Another Arsenal performance, another disappointing Mezut Ozil performance. The German, who was brought in for a record fee from Real Madrid in the summer was expected to be the catalyst that sparked Arsenal to life but instead is looking more like a flat battery. Confidence doesn’t seem to be apparent when you look at Ozil which is remarkable given the raw talent at his disposal. He started life at the Emirates with so much enthusiasm that he was deemed a revelation only weeks into the new season. But gradually performance levels have dropped and he has slowly become a wanderer in an Arsenal shirt. But what has lead to this decline?
He hasn’t suffered from a long term injury during his time at the club which can facilitate players going off the boil somewhat. He might be struggling to cope with the wettest January on record that London has gone through, but he has surely had time to adapt? He hasn’t fallen out with his teammates as far as we can tell, although clashes with Per Mertesacker have been public and often loud. It appears as though the curse of the Emirates has struck again and added the name of Ozil to a list containing Gervinho, Marouane Chamakh, Jose Antonio Reyes and Andrey Arshavin. All arrived with huge expectations only to eventually whimper out of the back door. Everything under the sun was blamed for their failure – poor weather, laziness, homesickness, even a dislike of the local women. But perhaps the problem is not the players themselves but in fact the one thing that has remained constant throughout everything, manager Arsene Wenger. His managerial style is rumoured to be like that of a headmaster – friendly on occasion but a strict disciplinary who struggles to connect with his pupils. Wenger’s hands off approach could be the principle reason behind players like Ozil, Reyes and Gervinho underperforming. Like a child seeking approval from an elder, some players especially ones with considerable talent need to be nurtured and told that they are doing well. Without this support, they recede back into themselves and eventually their performances start to suffer. After all, football can be pinned down to two clear attributes – talent and confidence. Without each other, the player cannot function properly and it shows in a game.
Some will defend Wenger and his record suggesting that he brought through the like of Cesc Fabregas, nurturing him throughout. But again the truth is somewhere in between. Yes Wenger gave Fabregas his first start and promoted to him to captain at an early age showing the young Spaniard the faith he had in him. But the hard work was done before he even took the field for that first time; firstly by the staff at La Masia (Barcelona’s famed youth academy) and then by Arsenal’s youth team, led by Liam Brady. By the time Fabregas pulled on an Arsenal first team shirt, he was as grounded as could be with confidence oozing from every orifice. He was unstoppable and couldn’t be deterred even if the manager he looked up to was distant.
Wenger’s approach is costing the club millions but few are ready to take a stance and act on it. His success in the early years has held him in good stead but if Ozil fails to perform then it must be the coach that feels the pressure, not the player himself. After all this is the star of the 2010 World Cup, one of Germany’s brightest players that made the mistake of joining Arsenal believing that he would be loved and cherished by the fans and by his new manager. What he didn’t expect was Wenger’s cold shoulder or inability to communicate with his players. Ozil is not Arshavin but unless Arsenal and in particular Wenger changes, he will soon become him.