Mesut Ozil’s perceived unwillingness to run around and disinterested gait has got him into hot water with plenty of Arsenal fans recently, but Pep Guardiola’s admiration of him remains intact.
The Bayern Munchen coach reportedly made the Gunners – 6/4 to win the Premier League without Chelsea or Manchester City – an offer for the World Cup-winning playmaker in the summer, but Arsene Wenger rebuffed the bid.
It’s fair to say that the club could expect better than a return of one goal and one assist (both of which came within a 90-second spell in the north Londoners’ 3-0 win over Aston Villa) from their £42.5m record signing, especially when former idol Cesc Fabregas is tearing it up at Chelsea.
Ozil’s debonair approach to midfield play is certainly not one that is sympathetic to the typical English ethos of hard work and incessant, aimless running and, in testing times, it’s these players that are first in front of the firing squad.
But sauntering through games and not tracking runners didn’t prevent him from being picked for every game of Germany’s World Cup triumph this summer, nor has it stopped a two-time Champions League winning coach taking a liking to him.
Juventus and Italy virtuoso Andrea Pirlo isn’t known for his commanding displays at the base of midfield, but there are few teams on the planet the veteran string puller wouldn’t get in to.
Finding a balance between the supremely talented and those who prefer to do the dirty work is key to bringing the best out of these players.
Die Mannschaft have obviously found the medium, as have Bayern.
Arsenal, however, have not.
Were Ozil to have made the Bavarian switch in the summer, Gunners fans would’ve been watching on aghast as he laid on assist after assist, supplemented with the odd goal too.
His Real Madrid stats over the three La Liga campaigns before joining Arsenal attest to this.
In 83 starts for Los Blancos he created 46 goals, notching 19 in the process.
The bulk of these games he had Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira relieving him of defensive duties.
Finding a way to reinforce the midfield is key to extracting better performances from Ozil and, if Wenger wants to get his money’s worth, he’ll need to invest in a genuine anchorman in January.