It seems highly-likely that Mesut Ozil will leave Arsenal at the end of the season and I believe that the German must call time on his stint in North London as he has been treated too harshly by former players and fans alike.
Ozil is currently involved in a contract stand-off with Arsenal and the most probable outcomes are either a transfer in the January window or him leaving on a free at the end of the season.
It’s hard to see the 28-year-old extending his current deal and he can’t be blamed.
In football, players come in a number of different moulds. The most common are loud and bossy goalkeepers, big and confrontational defenders, hard-working midfielders, speedy wingers and flashy strikers.
It goes without saying that Ozil isn’t your typical footballer. On his day, he ghosts past defenders with such ease that you contemplate if the latter are trying. He writes poetry in the midfield with passes and through-balls that are unimaginable to the normal player. His touches are so delicate one gets the impression that the ball he is playing with is heavier than the ball everyone else is playing with. And, his execution of all of the above is done with such grace, style and panache that the beautiful game lives up to it’s billing when he is on it.
Ozil’s talents have returned 23 goals and 42 assists in the Premier League since he joined Arsenal in 2013. Last season no one played a hand in more goals than Ozil (he had 19 assists).
Yet, despite these numbers, this gifted midfielder is often on the receiving end of the wrath of Arsenal fans and former players when the TEAM doesn’t produce the goods.
Take the 4-0 drubbing Arsene Wenger’s men were handed at Anfield by Liverpool in late August for instance.
Emmanuel Petit, who won the Premier League with Arsenal, criticised Ozil’s “defeatist attitude” and Martin Keown, who won the Premier League and FA Cup three times with Arsenal said he was “going through the motions”. Paul Merson, another Arsenal legend, is constantly on Ozil’s case claiming that he “doesn’t show up half the time”.
When Arsenal lost 10-2 on aggregate in the last 16 of the Champions League to FC Bayern Munchen, the fans got stuck into him good and proper. After the first-leg demolition, which Ozil started and performed badly in, the fans sang a new song for him. The lyrics of which are not appropriate here but it goes without saying that the tune wasn’t complimentary.
The angle of criticism towards Ozil is always the same. No passion, no fight, no work rate, disinterested and lethargic.
But here is the crux of it. To play the game the way Ozil does, to see the passes he sees, to trap the ball the way he does, to glide past defenders effortlessly, composure and presence of mind is everything. So when he’s good, he’s majestic.
When he’s bad, he is perceived to have no passion, no fight, poor work rate and to be disinterested and lethargic.
If you want a safe midfielder to put in a shift, track up and down the field all day, make tackles, have the odd shot from distance and distribute the ball neatly, Ozil isn’t your guy.
If you want someone who is inconsistent at times but has the ability to change games in seconds and mix it up with the best in the world, then Ozil is your guy.
Yes, Ozil’s critics will point to the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronald as players who have both equanimity and enthusiasm in equal measure. However, Arsenal paid £42.5 million for Ozil. PSG paid £200 million for Neymar.
In Ozil, Arsenal have a star. He isn’t perfect. He is not in the league of Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar. But how many of Arsenal’s current crop are?
To Arsenal fans and former players, I say: “Celebrate his genius, accept his flaws and take the good with the bad.”
Arsenal play Watford this weekend and Ozil is expected to be fit and available for selection.