There are two sides to every great playmaker.
On the one side you’ve got the mercurial talent who prepares for games by doing a couple of kick-ups with chewing gum before leading the opposition on a merry dance without breaking sweat.
Their finish of choice is a lob, they value nutmegs over international caps and you’ve almost certainly copied at least one of their haircuts.
On the other side is the percieved work-shy paradox whom managers struggle to fit into modern tactics.
Playmakers, no.10s to be specific, have long astonished and frustrated in equal measure. As the game evolves and 4-2-3-1 falls out of fashion, the position is becoming increasingly rare.
Mesut Ozil may well be the last of great out-and-out no.10s. But now his days at the top look numbered.
Ozil’s starring role against Burnley came four days after missing the north London derby against Spurs for ‘tactical’ reasons.
Last month, a trip to Bournemouth was deemed too ‘demanding’ for Ozil to handle by Arsenal boss Unai Emery.
The 30-year-old’s demise has been slightly exaggerated- only seven outfield players have clocked up more minutes for Arsenal in the Premier League this season- but Ozil is no longer indispensable.
However that has just as much to do with the position Ozil plays as it does his lack of ability/effort (delete where appropriate) when defending.
The very essence of a playmaker means they are distrusted. Look at some of the greatest no.10s to play in the last 20 years.
Juan Roman Riqueleme spent just one season wearing the shirt of Barcelona.
The Argentinian couldn’t break into a Barcelona side that finished sixth in La Liga, and when he did Louis van Gaal used him as a winger.
It took a move to Villarreal, where Manuel Pellegrini gave him the keys to the house, car and holiday home, to unlock Riqueleme’s potential.
Ronaldinho, the man whose arrival at Barcelona forced Riqueleme out, was essentially past his best at 28. His body could no longer do what the head and feet wanted, while fewer and fewer managers were willing to put up with his lack of fitness.
Kaka, whose approach to the game couldn’t have been further away from Ronaldinho’s, was largely a failure at Real Madrid. Ironically, Kaka’s various injuries led Madrid to sign Ozil in 2010. Even when the Brazilian was fit he was no longer the first-choice playmaker.
Wesley Sneijder was arguably the best player in the world in 2010. Just two years later he’d been sold by Inter Milan to Galatasaray amidst contractual unrest.
Even Francesco Totti only played more than 30 league games across a season five times during his 25-year career.
Ozil is a special player. Great no.10s are a special breed. But with those great highs come the dissapointing lows.
The future will almost certainly involve a change of club. It might, further down the line, include a change of position.
One thing’s for certain. The Premier League will be worse off without a player of Ozil’s luxurious qualities, and Twitter will be a much quieter place without his polarising displays.
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