By Bert Huff
There is no doubt that Mesut Ozil is an extremely talented footballer. His technique, balance and eye for a pass are all world class. His list of honours includes the La Liga title and the Copa del Rey while with Madrid, two FA cups with Arsenal and the biggest prize of all: The World Cup with Germany.
He’s been voted German player of the year five times since 2011. A remarkable achievement considering the calibre of his team mates: Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Phillip Lahm, to name just a few.
He plays the role of chief orchestrator so successfully that he regularly leads the field in assists, in both international and domestic competitions.
Ozil has received plenty of acclaim for his achievements yet aspects of his game can often lead to criticism. He’s been accused of being too lightweight, of going missing in the big games and questions have been raised over his goal scoring record.
After another lacklustre display against a hard-working but clearly limited Hull side, and with the daunting task of travelling to Munich to face Bayern in The Champion’s League on Wednesday night, has Ozil done enough to retain his place in the side?
Wenger claimed after the Hull game that it was time for Ozil to score again and indicated that he’s lacking confidence. Bayern Munich away, at the Allianz Arena, must be ranked alongside The Bernabeu and The Nou Camp as one of the trickiest games in Europe. Not a place to start a player lacking in confidence!
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In 2014 Arsenal lost 2-0 at home to Bayern in The Champion’s League. The Gunners started the game very brightly but appeared to lose belief once Ozil’s tame penalty was saved by Neuer. Ozil was relieved of penalty taking duties following this miss and there’s a case for him to be benched when Arsenal take on the Bavarian giants.
Recently, he’s struggled to get into (let alone dominate) games. As the clock was ticking down to a nervy victory at home to Hull, that would bring far more relief than joy, the ball was launched up field to Ozil. Instead of employing his wonderful technique to bring the ball down, hold it up and bring his team mates into play or draw a foul or head towards the corner flag (any of these options would have been fine) he tried a flick, lost possession and suddenly Arsenal were on the back foot again.
A man of his ability and experience should not be making such basic errors in decision making. Although he had a poor game (judging by the high standards he should set himself) and Arsenal were coming under pressure to hang onto a vital one nil lead (the atmosphere inside the ground can only be imagined if points were dropped) Wenger gave him the whole game. Surely, before all the subs had been used, a more robust presence with fresh legs should have been sent on to see out the game.
Wenger seems to give preference to certain players (Sanchez and Ozil) over others (Oxlade-Chamberlain comes to mind) regardless of form or the state of the game. Special dispensation is often given to remarkable talents. But the same standards not being applied to everyone must be infuriating for those who feel they always have a point to prove.
Wenger will undoubtedly start Ozil away in Munich. The ability of the player, the state of his contract, the fact the game is in his homeland and the lack of a viable alternative all point towards him playing. Wenger would have to employ different tactics, which goes against the grain, if Ozil were not in the starting line-up.
With the club desperate for him to sign a new contract and nobody putting in the kind of performances that would genuinely threaten his place in the team, all the indicators point to Ozil strolling into the starting line-up. From the outside, the balance of power seems to be with the player not the club. Hopefully, Ozil is humble enough to recognise his shortcomings and has the mental fortitude, determination and the drive within himself to raise his game. If so, he has the ingredients to deliver the outstanding performances, of which he’s more than capable, on a far more regular basis. Bayern Munich away would be a great place to start.