Now, I know that for some people today’s blog topic will be divisive and before even reading a single sentence there will be people slagging me off on social media, purely because of the headline and not because of what I’m about to say, because that’s how social media works. People won’t read most of this blog they’ll just dismiss it based on the title. But it’s something I’ve been thinking for the last 24 hours and so I thought I’d share.
First and foremost, this is not an Özil fanboy blog. I’m not going to list ten reasons why Mesut Özil is the best whatever happens in life because I am fully aware and accepting that his contribution last season was pretty poor if we’re honest. His ‘numbers’ were pretty bad, he fell out with the manager, he looked off-key for large swathes of last season and it looked like Arsenal had ‘moved on’ without him. And given the money his ‘people’ negotiated with Ivan that seems to be sapping the club of its resources (if you believe Josh Kroenke), you might even go to say his contribution was ‘dire’ for a player on that level of weekly cashola into his bank, because for that money you should expect one of the top three or four players in the world. If you pay for caviar you don’t expect to be served sausages…
But whilst I only watched the highlights reel of the Bayern game, what I did get from it is that Özil performed well and looked to have a little more zip about him than most of the second half of the season. He showed glimpses of that vision, the touch, he made some nice intricate moves in the centre of the park, he looked like he was finding the kind of pockets of space we want from a playmaker and he was also getting in to offensive positions that you’d hope would bare fruit throughout a 50 game season if done so with consistency throughout.
And it got me thinking of the old Mesut Özil. Remember the one you and I saw at the Word Cup in 2010? The one that mesmerised at Real Madrid with his telepathic relationship with Ronaldo?The Özil that came to us and turned into an assist king? Remember that one?
I do. I still think he’s in there, somewhere, and whilst questions can be asked as to whether we’ll ever see that guy again I think the possibility of that is a lot higher than other players. Özil is somebody who doesn’t rely ok his pace so he’s not going to be a player who when that starts to dip is going to lose a big part of his game. People will call ‘heresy’ on me for even making the comparison but Dennis Bergkamp could play well into his mid 30s at the highest level because his game was based on vision more than pace. Özil may not be anywhere near the player Bergkamp was – certainly for The Arsenal – but the same principles can apply. Özil can still recover form because his age and certain attributes dwindling should not have an impact on what makes him the gifted footballer he is.
I also wonder what the options are for us fans in terms of him and next season.
He’s not going anywhere this summer, we all know that, because he is a damaged asset at this moment in time and an expensive one at that. So given that information surely it should be in everyone’s interest to see if we can get the old Mesut Özil back?
What good is last season’s Özil to us as fans? What good is he to the club? What good is he to Unai Emery? What good is he to himself and his own ‘brand’?
He isn’t. So we should all be desperate to get that old Mesut Özil back. Which is the mindset I’m taking rather than the “he’s f*cking sh*t” or “get out of our club and go to Turkey”, etc, etc, etc.
My hope, my very real extreme hope, is that Özil himself is also asking the questions above and my hope is that he comes back with the focus and determination to show that whilst everyone is writing his football obituary now and expecting him to coast his way through his mega contract, that he himself is taking action this pre season to repair his own reputation and one of the top players at the club. There’s no doubt we didn’t see that last season with nearly enough consistency, but if we can start to see some ‘green shoots’ of recovery in terms of his application, form, but also the kind of passing range that started to be evident in that friendly against the German Champions, then he can still have a massive impact on the 2019/20 season.
Once again – for clarity – I know that it is a pre season friendly and means little, but in a summer in which we seem to have had knocking after knocking as Arsenal fans, wouldn’t it be good to be looking at somebody like that as a player that we could count on?
The biggest question must go to Özil and Emery though. Are they both ready to patch things up? Is Emery ready to see where Özil can be useful in his tactical set up and is Özil good enough, malleable enough, to adapt to that whilst also showing us the application and end product he sorely lacked last season?
I certainly hope so.
Let me know what you think.