In it this Season?
The jury, increasingly it seems, is coming around to the idea that maybe our Messy, one Mesut Ozil, is actually NOT nicking a living.
In fact, Arsenal management is so convinced that they’re planning on giving him a lucrative contract extension, insuring that he’s our highest paid player and one who will spend the best years of his career in the red shirt with the white sleeves.
Of course, maybe like his former manager at Real Madrid, one Jose Boo-Hoo-Moo-rinho, he’s just trying to get the big contract so he can go into a negative spiral and laugh all the way to the bank.
I digress. Apologies. I don’t think so.
Instead, what I believe is that Arsene Wenger has finally found the player of his dreams. The one behind the scenes who pulls the strings, runs the gears and, if absolutely necessary, steps into the spotlight for a quick moment or two. And best of all, one who seems dedicated to the project. Not since Dennis, I hate to say…
Some, having dug in their heels, will continue to argue that Ozil isn’t worth the money and that only a player willing to carry the team, Alexis, er, Atlas-style, upon their shoulder, is worth both the money or the praise.
I love Alexis Sanchez but I disagree.
As much as our culture prizes the individual, football is a team game. For every Messi who wins the Ballon d’Or there must be a Xavi or an Iniesta. Note that when that other fellow in La Liga won his first Ballon d’Or he had Ozil pulling the strings for him. Our man in the middle may never win the award himself, but that doesn’t mean we should underestimate his contribution. It’s also possible that there wasn’t quite enough ball at Barcelona for both Alexis and Messi.
I would go even further. I would say that modern football is a game out of whack. Before television and the internet, players and fans of the game knew that it was a low scoring game full of hard work and, often times, little or no reward in terms of goals. Showing determination is one thing, but results have forever hinged on luck, referees and moxie, also known as gamesmanship. Stories, based on careful observati0n over time, become legends. Some of the great players have titles to go with their grainy black and white films, others live in the minds and hearts of those who saw them in their pomp and are truly revered.
Now, however, as we can compress the moments of glory into highlight reels–and computer programs can turn goals and assists into fantasy statistics. The game is watched differently. Production is the key and, if you don’t produce (hell, even if you do…) there’s money (at some clubs) to buy somebody who will.
Ah well, so it goes…
Arsenal sit 2nd in the table behind Leicester City in the wildest Premier League season I can recall. The teams with the money–Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool–sit 16th, 3rd, 4th and 9th.
They might all–including Arsenal–blame injuries. (Chelsea, of course, with the Moo-Man’s sacking, are blaming the manager, as Liverpool did with Brendan Rodgers…) Should we too be looking for someone to blame? Instead, I think, we should be looking to give credit. Who has kept us near the top?
Stats are one indicator. 13 assists and 2 goals tells a story but so too does fitness and the ability to simply take the pitch and do a job. On that account there are only a few players in this Arsenal team who have been able to answer that call: Petr Cech, Nacho Monreal, Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil. ALL other Arsenal players have succumbed to injury (or illness) at some point in the season.
Some will argue, “Well, that’s the manager’s fault. Players get hurt-especially if they play the game at full tilt.” Ironically, in the eyes of many supporters, getting injured probably makes players better. It may not add to their statistical totals but absence–if results are not satisfying–probably makes the heart grow fonder. If I had a dime (or a tuppence…) for every time I saw hopeful bloggers proposing some injured or youth player is a potential solution at Arsenal… Well, I’d have some coins to play with… (A dime for every transfer target that would put us over the top and I might try to buy Kroenke’s spot on the board…)
So, when in doubt, instead of longing for more I think we might be better served by a moment of appreciation.
Ozil, for me at least, is probably the best player at Arsenal since the stadium move. There was plenty of hope that Cesc Fabregas would lead a new generation in the new venue. Robin van Persie (speaking of the injured…) might have been the man to put away Cesc’s visionary passes. Samir Nasri was an enticing prospect. Sure, we have had some great positional players, but I’m talking about men to build a team around.
We also have Alexis and I understand why some will always prefer his play. Determined, head down and unafraid to take his chances, he is the essence of the modern footballer. To think we snatched him up just a year after we got Ozil–and that his heroics carried us a year ago when Ozil and Giroud and Ramsey and Theo ALL were hurt–Well, he’s a hero just for that. He also is a player who clearly wears his passion on his sleeve and one who never lets his shoulders sag, even when he’s as tired as the dogs with whom he loves to play.
Ozil loves dogs too. Can you find the 2nd one in the photo?
Why compare Ozil to Alexis–or one dog with another? They all have their qualities and, for me at least, I’d rather watch them play together than have a fight.
Different breeds for different folks, or something, and Alexis and Ozil are very different players but maybe a complementary pair.
Compared to Alexis’ “never say die,” and “try, try again,” body language, Ozil seems a perfectionist. When moves break down he cannot help show his disappointment. Even when he scores he looks as if he isn’t quite satisfied and working a bit to remember his goal celebration. There’s almost a moment of hesitation suggesting that maybe he could have kept the ball just a bit further from the keeper or, better yet, found a teammate who was even better placed to take the goal. The stats say it and the body language seems an echo: for Messy, giving IS better than receiving (or taking).
It’s something to think about (maybe) as the big gift giving holiday is upon us…
What do you think, fellow Gooners? What do you want in your stocking? Or, maybe like Ozil, you would prefer to give out some presents (or shouts)…
For me, I’ll take more of the same, please, with maybe a few more fit and in-form fellas to help our #10 keep shining behind the scenes. If we can get results and maybe get a few minutes off for our thoroughbred, all the better.
So, Santi, er Santa… For this festive season, all I want is more of that same old Mess(y)…
Thanks in advance… 😀