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Arsenal beware: Pundits' Ozil myth built on nothing but sand

COMMENT: No goals. No games. Yet, he's the best thing they have. He's in the form of his life, don't you know? Who? Why, Mesut Ozil of course. The man to rescue Mikel Arteta and this Arsenal slide...

...or so they say. David Seaman. Jack Wilshere. Even Freddie Ljungberg. According to them, Ozil is the answer. The player to turn things all around.

We see it so often in football. The missing. The untested. The injured absentee. The youth teamer pulling up trees in the reserve-team. They're given the status of season changer. Job saver. But it's all built on foundations of sand. Simply hype, hope and little else. Which is exactly what is now being built around this myth of Ozil the saviour.

This column has been in the German's corner. Particularly when it came to the way he's been portrayed as a villain in the press. But even in the extremes that are the Premier League, the claims of Ozil being the answer to Arsenal's problems this season are ridiculous.

The pundits calling for his reinstatement today, are the very same ones whom attacked Ozil - not only as a footballer, but as a man - last season. Again, in this column, we've insisted Ozil could have a place in Arteta's plans. That the way he leads his life off the pitch is something to admire. But to claim Arteta has blundered freezing him out is wrong.

As we say, it's a myth. It's a myth that Ozil would suddenly perform consistently in big games. It's a myth that he'd begin tracking back and working off the ball as Arteta demands. And it's a myth that Ozil, given a little encouragement, would be training the house down at London Colney demanding selection.

Ozil is no David Beckham. Yeah, as we've previously brought to you, he remains popular with Arsenal teammates and staff. He's not a disruptive influence - not withstanding his social media work on matchday. But he's also not gone out of his way to convince the manager he's been wrong about him.

For all the trophies and glory Beckham won over his career, arguably his greatest achievement was forcing a change of heart from Fabio Capello at Real Madrid. Banished to train with the kids. Told by Capello - at least via the Madrid press - that he'd never play for Real Madrid again, Beckham didn't go through the motions as he waited to join LA Galaxy back in 2007. Instead, he upped his game. He trained like he'd never done before. Through sheer passion and drive - and with a little help from training ground observers in the media - he forced Capello into a change of heart. A recall was delivered and in that final season Beckham finished as a LaLiga champion.


Ozil in happier times at Arsenal

But no-one at Arsenal has seen anything similar from Ozil this season. Just as they haven't fielded any serious offers for the German this past year. Of course, the wages are blamed. But transfer interest hasn't even reached the stage of discussing personal terms - or even wage sharing. The interest just hasn't been there.

If Ozil was the answer, we'd be getting news of his work on the training pitches. We'd be hearing of the likes of Inter Milan or PSG wanting to thrash out a deal with the Gunners to ferry him away. But there's been nothing like that. Indeed, there is nothing credible the likes of Wilshere and Ljungberg can put forward to reason why Arteta has been wrong to freeze him out.

With no games to judge him by. The very best of Ozil over his almost eight years with the club are now being projected. But it's a highlights reel. The stuff of fantasy calcio. And has no basis in reality.

Arteta knows this. And it's why Ozil wasn't registered for neither the Europa or Premier League squads this season. Claims of Ozil's wages being to blame are off the mark. But it is true there is something "personal" between the two, as some have suggested. Though it has nothing to do with a personality clash.

Arteta would have Ozil in his team if the German had been prepared to work within the manager's system. But he hasn't. So he's out. It's as simple as that. The "personal" problem is that Ozil has shown no desire to change his game to fit into the system Arteta wants his team to play. Not word-for-word, but as a London Colney source told us last month, Ozil is a good footballer and can be good contributer for Arsenal, but only on the manager's terms.

And it's the manager where the buck stops. There won't be any relenting from Arteta. He knew he was inviting outside controversy freezing out the club's highest paid player. But he did it with the full backing of the board. And as he said this week, there is a plan - a project - which he and his higher ups have agreed upon. There'll be no wavering.

"Changing to what we want has risks and the way we want to play requires a lot of precision, a lot of game plan," said the manager. "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. We have been very clear where we are going and in this path there's going to be times when the project is going to suffer.

"There we have to be stronger than ever, keep our idea and keep trying to bring the players we want, keep the players we have and evolve them. For me that's the main secret."

It's about shaping the players he has to fit the system Arteta wants to play - not vice-versa. The calls for Ozil's return will be ignored. There is no reason for Arteta to do otherwise. He has his "game plan". And he has his players willing to buy into this "game plan". He's not looking back.

Which is what these pundits should also stop doing regarding Ozil. All ex-players. You'd think they'd know better. You like to believe they're aware of this myth creation stuff. It's common enough in football.

It's why Ozil is now being portrayed as Arsenal's great saviour. With no games to judge him by. No performances to critique. You can build any type of myth around a player. Mesut Ozil? He's in the best form of his life, don't you know...?

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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