Layth Yousif’s Arsenal opinion: We need to talk about Mesut
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Read Islington Gazette Arsenal reporter Layth Yousif’s latest must-read opinion column.
Arsene Wenger is holding court on a wide range of issues at London Colney.
As he deals with one question in particular you swear there is a twinkle in his eye, and a suppression of a wry smile.
Whether you agree with him or not on any topic is immaterial, he answers questions with an equanimity and intelligence that puts other managers to shame, most notably one who lost his job this week.
Yes, you can argue he is disingenuous at times, not to mention answering questions to problems that could be argued are of his own making. But he’ll always give you an answer.
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And the one he gave on Mesut Ozil this week was highly revealing for what was left unsaid.
Ozil has been a conundrum since he signed for the club for £42 million in 2013.
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Who can recall his impressive early displays – the evening he ran the show against Napoli in the Champions League for example – and the notion that this creative midfielder could be an important component in a side that could once again challenge for the league title.
Fast forward four years.
Four long years in terms of underachievement and underperformance. In the Premier League and in the Champions League.
For many, including this observer, his ‘display’ in the 4-0 humiliation against Liverpool at Anfield was the final straw for those who had always stuck up for him.
He was poor that day. As poor as any Arsenal midfielder has been over the last three decades – and we’ve seen a few howlers. But most of them contained passion if not technique or creativity.
No-one is suggesting a return to the days of Geroge Graham’s David Hillier, Ian Selley, Steve Morrow and John Jensen. Heaven forbid – although they all helped deliver silverware.
But what you got from those limited players was heart. Passion. Commitment. A pride in the shirt. A pride in playing for The Arsenal.
Ozil’s display against Liverpool was pathetic. Truly pathetic.
The French have a saying: ‘Drench the shirt’. Meaning whatever you do come off that pitch soaked in sweat having given your all.
When’s the last time you could say hand on heart Ozil did that?
Ozil only played in the 2-0 win over West Brom as a late substitute. He didn’t travel to BATE Borisov in the Europa League 72 hours later. Before that the team played far better without him in their hugely-encouraging 0-0 draw at the home of the champions Chelsea.
And don’t say he deserves special treatment because he’s a creative talent. Because how hard do Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi work? For their team. For their team-mates. For their club. For the fans.
Ozil has been given so many chances that even Wenger’s had enough. And for those of us who deal with agents, to see Ozil’s representatives making encouraging noises about signing another contract at Arsenal, prompts nothing more than a wry smile.
Of course they’re making those noises. Who else in Europe has been willing to pay £300,000 a week for him?
No-one that’s who.
Meaning for Wenger the cards are now in his favour.
Ozil is in danger of being left without a top level football club come the end of the season.
How this gilded World Cup winner responds to that will shed insight into his character.
Many who’ve watched him over the last couple of years, however, believe they already know the answer.