Following an inaugural Premier League campaign in which Mesut Ozil hasn’t fallen below expectations but has certainly failed to surpass them, the Arsenal playmaker has felt compelled to hit back at his critics.
During a recent interview with German publication Bild, the Germany international revealed; “I feel that I have the trust of Joachim Löw and Arsène Wenger and that I have earned it. I am now 25 years old and at that age every footballer in the world plays in a different way to what he did when he was 21. And, of course, my role at Arsenal is different insomuch that I have more responsibility than I did at Real [Madrid]. And I like that.”
The prose of self-assurance comes not only after a lukewarm opening season at Arsenal, but furthermore following a chorus of boos directed at the Mannshaft midfielder during a recent warm-up friendly against Cameroon.
But Ozil feels that he at least has the trust of his manages at club and international level – the only question is, has he earned the trust of the Emirates fans?
I’ve already alluded to the German international’s hot-and-cold form this season, and how effective a signing Ozil has been for the North Londoners is still open to debate. On the surface of it, five goals and nine assists in 25 Premier League appearances is a decent return for one’s first campaign in England, and perhaps most importantly, the first campaign of Ozil’s career without a winter break.
Likewise, one could argue that Ozil’s form isn’t all that relevant. A superficial coincidence perhaps, but there is an interesting correlation between Wenger’s biggest transfer spend since 2009 and the club’s first trophy since 2005. No one can doubt that the midfielder’s £42.2million arrival last summer boosted the club from a self-perpetuating malaise, even if the effects have been predominantly psychological.
But has he dazzled and delighted as he did as a youngster at the 2010 World Cup? Has he matched the impressive orchestrating displays regularly produced during a three-year stay at the Bernabeu? Has he come anywhere close to justifying his £42.2million transfer fee? At this point in time, No.
Likewise, there have been key moments where one would expect such an expensive, coveted signing to deliver and quite frankly Ozil hasn’t. That penalty against Bayern Munich in the Champions League particularly comes to mind – had the 25 year-old not missed a spot kick in the eighth minute, the complexion of the match would have changed in its entirety.
Similarly, his performance amid a 5-1 defeat to Liverpool a fortnight previous was exceptionally disappointing; whoscored.com issued him a rating of 4.27, not that one individual should take solitary blame for a team display that resulted in four goals conceded within the opening twenty minutes. And of course, Ozil’s public spat with Per Mertesacker after the midfielder’s refused to applaud the away fans following Arsenal’s 6-3 to Manchester City left a rather bitter taste.
Understandably, the jury is still out within some sections of the Arsenal support and the wider Premier League public.
Not that all criticisms should be directed towards Ozil. As the former Werder Bremen star stated himself in his converse with Bild, his role in the Arsenal midfield is notably different from his time with Real Madrid, where Ozil was given license to roam behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in attack.
In my opinion, Arsene Wenger should be looking to replicate that as much as possible rather than transitioning the 25 year-old into a different kind of player. After all, he was brought to North London to provide cutting edge from the middle of the park, but thus far he’s featured almost as commonly out wide for the Gunners as he has in his customary No.10 role.
Arsenal have some fantastic talents at their disposal, especially in midfield, but if Wenger is to get full value out of his club-record signing, Ozil must be given a central role where the team works, operates and revolves around him. After all, what are £42.2million signings for if they aren’t to take centre-stage?
Perhaps then, Ozil’s stock with the Gunners fanbase will improve. Not to say that he’s any sort of public hate figure at the Emirates – despite some of his displays being wholly inadequate and verging upon unprofessional laziness this season, he’s never come close to receiving the level of discontenting angst that Aaron Ramsey has in the past. But equally, it would be wrong to suggest that the German international’s received appreciation thus far in England has fairly reflected his obvious world-class talent.
Having now rejected the opportunity to re-sign fan favourite and former Emirates star Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal will now be more dependant on Ozil than ever for results next season – shouldering that responsibility will be a whole lot easier with the Emirates fanbase onside.