The Mesut Özil saga continues not only for the German national team but for Arsenal too. The further we go into this season the more suspicious the whole situation looks like. He was ill, but he stayed in the dressing room, he plays but nobody could notice him. Nobody knows if it was just a tactical decision but I know one thing – none of these helps the team perform better. Özil performed disastrous in the season-opening fixture against Manchester City and even worse in the next episode of the drama series against Chelsea. His lack of effort seems like he doesn’t feel good on the pitch and he is having a hard time meeting the manager’s and supporters’ expectations nowadays.
The big question is: Is he still useful for The Gunners or they looked way better without him in the hard-earned 3-1 win over West Ham?
Long story short
Unai Emery was clear on his pressing demands ever since his arrival and it seemed like it worked out for him pretty well during the pre-season. Players were giving their best, the team was playing as one and the hopes for a brighter future were high. But there was a thing we could notice even back then – Mesut was dragging himself back to his position and couldn’t get along with his teammates playing on a higher tempo and putting a massive pressure on their opponents.
Emery admitted that he held talks with the ex-German international and reportedly asked him to work harder and to show he deserves a starting XI spot, but what is even more suspicious is that the face-to-face talks were held on Thursday, right before Özil announced he is not feeling well. Mesut is well known for his “health issues” ever since his time at Real Madrid and many of the football supporters have noticed the little breaks he tries to take around Christmas or just when it comes to any personal problems. He earns the highest weekly wage (£350,000) at Arsenal but somehow this looks way more than what he deserves. His performance is surely not worth a £350,000-a-week and that could be really frustrating for his teammates that are trying their best to impress the boss and lead the team to a win but are getting less money just because they are not “the world-class player” Mesut Özil.
I don’t want it to look like I blame the whole team’s performance on Özil, but let’s take a look how he performed against Man City and Chelsea and is there a single thing that he managed to help with despite the disappointing defeats.
In the first game of the season he played a full 90 minutes and like the rest of the team, his performance was mediocre. His pass success was 76%, which is somehow a little percentage for him. He made two crosses for a whole game and none of them was accurate enough. He didn’t have even one shot – both on and off target and made a tackle that didn’t help the team get back the possession. Also, he managed to do only one successful dribble attempt. Not his best performance, eh? There were still some positives in his play – he made two key passes and won 5 of his 6 duels (mostly offensive ones, which once again shows his defensive contribution). Okay, somehow we can forgive him anything else if he at least provides the ball to the front lines, which he partly did against The Citizens. But that’s not happening on daily basis.
After the team went 0-2 down to City, they had to meet Chelsea once again (after the International Champions Cup fixture). And his stats were even more disappointing, as was the team’s performance. He was on the pitch for 68 minutes with pass success rate of 83%, but that should not fool you – there we no goals, assists, crosses, shots on target, interceptions and etc. Just one key pass which ended with offside. He decided to shoot only once and it was off target. This time he won only two of his 5 duels and actually was hardly noticeable on the pitch. He couldn’t get along with Mkhitaryan and their partnership wasn’t a one to scare Chelsea’s defenders. Actually, the Armenian was the team’s hero on his own – scoring once and assisting to Alex Iwobi 3 minutes later to make it 2:2.
Jorginho lost the possession of the ball and Özil took advantage of it. His decision-making was on point and despite being under pressure made a key pass to Aubameyang, who was behind defenders’ back. Eventually, this situation ended up with a goal for Arsenal, but just to be called off because of an offside.
In here he makes an effort to shoot. He receives the ball from Mkhitaryan deep in the box. Despite passing to Aubameyang, who is in a better position to shoot, no matter the pressure put on him, he decided to shoot and it was way off target.
The manager was given a full support on his decisions on the new signings and the starting XI afterwards – including whether Mesut Özil should play or not. He was absent in the third game against West Ham due to illness, or at least that is the official version. The manager used the likes of Matteo Guenduouzi, Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey to cover the midfield area and except Xhaka the youngster and Ramsey managed to do their job pretty satisfactorily. In fact, Mesut was swapped with Ramsey against Chelsea and that was the smartest decision Emery could make (after the not so smart one to leave Ramsey on the bench). He was subbed after 68 minutes of play and to be honest nobody missed him. Instead, Ramsey made an immense difference with his off the ball movement and managed to shoot twice (1 off target, 1 on target).
The immense pressure from Issa Diop didn’t bother Ramsey at all and he managed to make a perfect cross to Danny Welbeck who was able to shoot. Ramsey shows no laziness and is very active. Without Mesut, the whole team plays with better pace and puts more pressure on its opponents.
Ramsey received a loose ball and decided to immediately shoot despite passing (which is usually what Özil would do in such situations) and he surprised everyone with a low strike to the bottom left corner. A great save by Fabianski prevented the goal.
For many supporters, it was a logical decision to not play Mesut against West Ham, but there still is a doubt if it was a tactical one or he really couldn’t join the team to their first Premier League win of the season. There are rumours that Emery’s relationship with the player needs some stitches as it was during his last season at PSG where he was accused that there was tension between him and Neymar.
Even if the German was sick for real, that doesn’t mean it is going to be easy for him to earn back his starting XI spot. As you’ll probably agree that the backup option – Aaron Ramsey made Arsenal look and play differently and this is the sparkle the team needs. His partnership with Henrikh Mkhitaryan looks better and brings more positives than the Özil- Mikhi one. He played a full 90 minutes against The Hammers and there are some stats: 79% pass success 2 key passes, 1 shot on target, 3 successful dribble attempts, 7 duels won, 2 successful tackles. Not the performance of his life, but he made a positive difference in Arsenal’s style of play – a difference that Mesut Özil fails to bring lately.
The player lacks effort, not talent. His often not-so-passionate style of play brings a wholesome feeling that he doesn’t like his teammates and doesn’t want to wear the Arsenal shirt. He is not interested in providing any support to the back-four and he looks bored playing even on his position. Just no desire at all. And that is noticeable in every single game he takes action in. Actually “the assist king” is long gone and forgotten.
As we could see his performance during his time at Arsenal is unstable compared to his stay at Real Madrid. Of course, there are a lot of circumstances that take part in it but the difference is huge.
He came with a reputation of being a lethal creator but he has failed to prove so at the Emirates. A team that could not fix its issues at the back and is shaky in the middle could not make Mesut perform at his best. So it is Emery’s job to find the perfect position for him and try to motivate him as no one before.
Until then for me, the better decision is to give him a rest and use Aaron Ramsey instead. That may help for Ramsey to sign a contract extension too. So it is going to be a win-win story. The manager and Özil need to strengthen their relationship and be clear on their own wishes and expectations. That way they could finally reach on an agreement on what is best for the team.