Mesut Ozil has been hailed after his game against Cardiff on Sunday but did the German do anything different?
Perception is king.
Mesut Ozil came into Sunday’s Premier League game against Cardiff with the eyes of the world on him.
How would he respond to the criticism sent his way because he had a cold? Would he step up and do what Unai Emery was asking of him or would he lurk in the shadows of the Arsenal team?
“I think today in the second half Mesut played a good match because he worked every minute that he was on the pitch,” said Emery after the match.
“Maybe with the control and possession [we had] in the second half, and the positions on the pitch, he feels better on the pitch.
“I want to give every player the same condition and every player is very important. With Ozil and his quality, I think we need… his quality for the team.”
If we take just Ozil’s whoscored ratings for the season, then Sunday was indeed his best match. He registered a 6.65 against the Bluebirds compared to a 6.14 against Chelsea and a 6.17 against City, but those are hardly world class numbers, nor is there much of a difference. That leads me to believe Ozil is playing as he always plays and it’s all about perception, as it has always been with him.
If Ozil was as mentally weak as his detractors would have us believe, then the events of this summer should have destroyed him. He has been all but abandoned by his home country that worshipped him for years, blamed for their failure at the World Cup despite helping win it for them four years earlier, left to stand on his own as he challenges racism, and had to watch as his character was dissected and devalued in public across the world.
Who wouldn’t crumble under the weight of that?
But, in fact, Ozil hasn’t crumbled. He’s been a bit off form in a team filled with players struggling for form – yet once again we see him apportioned the largest share of the spotlight.
Whatever truckload of money he’s now getting per week, we should all expect more. That’s fair. It seems Emery thinks so as well, and what is being asked of Ozil is nothing that isn’t in his locker. Would he have started the game against West Ham if he hadn’t had the ‘sniffles’? It’s doubtful and he finds himself at a crossroads. Despite having a trophy cabinet rammed full of the world’s top prizes, massive doubts hang over his career and the decisions he makes this season will go a long way to sealing his reputation one way or the other.
Will he step up and let Emery guide him to another level or will he sink from the weight of expectation? He doesn’t really have long left to decide as Emery moves closer to a settled starting XI but much of the decision making may lay out of Ozil’s control. Arsenal’s next run of games after the international break are all winnable and they will expect to put together a sequence that lifts them up the table significantly. Will Ozil accept the challenge Emery has laid at his feet to be one of the club’s five captains?
I doubt we will see a large change in Mesut Ozil’s overall game at this stage but that’s probably not what he needs the most at all.
What he needs is a change of perception in the media. Until that happens, unless Ozil starts scoring or assisting in every game, nothing he does will be good enough for many.