You can never turn a tiger into a hyena, or an osprey into a magpie. Mesut Ozil is a hard-thinking, hard-running, intelligent player, a genius at finding and creating space and he possesses that rare overview of the entire pitch and sense where the ball needs to be played next. Mesut is of course also the former king of the key pass as well as king of assists in the PL. Yet Unai Emery is desperate to change him into a hard-chasing, constantly harassing hyena/magpie, and in the process he is killing a very loyal Gunner, and with that the quality of the football we play.
Oh I’ve heard people say, Mesut is ‘an employee’ and needs to do what he’s been told to do. They say that he has not been giving his all and is far too stubborn. They say Ozil should grow some balls and fit into ‘the system’ – WETF that is.
“The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives anything except genius.” Oscar Wild
Oh how wrong they are. A genius like Mesut Ozil only comes around every ten years at a club like Arsenal. Mesut is like Dennis and Cesc: players who bring the game to life and around whom a team needs to be build. Key is to leave them be, embrace them, love them, and listen to them. Today I read an interview with Toto Wolff of Mercedes and I reckon he understands much better how a genius needs to be treated. Talking about Lewis Hamilton, the highly successful Formula1 Mercedes driver, he said:
“Most important is to acknowledge that we are all different individuals and we need different frameworks in order to perform well”.
“Lewis is somebody who needs to be able to pursue his other ambitions and interests. And rather than putting somebody in a box and saying, ‘This is how a racing driver needs to behave – you need to be on time, you need to avoid jet lag before the race, or don’t record music overnight when you are jet-lagged but try to sleep,’ I realised very early on that giving him the freedom of pursuing his interests, we were able to extract more performance on track.”
Wolff is talking about Lewis’ outside of work activities and personal interests, which is of course not an issue with Mesut. But key in it all is to accept a genial sportsman for what they are and how they are wired. Wolff does not force Hamilton to be an exemplary driver on AND off the pitch but rather opts to embrace his full character, qualities and needs, resulting in a happy and yet highly performing driver when it matters. It takes an intelligent and humble manager to understand this.
I reckon it is not yet too late for Emery to accept Mesut for what he is and has to offer. Build a team around him and show him the respect he deserves. Provide him with a bespoke framework so he can perform to maximum levels once more and from which all will benefit. By embracing Ozil’s genius and showing him the respect that he has earned, and by not forcing him into the one-framework-for-all he wants his players to fit into, Emery can still both save Arsenal and his own career. He is a lucky man to have Ozil, but a fool to misunderstand/mistreat him.