Peaks and troughs: In defence of Mesut Ozil

Every footballer on the planet, whether you’re a Sunday league plodder or a Champions League superstar, will go through spells where things just don’t quite click.

There are a million reasons why that might happen, there may be problems with fitness, with their personal life, with their finances – you may even find the odd footballer who has been overtaken with existential dread.

But in all likelihood, a player who suffers a dip in form is probably just going through the type of cycle we all experience – the good times and the not so good times.

The reality is, nobody can play at their maximum potential all the time, every time. There are going to be occasions during the course of a career when you hit unbelievable highs, just as there will be times when you hit terrible lows.

There are probably only a handful of players in the world – the most talented and gifted, the peerless few – who are immune to the peaks and troughs of life.

While Mesut Ozil is a supremely talented footballer, with a rare set of skills, he remains subject to the variable form that the 99 per cent experience.

When the German hit a hat-trick in the Champions League against Ludogorets, he was on top of the world, enjoying one of the finest nights of his career. Fast-forward a month and Mesut finds himself on the receiving end of an incredible amount of ire and ill-feeling from fans.

There’s no denying that Mesut’s form has dipped in his last two games, coinciding very noticeably with a similar downturn in the form of the team in general. The trouble is, when Arsenal are playing poorly, there is nowhere for anyone to hide.

The sight of the German idling around the pitch is instantly magnified and put under the microscope. In reality, gliding around is something that he does in every match, it’s just thrust into the foreground in games in which Arsenal play poorly.

For most players, a few poor performances in games in which the team has also played poorly is excused – there is a degree of understanding and the blame is equally shared. Such a luxury has never been afforded to Mesut.

His £40million price tag carries with it a hefty weight of expectation, an imperative that every performance must yield a goal, an assist, or, at the very least, a stand-out performance, regardless of whether the team wins, loses, or draws.

While there is some justification in that, given the wage he commands, it is unreasonable to believe that he is not subject to the same vulnerabilities that others are. He is capable of getting tired, he is capable of being of being less than fit, and he is capable of playing badly.

That’s not to say he should be above criticism and analysis, I merely say that his performances should be viewed in context. It’s difficult to perform at your best when others around you are playing badly. Not every player can lift a team single-handedly to victory.

Let’s not forget, Mesut has nine goals and five assists in league and European competition so far this season – a good return by any measure – and with many more games to come.

Fortunately for Mesut – and for Arsenal fans – he has seldom lingered long in a slump. He remains uniquely capable of changing a game, picking a killer pass, or delivering a ball that brings a goal, and the ability to do so will never leave him. Time may diminish a player’s pace and strength, but it never robs them of their skill and vision.

I don’t think anybody would be surprised if he popped up with another goal or an assist or two against West Brom on Boxing Day, it’s just the type of player he is.

So while it is easy to berate players and accuse them of self-interest and fecklessness, it is worth taking a breath and putting things in context.

Mesut Ozil is an incredibly gifted footballer – you only have to ask anyone who has ever played with him – but he is just as capable of having an off day as anyone else.

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