Type Mesut Ozil into Twitter and you’re going to be confronted by three angry opinions.
The first will ask why a player earning (insert random amount as long as it’s above £300,000-a-week) isn’t scoring a hat-trick and saving a penalty every game.
The second will be a variation of Ozil being a ghost/going missing/being invisible/bottling it.
The third will be about how he spends too much of his spare time in Turkey with his girlfriend.
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Now, I know Ozil isn’t particularly bothered what @ARSEnalTIL1D1E says about him on Twitter, or any social media platform for that matter.
But I still feel the need to defend him, for Ozil is the last of a dying breed.
Around 66 million years ago dinosaurs became extinct. In 1861 the dodo bird followed dinosaurs into the history books.
When Ozil calls it a day it’ll mark the end of the carefree, no strings attached playmaker.
Twenty years ago these (metaphorically) cigar smoking, slipper wearing, stats confounding mavericks could be found in every top European side.
Juventus had Zinedine Zidane. Inter Milan had Roberto Baggio. Real Madrid had Guti. Barcelona had Rivaldo. AC Milan had Zvonimir Boban. Roma had Francesco Totti.
Juan Roman Riquelme would follow at Barcelona and Villarreal.
These players would thrive when handed the freedom of the city. Not just that, they would entertain the crowd, ensuring that win, lose or draw you came away from the game with something to talk about.
But, at the risk of sounding like Yer Da talking about the state of hip-hop nowadays, there isn’t really a place for that type of player in today’s game.
Just take a look at the creative tour de force’s in English football.
David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne tore the Premier League apart from a deeper position.
Christian Eriksen split his time between playing a deeper role and operating off the right, with only a handful of games coming in the traditional no.10 position.
Chelsea’s main magician Eden Hazard found himself playing as a false 9 or left winger under Antonio Conte.
When Eriksen plays in the hole he’s more often than not protected by defensive behemoths Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama.
When Eriksen gets his head up to pick a pass he’s got Harry Kane offering up front and Danny Rose, Ben Davies or Kieran Trippier flying on an overlap.
Now think of Mesut last season.
How many times did he put Nacho Monreal in the perfect crossing position only for the Spaniard to balloon the ball past the back post?
How many times did he play the ball around the corner to Danny Welbeck only to see the ball turned over while he’s in transition?
It’s no wonder he looks pretty unenthusiastic from time to time.
Ozil’s job isn’t to defend, his job is to create.
No one at Arsenal has played more key passes per game than Ozil last season.
No one in the Premier League plays more key passes per game, including De Bruyne, Hazard and Eriksen. Read that sentence again. Soak it in.
Ozil led Arsenal for assists in the Premier League and Europa League.
Critics will say he’s a flat track bully but he provided multiple assists in key Europa League games against AC Milan and CSKA Moscow, one against Spurs and scored against Liverpool and Everton.
Granted he didn’t always show up in the big games last season, but it’s difficult to show up when you’re playing in a team bereft of confidence who struggle to keep the ball.
The money he’s earning every week shouldn’t be used as a tool to beat him with every time he has an off night.
After all, he could have earned exactly the same, if not more, somewhere else without the burden of Arsenal Fan TV lurking over his head after every game.
Then there was Germany’s 2018 World Cup debacle.
Ozil’s decision to pose with president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was probably misguided, but who knows what was going on behind the scenes.
The fact they’ve been meeting since 2010 shows that it’s only a problem when Germany lose.
On the pitch, Ozil played more key passes per game than any other player at the tournament.
So why does he face such contempt? Your guess is as good as mine, although Ozil’s recent statements suggested he’s got his own theories.
Maybe his running technique isn’t pained enough. Maybe I’ve just got a strange obsession with no.10s.
I’m going to miss him when he’s gone, and I’m sure many of the keyboard warriors who love to slate him all over social media will rush to tweet about how good he is once he’s no longer playing.
How many players have their own trademark pass? Enjoy him while you can.
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