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Mesut Ozil Ruled Out For 10-12 Weeks With Knee Injury

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Mesut Ozil has suffered a knee injury that will rule him out of action for up to three months, the German national team announced today.

Ozil, 25, was assumed fit when he arrived for international duty, but a ligament injury was discovered by the team’s medical staff, who have estimated he will spend 10-12 weeks off the field. For Germany, their depth of talent should realistically cover themselves for their qualifiers against Poland and the Republic of Ireland, but for Arsenal, it only adds to their injury woes.

With many already on the injury table at Arsenal this will come as a huge blow, but many will ask if this could be a blessing in disguise for Ozil, who has looked out of sorts in recent weeks.

Saturday’s defeat for Arsenal at Stamford Bridge wasn’t one that echoed many of the short comings of the past. There were no cries of ‘boys against men’, nor claims that Arsenal can’t defend set pieces (though that theme has recurred somewhat this season). What happened was more a battle of two teams with largely similar approaches, which Chelsea rightly came out on top of. However, whilst the criticisms that armchair pundits launched at Arsenal for the last few years have disappeared, one new criticism has arisen. It usually sounds something like “£42 million…for him?”

Mesut Ozil arrived from the Bernabeu at the end of last season on a wave of optimism. A rare and genuine world class signing for Arsenal, it seemed to signify the end of an era, one in which the Gunners had to produce and develop their talent, rather than importing the readymade product. It was a surreal moment for Arsenal fans and when he broke away from the Sunderland back line, 10 minutes into his debut and placed an inch perfect pass into the oncoming Olivier Giroud, it still didn’t feel real. 1-0 Arsenal. They took the lead on the pitch, but more importantly, they’d taken the lead on the transfer market too.

The form continued, assists mixed with a few goals were perhaps overshadowed by Aaron Ramsey’s superb displays, but his talent was there for all to see.  His performances once he had settled were an intimidating prospect. What we weren’t to know is that we would still be waiting for him to truly settle, over a year on.

Certainly, Ozil seems to enjoy his new life. The German contingent in the Arsenal squad has helped him adapt and all accounts suggest he enjoys life in London. Whilst he seems to have transitioned well at the club, on the pitch it hasn’t been the case.

Firstly, there were cases of fans and onlookers mislabelling him as a player. People who expected him to be continually involved were misinformed. One could watch highlights of him and assume he exemplifies a bombastic, attacking threat that is so adored in English footballing culture, the type that takes games by the scruff of the neck and dictates them. Rather, Ozil has always tried to manipulate games as a puppet master, deftly moving the game to his will, rather than the ‘lead from the front general’ that Gerrard represented in his prime, or the tinkering engineers of David Silva and Santi Cazorla. The German would drift out of games for the purpose of drifting back in at the opportune moment, his movements on the pitch would be precise and with a quiet determination, but all too often now he drifts out of games now for extended periods, either not imposing or not being able to impose himself in his own way.

Of course, balance needs to be struck. Some criticism of Ozil manifests itself from ignorance, from not understanding his play style, or perhaps understanding and not accepting it. Recent data from Opta Stats suggest he was the most effective player in possession across the 2013/14 season – so some of the criticism he receives is surely misplaced. Ozil rarely cuts a figure of frustration when things don’t go his way. His philosophy of letting his talent speak for itself, rather than overexerting himself physically as a replacement for talent, often irks many of his potential admirers. What comes off as quiet confidence in a good performance can easily be seen as apathy when he isn’t firing. This adds to the idea that he isn’t performing.

However, this relaxed approach wouldn’t be criticised so much if there were results to silence it. As it is, Ozil’s off days are coming more and more regularly. Perhaps this season, the form could be a result of this undiagnosed injury, or could be a result of him having to adapt to two new faces in the attacking line up in the form of Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck. However, these two signings should have given Arsenal the movement and penetration that a player like Ozil could thrive off. Every argument for why he is underperforming s not one that a world class player should use as an excuse. Reasons are there, explanations can be found as to why he isn’t at his best. But should a player of Mesut Ozil’s quality need excuses? Should a player 13 months into his career at a club still be experiencing teething problems?

Once more, balance is needed. Those who write him off as a poor player often don’t understand the nature of his game and how he can affect play in his subtle mannerisms. However, a player of his calibre should not be afforded so many excuses; a world class signing should not need everything to be perfect around him for his quality to shine through. Perhaps some time out of the spotlight and some time to reflect could well do him a favour. Or perhaps we need to redefine how we see Mesut Ozil. He provides moments of brilliance that few others are capable of, he changes games with single actions, and a lot of the positive aspects of his game often go unseen. However, we also know he doesn’t replicate these moments of brilliance often enough. To conclude this piece neatly is difficult, because Ozil himself has no neat conclusion. His story and career is open ended, much like when he is on form, he could advance from here in any direction. What we can say is that the next year or so will be crucial in how we remember the German.

Follow me on Twitter at @JMWillis01

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. hoosiergunner

    October 8, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Frustration: My Gunners finally have the tools (aside from a noticeable lack in the defensive midfield) to do what needs to be done, but I fear we’ll go the entire season without ever being able to field a “whole team.” I thought this is why we brought in the new physio… different year, same story.

    Heal quickly, Mesut.

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