Former Burnley midfielder Joey Barton has defended Mesut Ozil’s performance for Arsenal in Saturday evening’s defeat to Stoke City.

Wonder of wonders, somebody has defended Mesut Ozil from the onslaught of criticism following Arsenal’s defeat to Stoke City. Of all people, it was Joey Barton who came to his defence.

The midfielder, now a pundit, has some free time on his hands after being banned for betting on his own team, and explained on talkSPORT that Ozil was not to blame for Arsenal’s defeat. “He is the easy person to pick on,” Barton said.

“His skill set is in a different area, creating goals and giving other players opportunities. It was a bad ball from Granit Xhaka [for the Stoke goal] and then he compounds the mistake by leaving the centre of the park. But you have to give Stoke credit – it is a great finish by the kid.”

Ozil has been branded a liability, amongst other things, due to the part he played in the goal. Sold a bad pass by Xhaka, Ozil didn’t track back far enough into midfield and wasn’t able to keep up with Stoke’s Jese Rodriguez.

The move produced the winning goal and Ozil came in for stick for not covering the mistakes of his teammates. Meanwhile, his contributions to the offensive part of Arsenal’s game – what he’s there to do in the team – were mostly ignored despite the clear influence he had on the game.

Barton is correct that Ozil is an easy target for pundits. He’s well known for being languid and not charging around the pitch like a typical Premier League player, hence is often perceived as not working hard enough for the team.

It’s easier for a pundit to talk over a clip of Ozil not tracking back than it is to talk about his attacking contributions.

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News and feature writer with a BA in Creative and Professional Writing from the University of East London. Long-time Arsenal fan also following Sevilla and local side Southend United. You can find me on Twitter @jeinchy29 talking about Arsenal and the issues affecting the English game,