As the season draws to a close, people are naturally looking back over the past 9 months. Consequently, many online articles are being published about the “Premier League’s Top 10 Flops” and other utter nonsense created to generate hits. A worryingly high percentage of these lists featured Arsenal’s record signing, Mesut Ozil. They are not only wrong, but to a certain extent, this was always going to happen.
Background- Building him up
Deadline day 2013 had come, and Arsenal had only re-signed a player who had left the club in 2008 and signed an unknown injury-prone 20 year old. The summer had been filled by stories of the size of Arsenal’s “war chest”, which subsequently fuelled tabloid speculation linking Arsenal to every player under the sun, which only furthered Arsenal fans’ desperation for a big-name signing.
Then came Ozil. German footballer of the year 2011 and 2012 and Real Madrid’s second best player was signed in a deal that annihilated the club’s previous transfer record. His signing galvanised the squad and gave the entire club a massive boost, enabling the team to have a genuine push for the title for the first time in years. The only way to go was down.
Destined to “fail”- Media’s pre-set narrative
The first few months of the season were fantastic. Arsenal were comfortably at the top of the table, securing progression from the Champions League group stages yet again, still in the FA cup, and playing beautiful football whilst doing it. After a few months people stopped wanting to read about how good Arsenal were.
Before anyone thinks this is an “Arsenal are hated by the media” conspiracy, the same is done of everything. If you build anything up enough, people are going to enjoy watching it being torn down. I for one have found Liverpool’s capitulation one of the highlights of the season.
The pinnacle of Arsenal’s success was Ozil: he was the one who brought the best out of the players, the club’s most expensive ever transfer, the one who had the highest international reputation, and the one who had the most to lose. If Arsenal were to have gone on to win the league, he would have been the hero, and the one who made everything possible.
When Arsenal lost a game, the main focal point was always “why didn’t Ozil stop them from losing if he is so brilliant”. If Ozil wasn’t the best player on the pitch then he was a “failure” in the eyes of the media. People enjoy absolutes, especially it seems, when evaluating footballers. Talking in absolutes is easy: easy to digest, easy to talk about, easy to get enraged about, and most of all, easy to generate hits with.
Modern media is based on generating hits. Hits attract advertisers, advertisers generate revenue, it’s that simple. One of the ways to generate hits is to create genuine, thought provoking ideas that people will absorb, talk about and share the article via social media. Or you can say Mesut Ozil is “nicking a living”. Absolute bollocks.
Worst Premier League signing of the season… Try the BEST
Without looking at the effect that he had on team at the beginning of the season, or the other players that could be lured to come to the club to play with him he has clearly been a highly influential signing.
Looking at his statistics alone (courtesy of whoscored.com), it is easy to see he has been a million miles away from one of the “biggest transfer fails”, and in many aspects has been the most promising of all.
Comparing him to all other premier league signings this season, Ozil has the most assists (9), most key passes per game (2.8), most successful through balls per game (0.4), as well as the most passes in the final third (756). For both passes in the final third and key passes per game, he is 4th out of all players in Europe’s top 5 leagues.
If this is “nicking a living”, I would hate to think what a journalist who is lazy enough to write such a headline is doing.