Comment - Why the Arsenal 'Ozilites' are missing the point over their prophet
Few players divide opinion like Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil and when you glance at the statistics he is serving up this season, even his most passionate disciple may begin to question their devotion.
Depending your perception, Arsenal’s record signing is likely to fall into one of two contrasting categories, with middle ground hard to apply to this polarising World Cup winner.
You may be in the camp that likes to promote Ozil as a footballing Picasso with genius oozing from his boots.
These dreamers see the 28-year-old as the game changer who can produce brilliance the rest can’t even imagine, a delicate fantasist that only game’s purists need to appreciate.
“The whole idea behind Ozil is that he does the opposite of what everybody else does: the percussionist hitting the off-beats, the apostate in a world of believers,” was the romantic vision of one of his apologists in the Daily Telegraph this week, with his manager Arsene Wenger joining the chorus of defence at his press conference on Friday morning.
“He works much harder than people think and his body language sometimes goes against him. He does his part very well,” stated the Arsenal boss, of a player who is currently demanding a new contract in excess of £250,000-a-week to back up his star status.
The alternative version of Ozil is less appealing, with his critics eager to highlight his unfortunate trick of disappearing in games when the going gets tough.
When the going gets tough, Ozil has a worrying habit of going evaporating from sight, as he proved in Arsenal’s defeats against Everton and Manchester City last week.
They were performances that did little to banish the notion that Ozil is a player who fails to make his mark when it matters most.
While his brilliant, virtuoso goal against Bulgarian champions Ludogorets in the Champions League last month gave the ‘Ozilites’ a chance to enthuse about their idol all over again, but hitting the heights against second-rate opponents is his greatest strength.
A glance at the Premier League statistics heading into this weekend’s fixtures did little to banish the suspicion that Ozil is failing to live up to his billing.
His haul of 20 goals from 97 Premier League appearances since his £42.4m move from Real Madrid in the summer of 2013 is hardly impressive, yet his defence council will tell us that goal scoring is not Ozil’s primary role.
They would argue his silky passing qualities single him out from the pack, yet their man doe not even make the top ten in the Premier League so far this season, well behind Ireland’s Harry Arter and Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson, who tops the list.
Meanwhile, Ozil has built a reputation for being the king of assists, but he has made just two contributions in this category this term.
That puts him well behind Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne, the Chelsea duo of Nemanja Matic and Pedro, his own team-mates Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on those statistics.
Arsenal fans are now beginning to see through the Ozil hype machine, with this less than flattering verdict after last weekend’s 2-1 defeat at Manchester City suggesting the German was not even worthy of a place in Wenger’s starting line-up.
Could it be that the Ozil legend is more of a mirage than a reality? In truth, we have already waited too long for an answer to that question and with Wenger admitting that his club will ‘need a good bank’ if they are to keep a footballer whose vast social media following inflates his value, you have to ask whether he is worthy of such vast riches.
In a team that has flattered to deceive time and again for far too long, Ozil is in danger of emerging as their most over-rated pretender-in-chief.