Friday 15 November 2019

Aidan O'Hara: Ozil sees the English game live up to cliche

Mesut Ozil in action against QPR during Arsenal’s victory at Loftus Road
Mesut Ozil in action against QPR during Arsenal’s victory at Loftus Road
Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

IN his excellent book, Football Against The Enemy, Simon Kuper tells a story about a Dutch player who sought some advice about the best way to impress an English club where he was going on trial.

Ray Atteveld phoned Johnny Metgod of Nottingham Forest, Spurs and long-range free-kick fame to ask him how best to impress the Everton management who he hoped would offer him a contract.

"Get a haircut, wear a suit and yell a lot in training," was Metgod's suggestion which Atteveld took on board before going on to play 50 games for the Toffees.

With such solid advice, Metgod could have set up a consultancy business for every foreign player coming into the English game and, had Mesut Ozil been able to avail of his service, he might not have to keep answering the same criticisms since he arrived to the Premier League.

Metgod might even have added that not only do you have to run around a lot in the Premier League, but you have to be seen to be running around a lot.

If you are a striker looking to impress, you have to charge around like a dog chasing after an empty crisp bag in the wind because that's how you show the fans that you care. If you really want to lay it on thick, you should then encourage the rest of the team to push up by waving your arms and shouting.

It works brilliantly with a large section of supporters but goes down less well with team-mates who justifiably wonder why you have wasted 80 metres worth of sprinting when good players will just pass the ball around you.

Pinball

At Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez is the one who fills the busy, all-action role where he bounces from opponent to opponent like a pinball. That type of energy has always been part of his game and the sages will shake their heads and lament that Ozil doesn't show similar commitment, desire, heart or passion depending on which generic, unquantifiable criticism they decide to use on that particular day.

Last week, statistics revealed that Ozil had covered more ground than any Arsenal player during games since February 1, including topping the charts during the crucial Premier League victory against Everton.

Perhaps Arsene Wenger borrowed from Harry Redknapp's book of tactical mastery and told Ozil to "just f****** run around" - as Redknapp did with Roman Pavlyuchenko - and the German took heed and began to aimlessly charge in any particular direction. Or, more likely, he actually does do quite an amount of work.

"He has a huge physical potential," said Wenger, who remains remarkably courteous despite answering the same question dozens of times every season. "We are all in a job where in every single game we have to prove a point. He works much harder than his style shows.

"You can be cheated a little bit by his style of play, because he is fluent, easy, subtle and he does not look like he puts the effort in, but he does."

If you were to write down a list of characteristics that are appreciated in English football then "fluent, easy and subtle" would be a long way behind things like loving a tackle, running your socks off or something about a wet and windy Tuesday night in Stoke.

Since their New Year's Day defeat to Southampton, Arsenal have won 10 of their next 12 games with Ozil having the team's fourth-best record for goals, third-best for pass accuracy and best for both assists and chances created. Like the team itself though, there will always be greater emphasis on the bad days than the good.

Since Dimitar Berbatov left the Premier League, the body language experts have chosen Ozil as their poster boy and, given English football's inherent distrust of subtlety and guile, they will always have plenty to keep them occupied.

It's that sort of distrust which saw Berbatov not even make the squad for the Champions League final against Barcelona in 2011, despite finishing as the Premier League's joint-top scorer in helping Manchester United win the league. When it came to the crunch, even somebody as great as Alex Ferguson, trusted Michael Owen ahead of him.

Ozil has faced similar criticism for being lazy but it's remarkable how a player can be hammered for a particular trait by people who used to praise him for doing the exact same thing.

Ozil's most famous game in an English context came for Germany at the 2010 World Cup where, when you watch the highlights, he tamely lost the ball to Matthew Upson, took a poor touch and allowed Ashley Cole to dispossess him, put a corner straight into the goalkeeper's hands, had a ridiculous 40-yard shot and over-elaborated in a great attacking situation to concede a goal-kick.

Ozil's exasperation on that day will be the familiar look his critics associate with him but, as he does with Arsenal, he didn't hide and constantly looked for the ball which is something that can't always be said for those players who charge around looking like they care.

His most famous act that day was beating Gareth Barry to the ball while making the Englishman look like he was running on a treadmill before subtlety delaying his pass long enough to play it through Ashley Cole's legs, for Thomas Muller to score. If he did the same thing in the Premier League, he'd probably face criticism for not smiling enough in the celebrations because, it seems, people have already made up their minds.

After finishing his punditry role for Manchester United's game with Newcastle and then appearing on Fletch & Sav on Wednesday, the famously media-shy Scholes used his London Independent newspaper column on Friday to criticise Ozil for apparently taking the easy option in joining Arsenal

"At times he looks like he's going through the motions, however much ground he covers," wrote Scholes, confirming the deep-rooted belief of English football that it's not enough to do something, you have to look like you're doing it.

Johnny Metgod was way ahead of his time.

The question nobody asked

How many Premier League games have Liverpool lost in the new year under Brendan Rodgers?

The Liverpool manager was confident his team would come good in the second half of the season and, given their incredible record once the calendar goes past January 1, it's easy to see why.

In the three years that Rodgers has been in charge at Anfield, they have played 46 Premier League games between New Year's Day and the end of the season, and only lost four times.

Three of those came in Rodgers' first season against Manchester United, West Brom and Southampton. They lost just once in that period last season, to Chelsea, and are unbeaten this time around.

Their record reads P46, W31, D11, L4, Pts103, which gives them an average points per game of 2.23, which over the course of a 38-game season would equal 85 points. However, this wouldn't have been enough to win the title in either of Rodgers' previous two full seasons in charge.

Tweets of the week

Monday

Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker)

Chuffed to see Padraig Harrington winning again. Lovely fella!

- The Match of the Day presenter sums up the afternoon quite well.

 

Tuesday

Jack Grealish (@JackGrealish1)

What a feeling! That's for you villains!!! #FightLikeLions

- After winning against West Brom, the Aston Villa youngster is unlikely to find himself fined for this tweet.

 

Wednesday

David De Gea (@D_DeGea)

The other great happiness of the night was seeing @elgalgojonas on the pitch!

- Even with the three points and Man of the Match award, the Manchester United keeper takes a moment to acknowledge the return of Jonas Guitierrez.

 

Thursday

Kenny Dalglish (@kennethdalglish)

Thank you to everyone who wished me happy birthday. Safe to say @marinadalglish and the kids are still feeding me at 64...

- The Liverpool legend enjoys his birthday although he doesn't mention if the song extends to Sunday mornings...

 

Friday

James Ward-Prowse (@Prowsey16)

Great day on the slopes today with the lads!

- Southampton players enjoying their weekend off. Might be harsh to say their season is on a downslope.

 

Saturday

Shay Given (@No1shaygiven)

Buzzing today with the result. Great to see Villa park rocking, Wembley here we come ߑ? #UTV

- "Rocking" is one way of putting two pitch invasions alright.

 

Sunday

Luke Shaw(@LukeShaw3)

Prepared for tomorrows game!! @CalumChambers95 @JackWilshere @Alex_OxChambo see you tomorrow lads! Game on! #sorrynotsorry

- You really do wonder what Alex Ferguson would have made of his left-back having Twitter bantz with opponents on the day before an FA Cup quarter-final.

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