Mesut Ozil is Arsenal’s most talented player – It’s not just the “what Mesut sees” stuff, the great passes and corner kicks, but also the way he sees space and works tirelessly to occupy/vacate space, which is a hugely underrated talent.
I will also say that Mesut Ozil is not the problem with Arsenal – I mean this literally. The problem with Arsenal is a lack of balance and purpose-built team construction or training. If you play Mesut Ozil, and I believe that you should use him as much as possible, you have to compensate for his weaknesses with other players, or with a system, on the pitch.
Tony Adams and Thierry Henry are club legends – they have statues, literally, at the club. Adams stayed with Arsenal during the worst of times, fought off his own personal demons of alcoholism, and helped launch Wenger’s career in English football.
Until very recently Adams and Wenger were close friends, they texted each other every day. I wrote about their falling out on 7amkickoff back in May. What prompted Wenger to cut Adams off was a very open criticism of the manager, not the players. Adams merely said what many other players have said about Arsene Wenger: that he’s not a great defensive coach.
What Adams said in his book, which was serialized in the Sun, was that Wenger couldn’t coach his way out of a paper sack. The full quote is a lot less damning than that, he says Wenger is a great manager in several different ways. But the main argument is that Wenger doesn’t seem to be able to coach a defense and that is backed up by other players in several other sources.
Here is Lee Dixon from the book Invincibles by Amy Lawrence:
George [Graham] drilled us into very knowledgable individuals, and a defence that could almost play with its eyes shut. I don’t know whether Arsene could do that. Well, he couldn’t!
That’s not his style, he is not knowledgeable about the defensive side of the game. He doesn’t push people around on the training pitch; he creates environments. A perfect example of that is Ashley Cole: Ash couldn’t defend to save his life when he got into the Arsenal team – and he’d agree with me.
But he had arguably one of the best coaches around for him in Tony Adams standing next to him. Tony had him on a piece of string. Arsene didn’t coach him once. Arsene doesn’t particularly know whether the left-back is in the right position or not! But he knows that Tony knows. So he put Ash next to Tony and said, have a look at him. That blend of experience is the perfect platform for Arsene to do his stuff.
Because that’s what he is brilliant at – creating environments to prepare players to be the best they possibly can.
Since putting all this together back in May I have completely softened on my criticism of individual players. It’s not Ramsey’s fault that he’s constantly in the box and it’s not even the center backs’ fault when they get turned by a player, or someone runs past them and scores. That’s Wenger’s fault. The whole team’s defensive organization is soft as a wheel of brie left in the sun at a picnic.
However I see an agenda in Özil’s open letter to the Arsenal supporters. He wants to shift blame away from his performances because some of the labels he’s getting (like “lazy”) are hugely damaging to a player’s career. When he goes to play for his next team, these labels are going to dog him. I would say that it’s too late but I think that’s what they (his PR firm) are most worried about. But the argument they use is one which his PR firm plucked from the aggressively positive (aggropoz) twitter supporters: supporters should support and otherwise shut up. “My advice to these former Gunners: stop talking and start supporting!” barked Ozil in his open letter.
I get this garbage all the time. The aggropoz Gooners feel like it’s their responsibility to instruct people on true supportering. They have a party line and you already know it:
- the referees are at fault
- 27.5 is 28
- you don’t understand football
- that was just bad luck
- it’s not as bad as you think
- why do you feel like you deserve a League title
- Arsenal are a poor team and can’t compete monetarily with other clubs
- dissent at any time – in the stands, in the blogs, on twitter, from former players – is the reason for certain player’s negative attitudes and performances. And in the greatest bit of circular logic ever, criticism of the players, manager and club is to blame for when the club have a bad performance.
But number seven is the big one: shut up and put up. That’s their argument. That’s Özil’s PR firm’s argument.
I just got out of a long term relationship with someone who was aggropoz and it was relationship jail. Because while they were critical of everyone around them, often venomously, they couldn’t handle any critique in return. Any critique was met with aggressive behavior. The exact same thing I find with aggropoz Gooners.
I’m not defending people who are over the top with their criticism or who are relentlessly negative (relentneg). There is definitely a level of criticism which is unwarranted. I’ve seen relentneg on AFTV and even in the stands, twice, directed at Abou Diaby. If your life has become a firehose of anger toward Arsenal or a player, that you unleash every weekend, maybe you should break up with Arsenal. Or go to therapy.
But the exact opposite of that, this idea that ANY criticism means that I should go support another club, or that I should just walk around held hostage to my ideas, that I should “stop talking and start supporting!” is equally negative, but it’s a negativity in positivity’s clothing.
As I find with most things, somewhere between the two extremes lies the truth. Özil is a beautiful footballer who I think is sometimes underrated. In his one year that he got 19 assists for Arsenal, he nearly made Arsenal into League champs. If Arsenal’s finishing could have kept pace with his prodigious passing, maybe we would have won the League. He was also a key part of the FA Cup runs and no one will ever forget the fact that Arsenal won three FA Cups in 4 years thanks at least in part to Mesut Ozil.
Özil also requires players around him to cover for his deficiencies, specifically his lack of defense. It is partly his fault that we need to have a team set up that covers for his lack of defending. He could work on that part of his game and make the team better. But he doesn’t and hasn’t for four years at this club. And that means it’s the manager’s job to sort that out, to cover for him and to make the team stronger.
It doesn’t make me a bad supporter to point out the latter, nor a good supporter to point out the former. And if Özil truly wants to shut his critics up, he should spend less time crafting carefully worded open letters to the fans and more time assisting his teammates on the pitch. If he got 20 assists this season I can guarantee that all criticism of him will be piled onto the trash heap of history.
Did I just take Özil’s “shut up and support” and spin it around into “shut up and play”? I guess I did to an extent. Though, I would back down from the shut up part. I would say: “say what you want on Facebook but I’m more interested in how you play on the pitch.”
Over to you now, Özil.