That goal against Ludogorests!
That assist against Swansea!
That game against Leicester!
The other game against Leicester! Oh boy, we should have won the league that year!”
Mesut Özil is no longer an Arsenal player, finally.
I don’t say it with joy, I don’t say it with regret either: it was long due and the best outcome for both parties.
The German was the marquee signing we were desperate to make, for years; he was the statement-of-intent signing from the Club, after years of financial struggles yet, eight years later, he’s not going out the legend he was supposed to be, with a big part of the fans actually relieved to see him go.
What are we left with? He’s league debut at Sunderland was exceptional, he registered his first assist as an Arsenal player and could have had at least two more, at the Stadium of Light; his first full season was overall good, despite a dip in form during the second half, and so was his second. Nothing sensational but a strong feeling that his vision, his passing and his intelligence were playing a big part, well beyond the numbers he was posting.
The third season was superb, with 19 assists in the league and the feeling that he should have had more and should have broken Thierry Henry’s record of 20.
Then things started going downhill and here we are, saying goodbye to a player who will forever carry behind a “what could have been” feeling.
We saw flashes, glimpses of unbelievable football but we keep watching the same clips, going back to the same handful of highlights of his time at the Arsenal. Is that enough?
A quick search of Özil best moments on YouTube will get you a long list of clips of compilations of the German’s best pieces of skill, yet the majority of those are related to his time in Madrid.
There’s very little of his eight years in North London, a few bits here and there of what looked like a totally different player.
The Mesut Özil playing for Real Madrid had an unbelievable drive, a willingness to take on players, beat his man with his unmatched technical qualities but also with a sensational change of pace; the Spanish Mesut Özil was fearless, audacious, almost arrogant compared to the one we were given to watch, week in, week out.
We could have used his drive, his runs, his desire, at the Arsenal. We had a different Mesut Özil, we had a more mature – and coincidentally less brave – Mesut Özil.
He would often pick a great pass, a pass that few others would have picked; he would float around the pitch to find pockets of space invisible to others but he would rarely take risks running with the ball, running at players.
His inability or unwillingness to match the energy required in elite football made him look lazy and made him more and more conservative.
He kept amassing good numbers in terms of passing accuracy, key passes, touches but his assists went down and his influence on the pitch was less and less tangible.
He became conservative at the point to refuse to make passes that would have been routine, for someone like him; less and less through-balls, more and more sideway passes which resulted in him registering one single assist over two campaigns – although not full.
Mesut Özil moved away from taking risk, from taking the unexpected option, from using the raw instinct that made him Mesut Özil, ultimately.
He leaves behind a legacy of flashes and individual moments of brilliance, sadly overshadow by the colds and back spasm that made his skip any trip north of London, the training sessions skipped, the perceived laziness and an overall feeling of cynical opportunism when he decided to stay well over his welcome.
The Club and the managers who came after Arsène Wenger made it very clear that he was surplus to requirements, yet he kept professing his love for the Club and refused to move, ending up not playing a single minute for the Arsenal. I believe that Mesut Özil stopped loving to play football, over the years, and eventually preferred the safe option – on the pitch and off it.
It’s a pity that it went the way it went but I don’t think Mesut Özil has anyone else to blame but himself.
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.