Does Mesut Ozil deserve the criticism he receives?
Mesut Ozil is a footballer who divides opinion quite like no other. A player with incredible talent and guile who has the skill and speed of thought to take a game by the scruff of the neck and shape it in whichever way he fancies. One of the top performers in the world in terms of assists and chances created, Ozil can be one of the most dangerous playmakers in the world on his day. However, an emphasis must be placed on the term 'on his day' as this is where the issues lie.
As frustrating as he is brilliant- Mesut Ozil has his fair share of critics. Whilst we can all appreciate his magic when he is in full flow, he is liable to supposedly disappearing in games when his team needs him most, and not quite fancying it on dark cold away days as opposed to the comfort of glamour home ties in Europe.
It is easy for the fan sat at home on the sofa to launch scathing attacks on the German legend, but his achievements and contributions for both club and country cannot be discounted.
8 Honors at club level, a World Cup winners medal as well as being part of an Under-21 European Championship winning side for Germany, backed up by several individual honors notably being named German National Team Player of the year on no fewer than five occasions.
Ozil has seen it all and been involved in so much success throughout his career that it is scarcely believable that he gets so much criticism. This is a man who has played over 500 senior games at club level and appeared for Germany 92 times- surely that doesn't just happen? This would take a lot of effort, commitment and longevity at the top level and for sure he has shown that over the years.
Much of the criticism that comes his way is regarding his perceived lack of effort and work rate, with fans and critics alike claiming he saunters around the field not quite showing the level of commitment that gets you off your seat or rouses your teammates. As a player who is seen to be so influential and a leader amongst relatively inexperienced squads a lot of the onus is rested on the German playmaker's shoulders.
It has to be said that he often does look fairly labored and laid back, however, he comes to life when the ball is at his feet and he sees that killer pass or opportunity. Such is his talent, he can be anonymous for an hour of the game and then come to life and be the match winner which was wonderfully demonstrated in a Man of The Match performance for Arsenal against Leicester this season.
Whilst he may not be the kind of guy to charge around the field with his heart on his sleeve, he is a joy to watch when he is on song. But do we see enough of this maestro at work? Arguably not, there have been many occasions where he has been ineffective when his side have needed him most. On big European nights in the Champions League where Arsenal have looked lost and turned to their influential midfield magician, they have often been left disappointed.
Admittedly he can't do it all on his own, but the fact they have seen so much of the good in him means they are even more upset when he doesn't perform. Take his wondergoal against Bulgarian side Ludogorets, it showcased everything that is great about him, the skill, the speed of mind and composure to score in the way he did was breathtaking.
But are goals against minnows and only turning up on occasion good enough for a player of this caliber? There are certainly less talented players in the Premier League with a higher work rate that are lauded for their performances on a weekly basis regardless of how statistically inferior they are to Ozil.
His body language does not help, but is he really that ineffective or lazy? A few seasons back when he was receiving criticism on a regular basis it was actually proven that he, in fact, ranked 2nd in the Arsenal squad in terms of distance covered in the 2016/17 campaign. He also ranked 4th for the number of sprints, two statistical areas that many would not expect him to excel in.
In terms of goal involvement, in 152 Premier League appearances he has scored 30 times and registered 51 assists. In short, he is recording a goal involvement every 1.87 games. Ozil is also the only player in history to have topped the season assist charts in the Bundesliga, LaLiga and Premier League.
Not only that, he became the quickest player to reach a half-century of assists in the Premier League era earlier in 2018 which is no mean feat considering he reached this tally faster than the likes of Eric Cantona, Cesc Fabregas and Dennis Bergkamp. Staggeringly, Mesut Ozil has remarkably also earned the title of being the only player to have created 1000 goalscoring chances in the top five European leagues.
The stats don't lie, this is a mercurial talent we are talking about and a player who remains central to Arsenal's hopes of success. As much as he is often made to be the scapegoat for the clubs failures, he certainly has a lot to do with the good we see in a sometimes faltering Arsenal side. If they are to challenge for silverware and trophies they will need him on top form, regardless of his flaws.
One manager however who won't be able to call on Ozil's many talents is Germany boss Joachim Low. A greatly publicized fallout with the national team has seen an early retirement from the playmaker with accusations flying around left, right and centre. When Mesut retired, he cited those within the federation with 'racially discriminative backgrounds' as a reason for quitting.
A very sad ending to a successful international career, especially for a Germany side which seems to be losing its way somewhat. They have followed up a disastrous World Cup campaign with relegation from their Nations League Group.
Perhaps now there may be a tinge of regret for those who spoke so harshly of Mesut Ozil. But for now, he can fully focus on his club football and concentrate on silencing his critics at club level by bringing success to Arsenal and Unai Emery.