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The Magic that Is Mesut Özil

In the world of football and football social media, there are plenty of players out there who garner equal parts scorn and praise. Sergio Ramos at Madrid comes to mind. So does Diego Costa. Paul Pogba (okay its ore ridicule when he wears the United shirt.) And . . . Mesut Özil. Unlike the others though, Özil isn’t an unadulterated twat.

He is without a doubt the single biggest divider of opinion of the current Arsenal squad. And it’s not just Arsenal fans, its supporters of the German National team as well – as we all know by now.

He is a player blessed with an amazing array of skills that makes him on his day one of the best players in the world. From his touch, the precision of his passing, and the ability to see the game unfold a full two moves before anyone else he the expectations on such a player are huge.

And yet, he divides opinion like no other. And you know what it truly has nothing to do with his footballing ability and more to do with perception of his attitude during a football match.

After Mexico’s shock win over Germany in the opening round of the World Cup former German international Mario Basler had this to say about the Arsenal #10

“Ozil is an overrated footballer. His body language is that of dead frog. “

Lothar Matthaus said he is a player playing the game without any joy. Going on to say:

“I often have the feeling that on the pitch, Ozil doesn’t feel comfortable in the DFB jersey, is not free—almost as if he does not want to play.”

These criticisms should sound very familiar to Arsenal fans because they are very close to the words many in England use about him.

He has a casual way about him on the field and that irks English sensibilities where the model has been hard-working players who posses “grit” and can put in a shift. That’s counter to Özil’s very nature as a footballer. He effortlessly floats from open space to open space, looking to receive the ball and unlock the next line in an opposition’s defensive set up.

Simply put, he has the ability to make the sublime look easy.

So why is Özil such an easy target? If you covered the name of his stats and said tell me what you think of this player – most fans would tell you, that you’re probably dealing with a world class player – but when you add the name into, it will instantly change that perception.


Maybe because he makes it so easy. When everything is going wrong all around him, his body language makes him the perfect target.

Dr. Jack Brown an expert in body language had this to say:

“I see he has shoulders slumped and his head tilted, and this shows a low-energy state.

“As a leader this projects a low-energy mindset to the other players on the team, and they will tend to adopt that. Even the most junior member of the team should have a more confident and emotionally strong body posture. He almost looks like a 10-year-old boy who got disappointing news about not getting sweets after dinner.”

Mesut Özil body language

Body Language Maketh The Man?

Additionally, even before he arrived at Arsenal, he was a man of few words. He traditionally keeps his own counsel and isn’t open to giving many interviews. Which is kind of counter to his social media profile where pictures of him come up non-stop.

I’ve never been one to buy into that about Mesut. I’ve always been of the same mind as Arsene Wenger when it came to Özil:

“[Özil can] give some people a special moment in their lives” and “transport [them] somewhere they do not . . . go on a daily basis”.

Don’t want to take our former manager’s word for it – how about Jose Mourinho:

“Özil is unique. There is no copy of him, not even a bad copy. He is the best No. 10 in the world. He makes things very easy for me and his teammates with his football vision and the decisions he makes.”

But again football is about more than these intangibles we talk about. They are about results. And Özil whether you want to believe it or not, gets results.

First, looking at his primary goal – setting up the players around him, since joining Arsenal, no other player in the Premier League has created as a many assists as him (50) and no one has created more chances (474). He also eclipsed Cantona’s record of fastest to 50 assists achieving that in a mere 141 premier league games. (Cantona did it in 143).

He is the only player to lead the Bundesliga, La Liga and Premier League in assists. He is tied for second in assists for a single season with 19 in the 2015-2016 campaign. Tying Cesc Fabregas and falling just short of Thierry Henry – 20.)

He set the season record of chances created of 144 in 2015-2016. A year later Opta would show that Özil ranked 3rd in average distance run in the 2016-2017 season, just behind Monreal and Xhaka.

But again that all gets pushed away because the perception is that he doesn’t care. Look at it comparatively to Alexis Sanchez before he left. Alexis is a very talented player but he was as selfish as Mesut is selfless.

And that selfishness may result in moments of quality but it also resulted in numerous turnovers, poor passes and idiotic decisions. But because Alexis put on a tantrum on the pitch and ran fast at times and yelled at his teammates (especially when he gave away the ball) he was considered as having “pashun” and a much better player too.

The fact is this, while intangibles and stats go hand-in-hand to determine the true worth of any football player – we look at the wrong intangibles when it comes to Mesut. We need to look at the skillset that makes all those amazing stats of his possible, not his body language and his droopy eyes (congenital ptosis.)

Mesut is a generational player and he is without a doubt one of the best midfielders in Europe. Sure, teams know how to take him out of game. But that will never take away how good he is. We should enjoy it while we can.

The German Brouha-ha

I’d be remiss if I didn’t spend any time in here addressing Mesut Özil’s decision to retire from International Football. That decision and his 4-page letter sent shock waves through the DFB and German football supporters alike. It didn’t hold back and will likely cause some sort of upheaval in the coming weeks or months.

This all started in what I can best call a naïve decision on Mesut’s part to have a photo taken with Turkish President Erdogan. Mesut as he said was offering respect to the President of the nation of his parents and had not intended any political meaning by it.

Now, knowing that Mesut is typically a private guy, I get that. I doubt he really takes a political stand on anything. And this is where the naivete on his part comes in. Someone in his entourage should’ve been smart enough to say or think that the Turkish elections were right the corner and this could be used in support of man who is changing the face of the nation of Mesut’s origin.

Additionally, someone should’ve been smart enough to realize how this would’ve played in Germany given the growing far-right sentiment in the country and animus against foreigners.

At the time there was a dust up about it and it seemed at the time that the matter had been resolved and the world cup went forward. But, in the wake of the Germany National Team crashing out the tournament, some Germans fell right into predictable patterns.

In other words, when it all goes wrong blame Mesut Özil.

But they didn’t just blame him for poor performances. They used racial epitaphs to do it, alluding to his race and questioning if he performed poorly because he was Turkish and was asked to by Erdogan.

It completely ignores the fact that he averaged 5.5 chances per game (leading all players at the World Cup), his passing accuracy was 89.1, he touched the ball 93 times and he won 56% of his tackles. By the way all those stats are better than his 2014 World Cup stats.

Again though, he is the most recognizable player of this German generation. He is the most followed German player on social media and is the epitome of the players that were born out of Das Reboot.

As such he knows he is open to criticism of his play. Where the line has to be drawn has to be when race is included in that criticism. And if race is going to be a deciding factor for some – including press outlets like Bild than its no longer about football  – which is why Uli Höness criticism rang hollow.

The Bayern President and convicted tax criminal went on an amazing rant saying Özil was hiding behind the picture to hid his poor World Cup performance (Someone should’ve shown Uli the stats above.) One feels though that Uli was merely trying to make sure none of his player drew the ire of the German press considering the Bayern contingent in Russia was at 8.

Frankly, Uli should stay in his lane.

The sad thing about this decision is that Germany will be deprived of seeing Özil’s brilliance in the Euros in 2-year’s time. That had all things been normal would’ve likely been his last hurrah in the DFB kit. Sadly, it now ends this way.

Here is a great 6 minutes from Raphael Honigstein on the whole Mesut/DFB Mess

UPDATE: 2 hours ago, DFB President Rheinard Grindel, one of Mesut’s targets in his letter, admitted to making mistakes in the handling of Mesut Özil.

But if I can be a little selfish – it just means that Mesut gets a little more rest these days for Arsenal and maybe the desire to prove many wrong will result in Özil putting in another season like 2015-2016 when he lit up the Premier League.

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