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Mesut Ozil: The Brilliance of a Brilliant Man

Mesut Ozil is one of the Premier League’s most polarizing figures and, after just two full seasons in England, the majority of pundits and fans have made up their mind about the meandering German. From the Daily Mail’s Neil Ashton suggesting that Ozil was nicking a living” to the ever-so reactionary vitriol often mass-produced on Reddit as late as two months ago, it was made clear at every opportunity that the World Cup winner was not tangibly good enough for his price tag. But why?

He’s lazy. He doesn’t play defense. He doesn’t track back.

And yet, Ozil appears as if he covers more distance than any other Arsenal player per 90 minutes other than workhorse Aaron Ramsey.

He creates chances, but he doesn’t create results. Forget the tweets, the articles, and his teammate’s kind words because stats are cold, hard facts.

And yet, following the utter destruction of Manchester United, the tune has suddenly changed. Ozil is brilliant once more, perhaps one of the league’s biggest stars, but why the sudden narrative shift? Would you like another fact? There is a loud and vocal minority, the fans who write mean tweets, vicious Reddit posts, and #WengerOut rants, that believe that you’re only as good as your last game.

Mesut Ozil is only as good as the stat-sheet shows.

So now that Ozil has left his mark on the easy-to-digest sheets of success and social media retweets, has he suddenly transcended the analysts, the backseat managers, and general hivemind of hate? Unfortunately, it seems unlikely. Should Arsenal lose to Bayern Munich or Everton, would anybody be surprised to see the invisible and poor body language criticisms spring back up out the Earth?

Ozil is an easy target — he doesn’t yell like Francis Coquelin, he doesn’t do comedy on the YouTube channel like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and he doesn’t run mindlessly out-of-control like Hector Bellerin. Heck, the spotlight is on Ozil so little, that the only goal-scoring celebration he has is the delightfully subtile lowercase “m” that he throws up for his niece.

But for every brutal miss from Olivier Giroud or shell-shocking strike from Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil was there. For every spectacular build-up, for every bit of deliberate football, and for their two consecutive FA Cup wins, Mesut Ozil was there. So, is what we’re saying here is that we’re comfortable constantly judging a player only when he shows up on the stat sheet?

Mesut Ozil is a man of measured precision, a game of inches, and flicks that make your jaw drop. We were witnesses to these small moments of brilliance repeatedly against Watford — as his would-be penalty resulted in a goal for Alexis Sanchez and set up another by gorgeously laying the ball off to Giroud a few minutes later. His nuanced runs create space for Santi Cazorla, his through-balls create chances for Theo Walcott, and his distribution creates opportunities for Aaron Ramsey to smash over the bar unrelentingly. For so long, the narratives of Ozil’s invisibleness and Giroud + Walcott’s inadequacies at striker have gone hand-in-hand, but isn’t that rather redundant?

If we are to take to these chances that Ozil has created at face-value, is it his fault that they are not being executed? All of a sudden, Walcott bangs in a couple, Arsenal beat United, and Ozil is back to being the Mad Scientist? Maybe it’s just me, but something doesn’t add up here. If there’s one thing that Ozil does, it would have to be putting his teammates in places to succeed — whether or not they do is up to themselves, but it’s often the midfielder that ends up in the headlines.

Perhaps, then, it’s not that Mesut Ozil has finally arrived at the Emirates or that he’s a wonderful butterfly finally breaking out of the proverbial cocoon, it’s that we’ve been pointing the finger incorrectly this whole time. Ozil at Old Trafford is the same Ozil we had at Wembley for Villa and certainly the same Ozil we had at home against Monaco.

Ozil is Ozil is Ozil, so let’s pledge to take this emotional high following United and turn it into something positive. Repeat after me: “I will not judge Ozil based on assists and goals. I will not judge Ozil based on assists and goals. I will not judge Ozil based on assists and goals.” He is part mathematic, a man of angles and curve, and part soothsayer, seeing runs two, three passes before they even exist.

But he’s mostly formulaic — if Arsenal are winning, he’s world class; but if they’re losing, all the blame, effort, and side-netting misses fall upon Ozil. If Walcott stays hot and keeps blasting in goals at his current rate, the less we’ll see commentators remark about Ozil’s lackadaisical disposition. Perhaps it’s not that Ozil is finally brilliant, it’s that we’ve always been selectively blind.

I suppose this counts as Mesut Ozil propaganda, but it’s time that the midfielder finally got some in a positive way.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. frenchchloe

    October 19, 2015 at 13:58

    i completely agree with you
    he is fundamental is so much good we do, he is not always the obvious stand-out person, but every measured pass, one touch piece of play, moving the ball on quickly .. makes us a nightmate for opponents.
    I can see it, he is worth the money we paid, thankfully we now have him central to influence much of the fine attacking play

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