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article imageOp-Ed: Mesut Ozil's poor form down to Arsene Wenger's mismanagement

By Tyrrell Meertins     Feb 21, 2014 in Sports
Arsene Wenger defined Arsenal’s knockout-round clash against European champions Bayern Munich as a measure of their progress.
Over the past three seasons, Wenger was forced to watch his side suffer mortifying first-leg defeats, and the year prior, they were victims of Lionel Messi’s brilliance at the same stage, in the second leg. The Champions League hasn’t been kind to Arsenal supporters, but this was an opportunity to avenge past misfortunes — a chance to eliminate the best side in Europe.
The Emirates was filled with many optimistic fans, as the crowd's energy fizzed throughout the stadium. Likewise, Arsenal hit the blocks running, enjoying an exceptional opening 10 minutes, led by summer signing Mesut Ozil. The maligned German playmaker was back to his best during that period. Ozil broke into space behind Javi Martinez, roamed around the final third, and earned a penalty when Jerome Boateng clipped the German inside the 18-yard box.
Ozil, however, turned hero to villain within seconds. The German’s indolent run-up led to a dismal penalty, which Manuel Neuer comfortably parried away. The 24-year-old’s confidence depleted, and despite covering 11.67km, Ozil’s disinterested demeanour was reminiscent of his body language in Arsenal’s trips to the Ethiad and Anfield, earlier this season.
"He was affected by the penalty miss," Wenger said. "You could see, even five or 10 minutes later, he was still shaking his head. It had a huge impact on his performance.”
This wasn’t the first time Ozil hung his head low in defeat, courtesy of a Toni Kroos masterclass, and frankly it’s become all too familiar in this competition. Bayern’s road to the finals in 2012 was Kroos’ coming out party, as he comfortably dominated the match, while Ozil was a peripheral figure — and at the Emirates, Ozil’s side suffered the same fate.
Yet, it’s difficult to understand how Ozil could’ve influenced a match with his side down to 10-men, or deliver a performance that would please the critics, against the best midfield in world football, when he rarely received the ball. Ozil’s £42 million transfer fee came with high expectations, and although it’s unfair to the German playmaker, world-class players have to cope with the pressure.
Ozil’s transfer from Spanish giants Real Madrid generated a significant confidence boost throughout the squad, but he wasn’t solely purchased to pip Bayern Munich. Shortly after his arrival to North London, Ozil produced sensational performances in an Arsenal shirt, but it’s undeniable that his form has declined over the past few weeks.
Nevertheless, it’s irrational to expect Ozil to sustain high energy levels throughout the entire season, especially when Wenger’s mismanaged the German’s minutes. There’s been a vast difference between the German’s playing time at the Bernabeu compared to the Emirates — Ozil’s already completed more games this season, than the entire 2012/2013 campaign for Madrid. The German’s impact lessens when he tires, so Mourinho opted to introduce Ozil off the bench, or remove him from the match within the final 20 minutes due to the prodigious amount of ground he covers per game.
Possessing a cool, laid-back personality on the pitch has overshadowed Ozil’s lack of fatigue. Without a winter break, the German has found it difficult to cope with countless fixtures and Wenger’s lack of squad rotation. More importantly, it’s fair to say the desperation purchase of Ozil has caught up with Wenger’s side, as the Frenchman doesn’t have the players at his disposal to maximize the German’s ability.
At Madrid, Ozil’s movement created space for his attackers to penetrate, as he cleverly ensured that he didn't replicate the runs of Angel Di Maria or Cristiano Ronaldo. Equally, he laterally glided around the final third looking to play incisive passes, along with executing dynamic runs into the channels to link play, and create lanes for his teammates to exploit.
Only Lionel Messi recorded as many assists as Ozil (47), during his time at Madrid, and the key to his success was runners.
Currently, Wenger's starting lineup lacks direct runners — with Theo Walcott sidelined for the rest of the season, Aaron Ramsey unavailable and Lukas Podolski out of favour, Ozil is unable to affect games.
Unlike, Kroos, Ozil thrives in a loose system, which sees him higher up the pitch looking to play the final ball. Neither Mourinho, nor Wenger instruct the German to fulfill defensive duties, and it’s unlikely that he ignores the instruction of his manager.
Ozil, though, isn’t a well-rounded creative player like Kroos. If you maximize Ozil’s strengths he's arguably the best no.10 in the world, but as we approach the latter stages of the season, it’s evident that Wenger’s decision to acquire the German playmaker was merely through pressure.
“You want the guy who plays behind the striker to score some goals and sometimes he is too obsessed with making the perfect pass when he could take a shot at goal," said Wenger ahead of Arsenal’s match against Manchester United.
Nonetheless, passing remains Ozil’s best attribute, while his finishing in front of goal needs improvement. Still, the players in the remaining attacking positions don’t enable Ozil to express his underlying talent. Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, and the underperforming Santi Cazorla have often played alongside Ozil, yet they rarely make runs behind the opposition’s backline.
Similarly, Olivier Giroud isn't a dynamic striker capable of dragging defenders out of position, and making diagonal runs towards goal. The French international often drops deep to hold up play and link passes with the midfield, but his off-the-ball movement, along with his lack of pace isn’t beneficial to Ozil. Frankly, the personnel best fit to Ozil’s strengths are unavailable, but the inclusion of Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain, and Yaya Sanogo provide the movement and direct threat that have elevated the German’s recent performances.
Ozil’s developed into the media scapegoat during his short spell at the Emirates, and while the German's languid body language can be held responsible, the constant negativity is absurd as his presence has improved Wenger's side.
The Gunners still remain in the FA Cup, and currently sit one point behind league leaders Chelsea. Only Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney have recorded more assists than the German, as he maintains an 88 percent passing rate, in which his three key passes per game are solely exceeded by David Silva.
Certainly, the pressure to make an immediate impact is expected, but many fail to understand that Ozil isn’t a match-winner like Thierry Henry or Robin van Persie, yet if properly utilized his impact can match the previous Arsenal stars.
Wenger succeeded in providing the club with a catalyst to highlight the club's ambition, lift the confidence in the dressing room, and reward the fans with a legitimate world-class player.
But, desperation acquisitions come with repercussions, and Wenger’s inability to maximize Ozil's strengths has derailed his impact.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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