Mesut Ozil's poor performance during the first half of Arsenal's 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich—a result that knocked the Gunners out of the Champions League 3-1 on aggregate—has thrust the German star onto the back pages with a flurry of critical headlines.
Arsene Wenger's £42 million man was lopped off at the interval, reportedly suffering with injury, per Jamie Sanderson of the Metro. While Ozil may have a physical battle to overcome in the approaching weeks, his mentality will also be tested as the English media provide him with nowhere to hide.
Nick Sutton of BBC Radio 4 summed up the mood by tweeting two blunt newspaper headlines:
Ozil's hefty price-tag and previous reputation ensures his every move is scrutinised at the Emirates, especially after his fantastic first few weeks for the north London side, which saw him score three and assist four in seven games, per WhoScored.
This is the man who earned his hefty fee by gracefully helping Real Madrid to the 2011-12 La Liga title, the player who romped his way to a tournament high of three assists at the 2010 World Cup. Yet, as a consistent run of bad form culminated with injury at the Allianz Arena, Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail says "you wouldn’t pay two-bob for him."
Ashton continued his assessment by saying something's "simply not right" with the 25-year-old playmaker, who is "nicking a living."
John Cross of the Mirror was equally unsympathetic when discussing Ozil's "lacklustre display" in front of his countrymen:
In short, Ozil was bitterly disappointing again.
Wasteful in his passing, sloppy with his control and consistently ineffective, Ozil had yet another bad night in the Champions League – the tournament which was supposed to be his stage.
[...] Ozil was never going to be a grafter but here he didn’t even flatter. He just deceived.
Jim White of The Telegraph also zoned in on Ozil for criticism after Arsenal's decent result and overall confident performance:
Arsenal had turned up in Germany apparently attempting to field an ineligible player in this Champions League tie. After half an hour, we knew the player’s identity: it was Ozil, making himself entirely ineligible from consideration as a man for the big occasion.
Criticism wasn't limited to the English media, as Ozil's poor form has begun to grab attention in locations where he has no affiliation. L'Equipe bemoaned the player for a lack of effort, as noted by Tom Williams of the Associated Press:
L'Equipe gives Mesut Ozil 2/10 for his performance last night. Says he was "invisible" and "made no effort defensively".— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) March 12, 2014
Despite the fierce reaction, does Ozil's display deserve such intense hounding? Whether you're ready to lambaste the former Werder Bremen hero or not, there's no denying the statistics he posted in Munich were unacceptable for any world-class player.
Is Mesut Ozil's injury a blessing in disguise?
Ozil successfully completed just 58 percent of his passes throughout 45 minutes, easily the lowest accuracy rate of any other outfield player and second only to Lukasz Fabianski, who spent plenty of his night punting long balls up the pitch—per WhoScored.
He also failed to make a single tackle, didn't manage a shot on goal and was unable to complete a dribble. Ozil gave the ball away five times in the opening 45 minutes and didn't have the graft to make up for his mistakes.
Taking a wider view, Ozil's aforementioned excellent Emirates start has dissipated. He has scored once and provided two assists in his last 15 games, underlining an individual who is failing to live up to his potential.
While Wenger will expect Ozil's creativity to improve upon his return to fitness, the Arsenal boss will be more concerned about the player's lack of graft. The Premier League side did themselves proud in Germany—none more so than the hustling, powerful performance of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain—but Ozil's desire fell short.
The press are not going to let him forget his duties. Although we've seen Ozil receive plenty of criticism in recent times, his anonymous outing against Bayern ensures he will be under fire for the considerable future. He can only alter this by working harder, showing greater invention and by helping Arsenal land silverware.