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All Guns Blazing: Why are pundits so obsessed with Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil?

12:10 18 March 2015

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil is challenged from behind in AS Monaco v Arsenal. Picture: PA/Mike Egerton

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil is challenged from behind in AS Monaco v Arsenal. Picture: PA/Mike Egerton

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In our weekly Arsenal fan column, Alex Bellotti reflects on the team’s Champions League exit and asks why one player is always singled out more than most.

So another year, another glorious failure in the Champions League. The amount of cynical 2-0 predictions before Tuesday’s game in Monaco suggested most Arsenal fans realised this was a likely result, but you can’t deny it hurts all the same.

Quite why we find ourselves in this situation year after year is the golden question – is it complacency, talent, tactics or a deep-rooted psychological complex?

There are all sorts of theories, but I imagine ITV would say it’s because Mesut Ozil gave his shirt to another player at half-time.

While not trying to detract from another disappointing night for Gooners, it’s increasingly difficult to accept why the German international is so regularly singled out for criticism – particularly when, since his return to the side, there has been such an obvious upturn in our form.

On Tuesday he was outstanding, but that didn’t stop Paul Scholes ripping into him at half-time, while Clive Tyldesley cried “I don’t quite know why we are seeing this”, with such disbelief you’d think Ozil had just stripped naked and run a lap of honour with only the Monaco shirt covering his modesty.

Let’s be clear: shirt swapping isn’t even an issue, but quite why English football feels entitled to even comment on professionalism is beyond me. Even Scholes – in his

day perhaps the country’s most model professional – decided to walk out on his national team for the ignominy of being played in left midfield, so our standards are hardly high.

While Alexis Sanchez is always running with or towards the ball, Ozil does most of his work without it and this is ultimately the crux of why English commentators will always favour the former – because he’s not where they’re watching. Yet these are the same men who complain at England’s lack of tactical awareness and long for a more continental style.

I’d say Ozil will eventually prove any doubters wrong, but ultimately he won’t – everyone has their own perception of his style and it’s unlikely he’ll change it any time soon. If managers including Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho – two men who are polar opposites of each other – have treated him over his career as near-undroppable, however, it probably says more than any opinion column ever could.

For Arsenal to save their season now, the divisive playmaker will have to play a key role. I believe he’ll deliver – even if many don’t notice it.

Follow me @alexbellotti

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