Mesut Ozil and Wayne Rooney: the Opposite of Opposites?

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In the fifth instalment of ‘Tacticle Your Fancy’, Simon Smith compares the style and roles of Mesut Ozil and Wayne Rooney…

The recent debate about what’s wrong with Mesut Ozil has really captured my imagination, perhaps almost as much as his unlikely summer transfer itself did. Everyone seems to agree that there’s something wrong with the way he is playing at the moment, and yet there seems to be so much inconsistency in the reports.  Sure, we can agree that he has a tendency to ghost in and out of games and perhaps it is fair to see he isn’t the most proactive player off the ball.  The jump I find hard to make is how we get from this very general observation to the very niche and specific problem of why he is out of form: surely this is how he plays always, when in form as well as out?

The excellent two minute debate about whether he should be left out of the starting XI to face Manchester United by Sky Sports News was simply thrilling, in that while the panel managed to point out some home truths about the player, they all seemed to miss the point somewhat.  It was a brilliant display of how big generalisations about players lead to a misinterpretation of specifics in games. Continue reading

Arsenal: Beware the Arshavinication of Mesut Özil

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Footbalternative‘s Jonny Singer warns of how a certain German sophisticate could go the way of his Russian predecessor if Arsenal fans don’t learn to love his languid style of play…

If you’ve only followed Arsenal in the press this season you may be under the impression that Mesut Özil’s arrival is the sole reason for their current success.

Of course you’d be wildly wrong. There are at least five Gunners who have performed better than the German playmaker this season: Aaron Ramsey, Per Mertersacker, Kieran Gibbs, Olivier Giroud, and Mathieu Flamini have all been excellent. Bacary Sagna, Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny also hold decent claims to have been better than the former Real Madrid star throughout the Autumn and early Winter..

In fact, Özil has been ok. He’s drifted in and out of games, given the ball away far too often, and, as in last night’s 2-0 defeat of Marseille, missed chances, but that’s fine.

What we’re seeing is a player adapting to a league, playing at only around 70-80% of his potential. In six months or a year’s time he may well be the best player in the Arsenal team, or even the league, but that can’t be expected straight away. Continue reading

Arsenal, Özil and Arsene Wenger’s Nation-building

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TFN editor Hugo Greenhalgh considers the rise of Arsenal’s Germanic era following previous regimes that brought French and Spanish twists to the club…

A strange mood exists amongst Arsenal supporters at present. The signing of a genuinely world-class player in Mesut Özil seems to have not so much papered over cracks but brushed aside deficiencies. Though not the top-level striker or (with all due respect to Mathieu Flamini) defensive midfielder Arsenal were said to have needed this summer, when a player of the German’s calibre becomes available it’s simply irresponsible to say no.

Much has been written on how the German playmaker will fit into the side tactically but his signing also represents something more as a continuation of Arsene Wenger’s policy of ‘nation-building’.

The Frenchman is no stranger to tapping into the ripest international stocks of talent. His great Double-winning Arsenal sides of 1998 and 2002 coincided with a period of extraordinary success for the French National Team and Patrick Vieira, Nicholas Anelka, Emmanuel Petit, Thierry Henry, Sylvain Wiltord and Robert Pires were all key contributors towards this lucrative period for both club and country. French squad players were also added such as Remi Garde and Giles Grimandi who played their part for the club too.

Of course, it helped that France was Wenger’s homeland and the country he knew best but the French weren’t the only group of compatriots whose relationship off the pitch was beneficial to Arsenal during these eras. In his first full season at Arsenal, Wenger splashed £5.5 million on Marc Overmars, the Dutch and former Ajax teammate of Dennis Bergkamp. This pairing proved highly creative and effective in Wenger’s first Double of 1997/8. Continue reading