Bust up! Storm out! A strangely ‘energetic’ choice of words to use for a player frequently lambasted for his total lack of f*cks given.
Mesut Ozil, who apparently doesn’t care when he’s on the pitch, mustered enough passion to engage in a fight with Unai Emery before storming out of training last week because he wouldn’t be in the Arsenal starting lineup. That was one narrative. The Arsenal one told us Ozil had a cold and went home from training before returning to the Emirates to support his teammates as they claimed Emery’s first competitive win on Saturday.
The truth, as it always is with these things, is probably somewhere in between. No rage, no real illness, not unless Mesut Ozil spends his spare time sucking the snot rags of toddlers. Have you ever known a professional footballer with a weaker immune system than him?
As a self-confessed Ozil fanboy, it’s hard to accept he is all the things that his haters say he is, but I also think the time has come to step back from the full-on worship of a player who is in the middle of a crisis in both his professional and personal lives.
If Ozil was as mentally weak as his detractors would have us believe, then the events of this summer would have destroyed him. He has been all but abandoned by his home country that worshipped him for years, blamed for their failure at the World Cup despite helping win it for them four years earlier, left to stand on his own as he challenges racism, and had to watch as his character was dissected and devalued in public across the world.
Who wouldn’t crumble under the weight of that?
But, in fact, Ozil hasn’t crumbled. He’s been a bit off form in a team filled with players struggling for form – yet once again we see him apportioned the largest share of the blame.
Whatever truckload of money he’s now getting per week, we should all expect more. That’s fair. It seems Emery thinks so as well, and what is being asked of Ozil is nothing that isn’t in his locker. Would he have started the game against West Ham if he hadn’t had the ‘sniffles’? It’s doubtful and he finds himself at a crossroads. Despite having a trophy cabinet rammed full of the world’s top prizes, massive doubts hang over his career and the decisions he makes this season will go a long way to sealing his reputation one way or the other.
Will he step up and let Emery guide him to another level or will he sink from the weight of expectation? He doesn’t really have long left to decide as Emery moves closer to a settled starting XI. Arsenal’s next run of games are all winnable and they will expect to put together a sequence that lifts them up the table significantly. Will Ozil accept the challenge Emery has laid at his feet to be one of the club’s five captains?
It’s easy to play up the ‘fight’ angle, it’s clicky after all. With Arsenal winning, parts of the media need something to divide the Arsenal fan base. That is the key to success, as ‘AFTVMedia’ have demonstrated as their core mission objective. But the real story here is far more interesting. One of the finest players of his generation needs to make another choice that is as significant as his decision to retire from international football for the immediate future. Can he change his game to suit Emery and Arsenal or will he fade away as an £350k-per-week Arsene Wenger mistake?