Alex: It’s hard at this point to separate my feelings about Ozil from those about Wenger. To me, they feel inextricably linked. Arsene has never been one for great tactical flexibility, but Ozil’s role at the club wipes out any chance of it. Mesut can really only play in the #10 role, and it’s a traditional #10 role that is distinct from the rest of the midfield. As such, Arsenal’s central midfield pair are often outnumbered and overrun by the opposition’s three. This tactical sacrifice is reasonable if the #10 you’re accommodating is playing out of his skin and delivering goals and assists on a weekly basis, but Ozil isn’t. He also can’t or won’t beat a man (which he often did when he was younger) and rarely shoots when given the opportunity.
As a romantic, I love the guy and the way he plays, but in today’s Premier League Arsenal can rarely afford the luxury. At his best, Ozil is sublime. We just don’t see it often enough to warrant the financial outlay or the physical and tactical costs to the rest of the team.
Mohaned: Ozil’s impact started before he even set foot in London. The announcement of his signing on the final day of the summer transfer window was a breath of fresh air. Arsene had finally spent big.
After a great first half of the season, he slowed down after the busy Christmas period. As February hit, and in true Arsenal fashion, he started to struggle. Many attributed that to not having a winter break and the demanding nature of the league. Yet, he ended the season with a trophy; the FA Cup. Not the horrendous season some tried to claim but improvement was required.
He came back the next season as a World Cup champion and an integral role in that, but it turned out to be his most disappointing season to date. Weak, not working hard and with horrible stats (7 assist and 5 goals in 31 appearances).
The 2015-16 season was Ozil on fire. Arsenal’s best player by far, Ozil ended the season on 19 assists, one away from Thierry Henry’s record. If it weren’t for Giroud being a donkey, he would’ve smashed the record. Either way, Arsenal’s player of the season was Ozil.
The current season started with Ozil in a new role, running past Sanchez in an attempt to score more goals. And he did! He and Sanchez carried Arsenal in the league, with Ozil scoring nine before January. Since then, things have dried up. His languid body language has returned and he isn’t showing the drive that people want to see. Is it his fault? I’ll get to that answering the next question.
Bernie: I find Mohaned’s love affair with Mesut Ozil to be absolutely farcical. Ozil had a tough first season. There were definite signs of brilliance but overall his impact wasn’t what the initial excitement required. This season, the German started well but his dip in form came faster than it has in previous years. Honestly, he’s just been shocking. We can’t see the effort he’s putting in but the real issue is that we just can’t see him on the pitch at all. This signing has so far been a 6/10 and that’s a shame.
WHAT CAN HE DO TO SUCCEED IN THIS ARSENAL TEAM?
Bernie: He needs to put his head down and do what made him successful in his second season. Get stuck in more, work harder on the defensive side of the game and command the ball. When he’s done that he’s been great, when he goes into his shell he’s a waste of space. Whether Wenger tells him to do so or not he’s simply got to assert himself more and the team will benefit as a result.
Mohaned: Bernie, Bernie, Bernie! The answer to this question is…NOTHING! Ozil is Ozil. You know what you get with him. What he needs is a manager who can build a team around him. You don’t buy Ozil then play him out wide, or play him in front of sub-par defensive players in midfield. You don’t buy Ozil then stop playing possession football. All mismatches between Ozil as a player and Arsenal as a team. You know with Ozil you won’t be getting a defensive shift, so Wenger should have made it a priority to buy a beast of a defensive midfielder rather than rely on Coquelin and buying Xhaka; a ball playing midfielder. Where’s the Kante to your Ozil? Until Arsenal change their game to suit Ozil, you won’t get anything from him. But, if you adapt to him and allow him to thrive, you could easily have the MVP of the league on your books.
Alex: Mohaned is saying “let him focus on what he’s good at”, and I wish I could go along with it, but it doesn’t reflect Arsenal’s current reality. I agree that sometimes the way the team is set up and the way Arsenal play isn’t perfect for Ozil, but if you have a player that requires everything else to be absolutely perfect for him to play well, you’ve got a problem.
Arsenal need him to up his defensive contribution and create a proper central midfield three that operates as a unit. Ultimately though, the way in which his role is interpreted is down to the manager, so how much control Ozil has over that is arguable. Offensively, the assists come as a natural part of his game but he needs to rediscover the scoring form of early this season. A player with Ozil’s quality should get at least 10 goals a season.
SHOULD HE STAY OR GO?
Mohaned: It depends on the type of person Mesut Ozil is. Does he value money over trophies? Does he value an easy starting spot over a challenge? Does he put a high bearing on the city he lives in? Is he satisfied with what he has achieved in his career so far and is now a good time to relax? Since I’ll never know how he thinks, I will answer this from an Arsenal’s fan perspective.
He is beloved by the fans at the Emirates, he has won two FA Cups, and in the near future (as soon as next season) he might be managed by a new manager that will use him the right way. Imagine Ozil in front of Kante and Matic supplying Hazard and Costa. You must allow him to thrive. Basically, if Wenger stays, Ozil should leave.
Bernie: What in the world are you on about? Arsenal fans may love Ozil but make no mistake most would like to see him dropped because he’s not pulling his own weight. I can’t wait for you to finally admit that and join your peers. Again, watch Arsenal Fan TV to see it for yourself. There’s a chant that a few Arsenal fans have drummed up: “Where was Ozil? Mesut Ozil. I just don’t see him on the pitch. He wants to stay at home, w***ing all alone, where was Mesut Ozil?” If keeping Ozil means paying him more money, then he should leave. Sell him and buy Marco Reus if he doesn’t shape up.
Alex: On balance, stay. As I said, I think the manager is a bigger problem and I’d like to see how another manager uses him. That said, if he is just going to leave as soon as Arsene Wenger does, he might as well sod off now.