Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Arsenal midfielder Mesut Özil floundered following £42m move. What happened to Arsène Wenger's record signing?


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Arsène Wenger's £42 million record signing has gone off the boil in recent weeks and though it is too early to judge him his club needs him at peak form to sustain title bid
Enigma: Mesut Özil has lost the verve he showed in his first matches for Arsenal Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The £42 million question that will be hanging over Mesut Özil at the Emirates on Wednesday night can be easily simplified. Is it all just an illusion? Özil has become such an enigma that both his detractors and supporters would probably both answer yes, albeit for very different reasons.

To the small but growing group of critics, recent performances are proof that his status as one of the world’s best footballers is misguided and Real Madrid were astute to value him at half of Gareth Bale – yet still the second most expensive player in Premier League history.

Özil’s cheerleaders, chief among them Arsène Wenger, actually agree about the illusion but argue that the misconception surrounding Özil is altogether more complicated. For them, Özil’s languid playing style has been unfairly distorting the view of his contribution. It was an argument being advanced with predictable conviction on Tuesday by Wenger, who described the “contradiction” between the sometimes aloof body language of his record signing and a personality who is determined to deliver.

“He feels the pressure of course because he knows a lot is expected,” said the Arsenal manager. “He’s not a guy who doesn’t care. His style can sometimes look like that but he’s really the opposite character. He needs more support, he needs understanding.”

Wenger also had his statistics to hand and, although there was tacit acknowledgement of Özil’s anonymous display against Liverpool on Saturday, he rejected any suggestion of a wider trend. “He had a good game at Southampton under very difficult circumstances,” he said. “Against Crystal Palace, he was a bit quieter but still played over 100 passes in the game and every single pass was intelligent.”
The Telegraph

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