Today’s article is by Dyllan Munro
Must try harder – the man who, in his first season, has created a league-leading number of chances for his new team …
You may think the heading refers to increasing tensions in the Middle East caused by an unstable Syria, uncompromising Israel and levels of sectarian violence not saw since the last Old Firm game. Perhaps you suspect it refers to America’s inability to stop school shootings or Britain’s apparent acceptance that class structure is forever ingrained and inescapable. You may suspect I’m talking about the rise of One Direction or the fact that Splash! somehow got re-commissioned for a second series. The matter to which I am actually referring is the stupidity of some Arsenal fans.
Not the section I’ve previously railed about in my own blog that is dismissive of foreign fans and believe you’re only a true Gooner if you’ve battered a policeman outside Highbury. The section concerned is those who seem to be terribly dismissive of our own players. The same people who chanted to “spen’ saam faacking munee” are now questioning the influence of Özil, of Mesut F**king Özil fame.
It’s this blatant abuse of the freedom of expression that makes me think that perhaps it wouldn’t have been that bad for the Germans to have won the war after all. They had their faults, the Germans, but they never accused Özil of being rubbish. In all honesty I initially assumed that the people criticising our talismanic German weren’t fans watching the games, but rather individuals craving attention that had decided they’d grown tired of issuing death threats to Bieber haters. I then witnessed people that I knew to have full control of their cognitive processes voicing, albeit quietly, the belief that perhaps Özil wasn’t all he was cracked up to be.
This drew my attention because either:
a) People I knew had been killed off by a shady organisation and replaced by idiots
b) There may be some basis for the opinion that our £42.5m signing (the biggest in our history, 2nd biggest in Premier League history and the record ever paid for a German) was a flop.
I acknowledge that while watching games it can be very hard to focus entirely on one player so I cast aside my impressions of Özil based on watching him and had a quick perusal of the ol’ stat book. After examining these details and combining it with having watched all Arsenal’s games I came to the conclusion that all those people were tragically afflicted with ignorant fucknugget disease. In all seriousness it’s got to the stage that it’s probably just best for humanity to start over.
If we ignore the fact that it is Özil’s first season with us – and to be honest there’s no reason why we should – then he has still done fantastically well. In our 22 league games so far Mesut has featured in 17 of them, missing 3 at the start before he was signed and 2 in the Christmas period due to a “shoulder injury”. He has created 51 chances for our team, which equates to 20.4% of our overall chances.
That is the highest total for any player in the league, if you’re interested.
He has also scored 4 goals which is surprising given his preference to pass even when on the opposition goal line. While some may criticise this total David Silva, Samir Nasri, Fernando Torres and Frank Lampard all have the same amount. He also has a shot accuracy of 83% as well as a passing accuracy of 88%. Mesut also boasts 7 assists, second only to Rooney in the charts.
If we compare him to Rooney, Nasri & Oscar who have all played well for their respective clubs this campaign we find a similar narrative. Özil shot accuracy 83%, Rooney 54%, Oscar 48% whilst Nasri has 59%. Özil pass accuracy 88%, Rooney 80%, Oscar 82% whilst Nasri has 90% with 82 fewer attempted passes than Özil. Our Germanic talent also has the most key passes out of the quartet. Whilst not particularly relevant, Mesut has yet to be booked in the league, demonstrating our team’s discipline whilst the others have 3 with the exception of Rooney who has somehow managed to accumulate 7. God knows how, then again some of those referees have grandmothers…
I prefer not to use stats as a sole argument as they can be misleading and they definitely don’t tell the whole story. I have been assuming though that you watch the Gunners play and can therefore draw on your experience of watching Özil play. His movement both on and off the ball frees up space for our other players in a way that almost no one else manages. He is one of the most talented players at finding space between defence and midfield, and as Thierry Henry said:
“It always seems like he has time on the ball.”
He is equally adept at drawing defenders away to open space for team-mates. Mesut is well aware that if he makes a run, no defender or defence-minded midfielder is going to leave him open if they can prevent it and he uses this to benefit the team.
The real problem is the mind-set in England. I’m not referring to the pessimism of Arsenal fans where a negative must be found to even the most positive of situations, or the heckling of a player new to the league, country, culture, cuisine, team-mates, manager, atmosphere and system of play. I’m talking about the image of a blood and thunder style footballer ingrained into your national psyche. An England fan will forever hold dear the hard men of old, the Butchers and fellow walking wounded. Jack Wilshere even referenced it a few weeks ago when talking about national teams saying that:
”Spain are technical but you think of England and you think they are brave and tackle hard.”
It’s why a player like Kompany has built up such a strong reputation because all his actions are powerful and full of energy. His ferocious displays full of bravado and fortitude help to mask what have been increasingly glaring deficiencies in his game. It’s also why it has taken so long for a player like Mertesacker to garner the praise he deserves. He won’t make these lunging last ditch tackles as he has already positioned himself in such a manner that those extremes aren’t necessary. His determined positioning and reading of the play couldn’t be further from a John Terry-style lunge or goal line clearance which the fans so love to see.
Mesut finds himself in that category. His glidetacular style and apparently relaxed play is foreign to those who love to see Rooney barge his way past defenders or to see Wilshere drop a shoulder and go past three. Özil isn’t the sort of player to dribble past the team and smash it into the net nor will he ever be. He was bought to augment our style, apply the finishing touches to our Emirates masterpiece. Instead of dribbling past them Özil dissects the defence with a pass or lures defenders with a shoulder feint. We bought arguably the most clinical passer in the game, with the most assists in Europe over the last 5 years. I’m sure that Arsene knew what he was buying and what to expect. If it didn’t match some fans expectations that is their own faults for having poorly constructed pre-conceptions of what Özil would be.
Özil still has some adapting to do in the league, that’s an indisputable fact. The pace of the play and ferocity of some of the smaller teams isn’t matched in the previous leagues he has played in. There is also more of a burden on him here as he is the undoubted star player whereas before there were plenty of other candidates to that title. However Özil will only improve with familiarity especially as other players return from injury. The rest of the league is in trouble when he fully blossoms.
I’ve been Dyllan Munro, thanks for reading and be sure to comment. You can get me on Twitter @GoonerDyllan if you fancy a chat. Thanks everyone.