Why we shouldn’t criticize Mesut Ozil alone for Arsenal’s poor performances

Arsenal’s recent result against Man City resulted in a fury of ‘I told you so’ reactions from the media. Mesut Ozil took the lion’s share of the unwanted provisions, and justifiably, to a degree. Their star playmaker, however, isn’t the only one who underperformed on Sunday, even though critics and fans alike picked him as the worst performer due to his lack of any ‘movement’. It’s much more evident than the other players because Ozil hardly lifts a foot off the ground when his team does not have the ball. But, what should be even more evident to everybody is the fact that Ozil is the very epitome of every single player in an Arsenal shirt, except Alexis Sanchez (which is perhaps why he’s taking so long with his contract negotiations).

Ozil takes on Navas (!) during the game against City. Hey, it shows that he moved! (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

The fact that Mesut Ozil didn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about getting the ball back as soon as his team had lost it was reverberated throughout the entire team. Given the stature of the player he’s supposed to be and everyone believes him to be, he shouldn’t have given up so easily after Arsenal went down to the 2nd City goal. However, you’re being foolish if you expect a player like the subtle no. 10 to lead the Gunners’ pressing game. He’s useless in a pressing scenario, even more useless when you take into account Alexis was playing in this game with an injury (that he picked up during the course of the action) and thus, even he was barely running after City had scored their second.

The point is, Arsenal were supposed to have solved their defensive issues, and even more lingeringly, their defensive midfielder issue. Shkodran Mustafi was injured for the City clash, and Granit Xhaka was on a different page than Francis Coquelin for most of the game. The lack of leadership is clear; the lack of cohesion, in defensive situations, equally clear. Surely, Arsenal cannot rely on one player to provide all that extra metal and willingness unto their otherwise poor performances. (Curiously, Arsenal haven’t lost a game with Mustafi on the pitch)

With January just around the corner, Wenger may have to find a better fix for the issues he thought he solved this past summer. Ozil is not a leader, but a follower. He’s a deputy, not the sheriff. Right now, it’s unclear if Arsenal even have one of the latter.

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