The Cunning presence of Mesut Ozil : Poetry in Motion


When you see the game, you don’t see Ozil. But when you see Ozil, you see the whole game. – Pep Guardiola

These words were spoken by Guardiola when he was coaching FC Barcelona against Real Madrid. Truer words have never been spoken, a sentiment shared by current Arsenal coach, Ozil’s present club, Arsene Wenger. Mesut Ozil burst onto the scene after the 2010 World Cup with Germany, a tournament where he shone and subsequently became one of the hottest talents in the world of football. Ozil plied his trade at Schalke and Werder Bremen before his transfer to Real Madrid where he would cement his stature as one of the game’s leading players and foremost playmakers. His elegant style and impeccable vision and technique make him one of the best players of his generation. Add to that his part in Germany’s successful World Cup campaign in Brazil and you have the perfect CV for any player.

Ozil had been marked out as a Special talent ever since he first made his debut at Schalke and with the German youth team. His fine performances helped him carve a place for himself in the German senior squad as well where he would form part of Germany’s golden generation, along with Toni Kroos, Mario Goetze, Thomas Mueller, Manuel Neuer, Julian Draxler and others. This squad brought an end to the dominance of Spain’s very own golden generation, going onto lift their first major trophy in the 2014 World Cup finals, beating Brazil 7-1, a feat unheard of in their history. They embarked on one of the most successful runs in Cup history and did so in a pure style pleasing to the eye with Ozil at the heart of it all.

With his transfer to Real Madrid, Ozil became a part of the most successful club in history of football and had very big boots to fill, as well as live up to the high demands of the Bernebeau faithful. Ozil repaid the faith by topping the assists chart in the whole of Europe in just his second season at the club as well as topping the La Liga assists chart the next season, beating out superstars such as Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Alonso. He formed a deadly combination with Ronaldo and Benzema, as Madrid reclaimed the league from Barcelona after some electrifying performances from their attacking trio with Ozil pulling all the strings but yet going relatively unnoticed. His association with the club was to be short lived however, with his private life coming in the way.

Ozil has been known as a womaniser and it was this aspect of his life that did not go down too well with his then coach Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid. Los Blancos expect nothing else than 100% and expect to win every title every season, with a return of a single title in a season being considered a disappointment. Madrid could not deliver that and Ozil was made the scapegoat for it even after delivering splendid performances.

 He was subsequently transferred to his current club Arsenal FC, for a record 42.5 million pounds, making him the club’s record signing and the most expensive German footballer of all time. A match made in heaven, Ozil seamlessly blended into Arsenal’s style of play like a duck to water. He was always born to play the No.10 role, something Arsene Wenger and Arsenal stressed on. Their entire gameplay is based on passes made by the playmaker be it Bergkamp, Fabregas or Ozil. Ozil is ably supported by the darting runs of Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Alex Iwobi with Olivier Giroud playing the target man and Santi Cazorla playing behind him. It’s not a coincidence that since the arrival of Mesut Ozil, Arsenal won two FA Cups in a row plus the community shield, after going seven years without a title.

Ozil can transform teams by his mere presence on the pitch. He doesn’t have to play the perfect pass or score goals or even make game changing moves, what is special about him is that he can have the same impact on a game by just making runs off the ball and directing attention from defenders. Ozil sometimes plays a simple one touch pass or one two that goes unnoticed until you rewind the play and slow it down then you realise that the simplest and laziest of moves from him opens up the game and splits the defence. It’s his ability to play the right pass at the right time, a pass mere mortals wouldn’t even know existed or was possible till Ozil plays it. He has the uncanny ability to score important goals and provide the assist in a variety of ways, be it lobs, dinks, flicks or through balls. He has superb technique on the ball and his vision is second to none, bringing back memories of Bergkamp. Ozil possesses a lazy elegance that you just can’t teach anyone, you’re either born with it or not. Some have flair, some have physical prowess, but very few have the talent and beauty in their feet like Ozil does. He has added another dimension to his game this season, by looking to score and playing much higher up the pitch. He netted a hat-trick in a Champions League game recently and is now scoring more than ever, a something he was heavily criticised for early in his career.

No team can be taken lightly when Ozil is present, he instantly lifts the level of play of the entire team, when played in his preferred central role. It’s important to keep players like him happy to get the best out of them, playing them somewhere they don’t like is wasting talent and skill that comes once in a generation. You can’t change or transform them, their creativity can not be contained or its your loss. I wish to see more of the genius.

Photo by Kieran Clarke