To Özil or not to Özil? That is the Question

gunnerstown.com

gunnerstown.com

 

But you didn’t have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough
No you didn’t have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
I guess that I don’t need that though
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know

 

Everything was peachy keen. Deadline day had come and gone, and the Gunners had gotten their man. The club was at the top of the table, and their prized acquisition Mesut Özil, showed up at the Emirates as-advertised after his transfer from the Spanish giants Real Madrid for a club-record £42m. He was scoring goals, dishing out assists, and playing the type of midfield that had lead many to refer to him as the best “No. 10″ in the world. And everything was peachy keen.

But then something happened. What exactly, no one likely but the most expensive German footballer in history only knows, but one things for sure, he’s not exactly been performing like the world class player we’d come to expect since his breakout in the 2010 World Cup. The dynamic midfielder whom Jose Mourinho has compared to the legendary Zinedine Zidane hasn’t provided an assist since late January, and hasn’t found the back of the net since early December. Not only has his run of poor form likely been one of the reasons the team has fallen from the top, but it’s probably left many a fantasy team in the lurch as well. And the player who was probably a fixture in your starting 11 each week, is now nothing more than somebody you used to know.

Much has been said about his recent play, and some heavy accusations have been levied against him. Some claim that he lacks the desire or motivation to be a truly dominant player and this has lead to spells of lackluster play. Others maintain that it’s merely fatigue setting in and that perhaps he can’t handle the rigors of a Premier League season. “Teams have figured out how to defend him” is another common explanation for the struggles. And lastly, the loss of players like Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott have sapped the creativity of the midfield wizard is an excuse that usually rounds out the enigma as to why he’s performed so poorly as of late.

But do any of those allegations hold any weight? Do the stats support what so many pundits and armchair managers are claiming? And most importantly, should he continue to be relegated to the bench on your fantasy squad based on what he’s being accused of?

 

telegraph.co.uk

telegraph.co.uk

 

Has he lost his desire?

I don’t have any fancy graphs or charts to display in this case, but fortunately this is one that can be settled with the good ol’ eye test. When you watch Özil play, clearly there are times when his talent is undeniable and he can impact the game with one or two flicks of his boot. His vision and touch may be unparalleled in world football. However, there are also times where, if  being frustrated by the opposing defense, he will visibly lose interest in the game, and look like a player who wants nothing to do with the ball when it comes to him let alone be creative with it. A perfect example of this was in Arsenal’s most recent Champions League match against Bayern Munich. Where, after an atrocious missed penalty, he became visibly frustrated and failed to even remotely impact the game for the rest of the match.

Watching him often reminds me of a star NFL wide receiver; one who can, in an instant, take over a game, but the next is perhaps not running as hard as he could or is “taking a play off” if he’s not being involved in the offense as much as he’d like. To me, Özil had a tendency to do this from time to time as well if the defense is stifling his creative flow so to speak. It should be viewed as more of a minor character flaw or red flag than an attack on his desire or motivation to be one of the best players in the world. He wouldn’t be a central figure at both the club and country level if he didn’t desire to be the best.

Is he just tired?

 

This season with Arsenal

This season with Arsenal (22 appearances)

2012/2013 season with Real Madrid

2012/2013 season with Real Madrid (32 appearances

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This theory may actually have some legs. As you can see from the charts above, already this season (22 app’s) he’s played a full 90 minutes (12 games) more often than he did all of last year with Madrid (10 games). Looking at total minutes played, last year for Madrid (La Liga games only) he played a total of 2,034 minutes, good for 63.5 minutes/app. Compare that to his 1,827 minutes played thus far with Arsenal in the EPL (83 minutes/app) and you see that (along with all the CL, FA Cup, and international app’s) he’s on pace to play more football this year than he ever has throughout his career. It’s entirely possible he’s experiencing some fatigue. Now, he is a professional footballer and being fit is part of the gig so one would expect him to be able to handle the workload, but if he’s suddenly being thrust into a featured role–especially in a league that most would consider is more competitive than La Liga–than some adjustment time should be allotted for. We likely won’t see him at his very best until next season, but if Wegner can spell him some down the stretch it could go a long way for his fantasy prospects the rest of the way.

 

Has the league figured him out?

There’s no denying the counting stats (aka what fantasy players care about) have come to an apparent screeching halt. However, looking beyond those, he’s still contributing at a fairly high level on offense and it may be more due to some bad luck than poor form as to why he hasn’t found himself on the score sheet in over a month.

Never a prolific goal scorer, instead his game has revolved more around being a provider. In that vein, we see he’s still very much succeeding in that role. His 63 chances created are good enough for 4th in the league behind Eden HazardDavid Silva, and Luis Suarez, and of those 11 have come since his last assist (1/28), giving him an average of almost 4 chances created/game over that stretch.

 

Pitch view of Total Chances Created

Pitch view of Total Chances Created

 

And looking at where these chances are being created, we see that the majority of them are still coming from where they should–in the final third of the pitch. That’s an excellent sign going forward, as it demonstrates he’s still pressing the action and can still be deadly where his team needs him most.

So while his play may not quite be yielding the results that we, as impatient fantasy players would want, I would contend that the league may have slowed him down some, yes, but they aren’t completely stopping him.

 

Is he missing his supporting cast?

From 9/14 to 11/30 of this season, Aaron Ramsey scored an astounding 8 goals. Over that span, Özil notched 6 of his 8 assists and had 29 chances created. To be blunt, yes, Özil has missed Ramsey. No he didn’t provide the assist on each one of Ramsey’s goals, but if you watched Arsenal play at all during that stretch, then you know full well the impact Ramsey was having on the team. He was constantly finding open areas and making key runs that either set himself or his teammates up, providing Özil with passing lanes that, quite frankly, have been harder to come by of late. Ramsey is slated to return in a week which could be huge for our subject in question and the Gunners as a whole as they cling ever-so tightly to their fading title hopes.

 

dailystar.co.uk

dailystar.co.uk

 

In conclusion, while each question or accusation may have some credence to it, is it enough to warrant not having him your lineup? For some, the answer may still be yes–at least until he proves he’s out of his “funk”. Few could blame you for not wanting to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight, but why not take a walk on the wild side? Certainly there’s proof enough–especially with the prospect of Ramsey’s return–that Özil can return to his early season form? He may never come at a cheaper price than what he’s at right now (£9.7).

 

All terms and statistics taken from Squawka.com. They’re the shizz, you should check em’ out.

If your conscience must intrude upon mine, you can leave me a comment below or find me on the Twizzle fo’ shizzle @LTtheGreat

 

 

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