x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Even at World Cup Mesut Ozil cannot escape criticism of his attitude

Even with Germany so impressive as they reached Sunday night’s World Cup final against Argentina, accusations have been aimed at midfielder Mesut Ozil.

Even with the successes Germany has had on the pitch, midfielder Mesut Ozil has bore the brunt of criticism for what some people say is a disinterested or lazy attitude. Patrik Stollarz / AFP
Even with the successes Germany has had on the pitch, midfielder Mesut Ozil has bore the brunt of criticism for what some people say is a disinterested or lazy attitude. Patrik Stollarz / AFP

There has been few footballers who have been judged more on their body language than their exploits on the pitch as Germany’s Mesut Ozil.

Even with Germany so impressive as they reached Sunday night’s World Cup final against Argentina, accusations have been aimed at the midfielder.

Criticism reached a high after Germany’s laboured 1-0 win over France in the quarter-final.

“If [Joachim Loew] is bold, he’ll say: ‘I will not play with only 10 people’ and drop Mesut Ozil,” German World Cup winner Paul Breitner told Goal.com. “Nine men are torturing themselves for 90 minutes and he’s going for a walk.

“That’s not what you do at a World Cup.”

Then came the 7-1 thrashing of Brazil in the semi-final, with a better performance from Ozil, who was again deployed in an unfamiliar left-wing starting position.

Questions over Ozil’s languid style surfaced well before the World Cup.

Unhappy. Disinterested. Lazy.

All adjectives aimed at Ozil since his move from Real Madrid to Arsenal last summer.

Initially, the £42.5 million (Dh216m) club record signing seemed a perfect fit for the London side, majestically gliding through matches as Arsenal raced to the top of the table.

He had taken to the English game like a duck to water.

After being marginalised by Jose Mourinho during his last season in Madrid, Ozil looked to be enjoying his football under a manager, in Arsene Wenger, who appreciated his style.

“Arsenal has been great for me, [Arsene Wenger] has been fantastic,” Ozil said. “He is the one who persuaded me to come to Arsenal, and he is so impressive as a coach.”

A dip in form around the turn of the year, exasperated by an injury in March, meant the question of desire raised its head again.

Three matches in particular summed up this period for Ozil.

It started with the 6-3 defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in December that ended with Ozil’s Germany teammate Per Mertesacker engaging in a heated argument with him, perceived to be over Ozil’s lack of effort.

In February, Ozil “disappeared” in the 5-1 defeat at Liverpool, his failure to track back contributing to the home side going 4-0 up inside 20 minutes.

Another on-pitch argument with a teammate, this time Mathieu Flamini, resulted because Ozil had let Arjen Robben run freely in a 2-0 home Uefa Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.

Arsenal still finished fourth to secure Champions League qualification, and Ozil and his teammates ended the season on a high with their 3-2 win over Hull City in the FA Cup final that brought the club their first trophy in nine years.

He ended the season with five league goals and nine assists in 25 games but perhaps did not fully justify his hefty transfer fee.

Doubts over Ozil’s attitude followed him to Brazil, even if the scrutiny is undeserved. While Breitner and certain sections of the media have continued to question his contribution, the numbers tell a different story.

He is far from invisible in this team.

Along with Thomas Muller, Ozil has created 15 chances for his teammates, more than any other member of the German squad.

His pass completion is 88 per cent of 296 attempted, more accurate than Muller and the man many people would choose for player of the tournament, Colombia’s James Rodriguez.

Ozil scored the second goal against Algeria and, against Brazil, he unselfishly set up Sami Khedira for the fifth goal when he could have gone for personal glory. Ozil also ran for more than 11 kilometres, which was above the team average.

Ozil may be Germany’s most polarising player but tonight he could be their matchwinner.

akhaled@thenational.ae

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