Is Mesut Ozil lacking a spark of magic?
By Abdullah Mamaniyat
It was on deadline day in August that Mesut Ozil came to Arsenal. That same trophyless-but-fourth-place-was-like-trophy-to-us Arsenal. Fans could not believe it. I could not believe it. No-one could believe it. It seemed completely bizarre at the time how a player like that would consider swapping supplying Ronaldo for, well, anyone less talented. Quite phenomenally, a global superstar was coming to play in the Premier League.
Seven months on, that excitement doesn't seem to be apparent anywhere, least of all in the player. It's very fair to say that the German playmaker hasn't offered anything near to sublime from the minute go. His body language has had disinterested, careless and lack-lustre written all over it.
After all, it wasn't so long ago that Mertesacker was blasting his fellow countryman for refusing to applaud his own fans.
Is it a case of a team that has been under-performing all season, therefore the player too? Hell no. Is the player surrounded by a group of players that aren't up to it? Hell, hell no. Whatever it is, there is a deeper underlying problem to a farce of a debut season. Because by no means can a dog tag of 'flop' ever be wrapped around his collar justifiably for a player of this calibre. Not now, not ever.
Through all of this, there has been a call of a 'media bias' against Arsenal according to a large proportion of, err, Arsenal fans. To an extent, but to most of it, I don't buy it. Any back page headline that catches the peripheral of any is bound to have the social media circle roaring with pictures of it being retweeted and retweeted. The story of the moment is Mesut Ozil, like it or not. It sells copies, and it gets clicks. A story on Luis Suarez biting Branislav Ivanovic wouldn't sell at this moment. This would, in an ever evolving world of football on the e-media platform, boosted by heavily opinionated pundits that tweet every so often times a day that even the most intellect of them wouldn't have everyone simultaneously agree about everything they say, every day.
Justifying the current string of performances would only limit Ozil's defense to 'he's got a good assist per game ratio', but that's about it right now. Stats don't count for everything. They count for something, but just by watching the dazzling trail that someone like Ozil leaves can make statistics (in favour or not) seem irrelevant on the spot. It doesn't take a genius to realise that he hasn't been leaving trails of magic dust since November-December time, at the very earliest.
For now, the debate will remain whether Ozil can hack it and adapt in the long run. It was only Arsene Wenger saying in late-February: "It is difficult for him mentally to be confronted with that pressure every three days and in every single competition. But he will adapt." He can, and he will. The burden has so heavily rested on him being the catalyst and centre-piece for Arsenal's title charge, which can be deemed as highly unlikely and unsuccessful now. The over-reliance on him may have taken its toll on him, but also the out-of-form Olivier Giroud where an understanding of advanced runs seem to be lacking, more so without the pacey Theo Walcott who is out injured and understands.
Sometimes it takes even a world class player time to settle into the new surroundings and culture. Taking the situation of Alexis Sanchez with Barcelona, who seems to be finally flying after two seasons of frustration, it might be a while before we see Mesut Ozil burst into life. That may be at the World Cup, next season or the one after. But I would not be surprised to see him being hailed as the best number ten in the world sometime in the foreseeable future.