.
8 assists and 4 goals in the league is hardly a poor return by anyone’s reckoning; Modric was lavished praise in England and he barely ever troubled the scorers. Now I accept these are two different types of playmaker, Ozil is the more direct and clearly expect to trouble the keeper more, but you can understand the argument here.
People are all too keen to get on Ozil’s back before he even steps out to play, clearly an atmosphere unlikely to breed success. The German has been underwhelming at best, but arguably we are as much to blame for his failings as the diminutive midfielder himself.