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Sublime Ozil stuck in a rut: Feature


OZIL-BESIKTASLONDON, September 15- First things first: it’s obvious that Mesut Ozil isn’t playing as well as he can for Arsenal. I don’t think there’s anybody who would argue against that.

A player bought to be creative hub of the team is struggling to do what he’s best at — make goals. From Opta comes this rather startling stat:

There are many theories as to why this is. From the role he’s being asked to play, the formation, a lack of fight or desire or not having the players around him on which he thrives.

Some of them make more sense than others, some don’t hold up to much scrutiny. The issue of him starting on the left-hand side, for example.

Ideally, you’d like to see a player like Ozil in a more central role, but the suggestion of him being isolated on the left doesn’t really hold water.

We can see that he’s allowed licence to roam across the attacking part of Arsenal’s midfield and in fact ends up spending as much if not more time on the right than the left, as his heat maps from Manchester City and Leicester show.

This fluid drifting from the wings has always been part of his game, and let’s remember that Germany won the World Cup with him on the left-hand side for most of the tournament. It’s not as if he’s being asked to play in a hugely unfamiliar position.

The German’s languid style is something that causes angst, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. Not every player charges around at 100 mph in every game. Perhaps he could be stronger at times, but you don’t buy a Ferrari to drive a cross-country rally. It’s just not going to be the way he plays.

It’s also worth pointing out that while Ozil’s displays haven’t been convincing, that’s true of Arsenal as a whole. Arsene Wenger is struggling to find the attacking balance in his team, having lost Olivier Giroud, brought in Alexis Sanchez and signed Danny Welbeck. As a team they haven’t clicked yet this campaign, and that’s not simply down to Ozil.

The fact that Wenger dropped Santi Cazorla against Man City, one of Arsenal’s best players so far this season, is not just an indication of how he’s unsure how to get the best from his players but also of the faith he has in Ozil to have an impact in the team.

He’s played only four times this season after a long campaign and a summer in which he went the distance in the World Cup. Even if he has been disappointing, I think the whole situation is quite simple: Ozil is a fine football player but one badly out of form and lacking confidence.

There was a moment in the second half of the Manchester City game when he had the ball in that central area where people want him to be and he simply lofted it forward into the arms of Joe Hart. For a player with such a clever football brain, it’s like he went into shut-down mode.

It’s certainly understandable that there’s frustration. When you spend 42.5 million pounds on player you expect a level of performance and consistency, but there were very few dissenting voices when Arsenal signed him from Real Madrid last August. Then, the feeling was that at last Arsenal had spent big on a world-class player. He hasn’t become a bad player in the last 12 months.

He needs something to spark him back into life, and it might not take much. Remember, just a few short weeks ago Jack Wilshere was lambasted from all corners for his form. Now, after a cracking display against Man City, he’s the man of the moment. How quickly things change.

And they will change for Ozil, too. I think a bit of patience is required, because he’s just too good a footballer not to turn it around.