Mesut Ozil is ready to silence his doubters at Arsenal
Arsenal delivered one of their best performances in years on Saturday as they beat local rivals Tottenham in the North London derby. The Gunners entered the match as the outsiders, despite it being played at the Emirates Stadium, but they managed to get the victory and closed the gap to their rivals to one point in the process. Mesut Ozil has often been criticised for his perceived lack of effort and poor contribution in the big matches. However, the 29-year-old was awarded man-of-the-match by Sky Sports and played a significant role in the home side’s triumph.
There have been a lot of pundits that have criticised the German international since he moved to England and there is a general consensus among supporters that he is an easy target, with a lot of the criticism being unwarranted. Steven Gerrard directed heavy criticism at Ozil earlier this season, following the Stoke City match and the Mirror reported the quotes:
“He’s left me frustrated – we’ve seen him on his day when he fancies doing both sides of the game he is a world-class talent. I just worry about his reaction and body language – when the ball is turned over he offers his team-mates zero. Away from home he’s a liability – he just doesn’t do enough.
“It’s clear to see that out of possession he doesn’t want to know – he only wants to be on the ball, trying to create and making things happen. But world class players do both – when they lose possession they put a shift in for their team-mates and it was clear that didn’t happen.”
These are harsh in town with the use of ‘liability’ underlining the strength of the media narrative that has been built surrounding Ozil’s performances, especially away from home. This has been said so often in the media that it is an easy throwaway line for pundits to use when analysing an Arsenal defeat. At times, the 29-year-old deserves criticism, but there has been a lot directed his way in recent years and the player hit back at the beginning of September.
“Personally I’ve had to accept a lot of criticism during my time in London. ‘Too expensive, too greedy, bad body language, and lacking fight’ – this is what people have said about me. Some of these comments are made by those who do not know me, some are made by former players – both successful and unsuccessful during their time here at the club.
“Although criticism is something that all football players have to deal with, I nevertheless expected legends to behave like legends – my advice to these former Gunners: stop talking and start supporting!”
It is often forgotten that players are human beings and that regular criticism can have an effect on their confidence and state of mind on the pitch. Ozil may not have been affected, but these comments show that he knew the criticism existed. If a view is given by enough pundits, it becomes true and in the case of the midfielder, his performances in Arsenal losses become heavily scrutinised with every error being picked up and spoken about.
The speculation regarding his future hasn’t helped. Ozil has entered into the final year of his contract at the club, which has caused some to question his commitment to the team. In terms of goals and assists, he hasn’t had a great start to the season. At the time of writing, he has one goal and three assists in 10 matches, which a goal involvement once every 185.5 minutes.
However, his underlying stats are very encouraging and suggest that he hasn’t been rewarded for his overall contribution so far this season. Ozil is averaging 4.11 chances created and 1.57 attempted shots per ninety minutes. To put this into context, Kevin de Buyne (2.92) and David Silva (2.57) are regarded as the most creative players in the league, but neither comes close to Ozil’s season average of chances created.
Can his performance against Tottenham push him on to better things?
Arsene Wenger will be hoping that Ozil’s display in the North London derby gives him the confidence to play at that level on a regular basis. During the match, he completed four key passes, which was more than any other player on the pitch. His distribution was effective, as he completed 81% of his passes. Only Nacho Monreal completed more out of the players that started for the home side. Considering the 29-year-old midfielder was operating in advanced positions, this is very impressive.
A lot of the criticism that has been directed at Ozil has been regarding his perceived lack of effort off-the-ball, which leads to him being a passenger in the big matches. That couldn’t have been said about his performance against Tottenham. He worked tirelessly out of possession and pressed the opposition defenders into mistakes. The German international completed two tackles and played his part in a crucial clean sheet.
The next four Premier League matches see Arsenal come up against Burnley, Huddersfield Town, Manchester United and Southampton. This is a run of games that the Gunners will be hoping to take at least nine points from, if not more given their home advantage in the match against United. Given his performance against Tottenham, this offers Ozil a great opportunity to go on a run of good form and contribute more goals and assists. A good run of individual form will silence the critics and at the age of 29, now is the time to prove to them that he is a world class player.