A player who was widely regarded as among the most skillful attacking wingers in the world during his pomp, Mesut Özil has recently been seen on the substitutes bench more frequently than he has started for his club. Özil, who has been a key part of the German national squad in three World Cup campaigns, has few peers in terms of his distinguished playing career. And yet, some fans at his North London club, Arsenal, are concerned about his current form, commitment and the longevity of his career. The 30-year-old midfielder may be in the autumn of his career but with such pedigree, few top sides would not wish to have his experience and skills on board. Why then is there so much talk about his future at Arsenal?
Mesut Özil garners attention wherever he goes. The focus is sharper on him than other players right across the globe because of the very fact that he has enjoyed so much success over the course of his career. From opinion pieces in the New York Times, not a newspaper that is very often associated with European soccer, to daily coverage in the German press, interest in Özil has surrounded the player since his senior professional career began at Schalke 04 in the 2006-07 season. A truly worldwide star of the game, the fascination with the German player is not merely due to his footballing abilities. It comes down to an interest in his character and – for some – what he appears to represent. What is it that makes Mesut Özil stand out from other footballers, even those who have – like him – enjoyed plenty of success on the pitch?
Mesut Özil’s Playing Style
One of the great things about watching Özil play is that he expresses himself on the pitch in a way that few other players do, even if they had the technical skills needed. Yes, those who are fascinated by the statistics that they can use to work out the best bets to place on him will be more interested in hard facts like when he recorded the second most assists in the Premier League season of 2014-15 at 19. However, gathering footballing data for sports betting at online casino websites does not really give a true picture of Özil’s style. A mercurial player, he fails to fit into distinct categories – touches, assists, goals – when he is on the pitch. So much of what he does, especially when he is on the ball, defies such a tight view of what football is all about. In fact, watching him is often like observing a great soloist rather than a fully orchestrated individual. Perhaps he looks like he is improvising on the ball because he so often is? Although this quality makes him hard to defend against because you will never know what he will do next, such abilities can also cause coaches frustration no matter how much positivity he brings to a side.
Özil has received five German Player of the Year awards, a record number. No one could argue that he is not a team player. Nevertheless, his playing style is not always suited to teams which are trying to play in a fully structured manner. On the other hand, no player with 92 international caps to his name is incapable of adapting his style to meet the on-pitch requirements of his side at any given time. The question for many is whether Özil feels that he needs to meet a coach’s expectation of him now he’s in his thirties. After all, few managers in European football can point to a playing record that is as distinguished as Mesut Özil’s.
The Personal and Cultural Factors
When interviewed by the British press about Özil, the Arsenal manager, Unai Emery, said that his highest-paid player had a personal life that was his own. However, Emery interestingly revealed that his star man – who had not been picked in the starting eleven for the Premiership club for a while – was planning to get married. Emery mentioned that Özil had told him of his plans to marry in the summer. Although this personal gem of information may not be of any significance to Özil as a player, the fact is that a new personal life at the end of the season may also mark a new professional beginning. Certainly, some Arsenal fans have speculated as much.
Secondly, Özil has faced some criticism – not least from the German Football Association – for being pictured with the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the past. A man of Turkish descent, it is perhaps not surprising that Özil might have chosen to meet the president. In Germany, it led to accusations of racism being levelled by the footballer against the German Football Association’s president, Reinhard Grindel. Consequently, Özil retired from international football. The player’s cultural origins are undoubtedly part of his identity as a man. What is noteworthy is the fact that Özil is not prepared to sideline issues that arise from them. Indeed, he is outspoken and not afraid to express his opinions. Perhaps this, too, has led to tensions between manager and player? After all, most coaches find it harder to manage articulate players who express themselves clearly.
Özil’s Recent Career at Arsenal
Given the tensions that followed his departure in the international set-up, many thought that Özil would put all of his energies into his club side. Given Arsenal’s rather poor form of recent times, some fans have questioned his commitment to the club. However, the future may not be as dark as some who follow the player’s career at the club suspect. Emery has said that Özil will feature in his starting sides again soon. He’s been keen to stress that Özil’s absence from his usual spot was down to injury concerns and not from any player-manager conflict. One thing is for sure – whether at Arsenal or elsewhere – people will continue to marvel at the playing career of Mesut Özil.