Mesut Ozil attempted to appease Arsenal fans on Thursday by saying sorry for their 2-0 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.
Ozil did not apologise specifically for any part he played in Arsenal’s loss, but he did show a glimpse of his human side by admitting he is hurting after goals from Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller.
The German posted the following picture on Facebook, accompanied by a message for his fans:
"The next morning doesn't feel better either. sorry guys - it wasn't planned that way. outnumbered it was really hard to win against this team. #ucl#AFCvBAY"
Ozil contributed heavily to Arsenal’s downfall at the Emirates, missing a penalty when the score was 0-0 before switching off on several occasions in the second half.
A red card for Wojciech Szczesny left the Gunners to battle with 10 men for over half the game, and Ozil’s apparent lacklustre attitude earned the scorn of Mathieu Flamini:
However, certain statistics support Ozil. This tweet from The Times' Oliver Kay raises an interesting defence for the much-maligned playmaker:
Surprisingly, Ozil rated 3rd highest (both teams) for distance covered - 11.7km. Too much going thru motions, tho. He & Monreal were overrun— Oliver Kay (@OliverKayTimes) February 20, 2014
Clearly, Ozil is beginning to divide opinion—not only in the media but also among Arsenal fans. A quick glimpse at the response to his Facebook apology provides a telling snapshot.
Syahrizal Husny responded by saying: “We will always support you.”
However, Dylan Vickery-Orru delivered a sharp retort to Ozil’s message:
You need to start acting like you a worth £42,500,000! Lazy, shooting is bad and cannot take free kicks or penalties! By lazy I mean when someone takes the ball off you and you fall and it ain't no foul you just stay down for a few seconds! You need to get straight up!!!!
Sky Sports pundit and former Manchester United right-back Gary Neville clearly wasn’t impressed with Ozil’s contribution:
Cazorla and Ozil last night with Lahm and Rafinha! The modern Full backs are wingers they need marking like a forward needs marking!— Gary Neville (@GNev2) February 20, 2014
Last RT! No, Ozil has to work like Ji Sung Park in these matches! Like Robben did ( not natural to him) v Barca last year!— Gary Neville (@GNev2) February 20, 2014
Unfortunately for Ozil, the current issues are not entirely of his own making. He is clearly low on confidence—certainly his demeanour suggests as much—and his work rate could be better.
Will Ozil prove a success at Arsenal?
However, Arsenal are asking him to do things tactically that do not come naturally. Ozil is an out-and-out playmaker, the type of which you accept is a luxury that the other 10 players carry.
Lionel Messi is rarely asked to track back at Barcelona and can often be seen walking around the pitch, as he did on occasions at Manchester City on Tuesday.
Ozil is similar, yet he was asked to help guard against the threat of Arjen Robben in North London which is a job most natural defenders struggle to deal with.
Arsenal are also operating with a lack of pace in their side which means Ozil has few targets to slip behind defenders, as he did for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to create Arsenal’s second goal in the FA Cup win over Liverpool:
Ozil enjoys playing with pacey players like Theo Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Cristiano Ronaldo, yet when he looks up, he currently has Olivier Giroud, Yaya Sanogo, Santi Cazorla or Lukas Podolski.
The German’s problems are not all of his own making, but he will need fans to stay onside and support messages like the one he released if he is to regain form in future.