There were a few moments in football this week that made me wonder. The first was regarding published translations of Mesut Özil’s autobiography. I haven’t read the book and I don’t speak German (I learned rudimentary German as a child) but the report I read was in the Guardian and the book is supposedly written in Özil’s own words. So, I have no reason to disbelieve the veracity of news reports.
There are a number of quotes floating around and some reports, like over at Fox News, have more details than the Guardian article but the basic gist of the quote goes like this:
“You think two beautiful passes are enough,” raged Mourinho. “You think you’re so good that fifty percent is enough. You think you are too nice to tackle.”
“He pauses. Stares at me with his dark brown eyes. I stare back. Like two boxers at the stare-down before the first round. He shows no emotion. Just waits for a response from me. How much I hate him right now. And I love Mourinho actually.”
Mourinho then proceeded to illustrate Ozil’s tackling deficiency in colorful fashion. “Do you know what your tackling looks like? No? I’ll show you.”
According to Ozil, Mourinho then mimicked a rabbit, pursing his lips, pulling his hands close to his side, and hopping around the dressing room.
Ozil writes that this sent him over the edge, and he then threw his jersey at Mourinho, daring him to go out and do better himself. That didn’t make things any better, and Mou fired back. “Oh, are you giving up now? You’re such a coward. What do you want? To creep under the beautiful, warm shower? Shampoo your hair? To be alone? Or do you want to prove to your fellow players, the fans out there, and me, what you can do.”
Özil doesn’t return to the match. He does in fact go to the shower.
I couldn’t have penned a better scene if I wanted to make a character look like a complete and utter codpiece. Both of them. No one comes out of this exchange looking good. Mourinho prancing around the locker room like a rabbit and Özil throwing his shirt at the manager and telling him “YOU GO DO IT IF YOU WANT IT SO BAD” then hitting the showers after quitting on his teammates and the fans who paid to see him play.
The Özil-backers I’ve spoken to say that Mourinho didn’t motivate Özil properly, and they are right. Clearly, Mesut Özil doesn’t respond to Mourinho’s childish antics. But then, what does he respond to?
I only ask because it seems to me that these are the same criticisms I have had of Özil since he came to Arsenal. That there are games when he looks like he’s not putting in the effort. That there are games when he looks like all he has to do is play a nifty pass and he feels his job is done.
I don’t expect Özil to shawcross people or run around pointing at things like Flamini. But this season looks like he’s taken a year off. He has fewer tackles than Theo Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Fewer blocked passes than either player as well. And this season he has the fewest tackles P90 than at any point in his Arsenal career. Though he is at an Arsenal “career high” in interceptions per90 this season, with 0.6, up from his appalling 0.3 per game in 2013/14.
Obviously, Özil doesn’t disappear down the drain in every match for Arsenal. And his contributions on the offensive end are decent for a creative midfielder. But even his Key Passes per 90 are at his worst ever for Arsenal (2nd worst ever for any team he’s played!). And his dribbles per game are at their lowest ever for any team he’s played for.
He’s not closing people down, he’s not blocking passes, he’s not creating for his teammates, he’s not taking on the opposition, what is he doing? Well, his shots per game are at a career 2nd best with 1.6 per game. 0.2 more than last season. Also, he passes the ball good, 66 times per game.
Back to the question about what motivates Özil. Surely it’s comedy to think of Mou and his bunny dance but then if that doesn’t work and Özil just quits on his team and on the fans who pay to see him, then what is Wenger doing that has demotivated Özil this season? Did Wenger yell at him? Ask him to do something he doesn’t want to do? And how does Wenger motivate him?
I don’t know.
But I think criticism of Özil this season is 100% valid.