A Workman is Only as Good as his Tools

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Arsenal fans have been quick to criticise the German international in recent times with his scintillating early season form seemingly a thing of the past. No one moment more so than his penalty miss in Arsenal’s Champions League tie against German giants Bayern Munich has armed his critics with nuclear warheads, fuelling the heaps of abuse piled onto Arsenal’s number 11’s recent form. But are they right to do so?

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Firstly, let’s just remind ourselves of how bloody good Ozil’s start in England really was. We were blown away by his 4 assists in his first two games and by the end of November the German had already notched up 7 of his season tally of 8. He reached Godlike status immediately as we were all in awe, feeding him grapes and fanning him with palm leaves whilst he sat contently at the top of the Premier League table sporting a golden lacquered-cannon embroidered toga. The deity that was Mesut Ozil demonstrated exactly why Arsene Wenger splashed out a whopping £42.4 million to secure his signature, displaying his legendary touch and fabled eye for a pass and with Aaron Ramsey scoring every chance Mesut served up to him, watching Arsenal and Ozil in particular, meant Match of the Day began to serve a dual purpose for many men, with Babestation audiences taking a massive hit in the process.

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But just as Arsenal’s own Welsh prodigy had succeeded in proving 99.9% of the population wrong, the end of 2013 and his untimely injury not only spelt disaster for Arsenal, but for their new German golden boy as well.

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The naive mind that burdens many of the footballing world means that just as an abundance of goals can help a player go from zero to hero, a lack of this commodity therefore reverses the trend – the exact phenomenon that has befallen Arsenal’s midfield maestro. Without the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and even Aaron Ramsey to some extent, on the end of his passes; Ozil’s performances have not been laden with assists like many of us had become accustomed to… cue outrageous and laughable twitter comments.

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What angers me most about this is just as someone can score goals and play bad, someone can also play well despite only picking up 2 points in Fantasy Football. Just because Arsenal — as much as I love them and often argue that they do — don’t have the world class squad that was at the German’s disposal in Spain does not mean his performances are below par, it is simply that we aren’t making him look good. Let’s consider Bryce’s insight into the matter that ‘Ozil at Madrid was such a different player’  – correct. I think I could rack up 10 assists in a season if I had Cristiano Ronaldo scoring 60 all by himself! When you’re playing for one of the best teams in the world, when you’re surrounded by the best players in the world, you are obviously going to be a different player, so cheers Bryce mate, good shout.

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This point is especially poignant when Arsenal fans face the painful reality that Olivier Giroud for all intents and purposes is not a world class striker (however his unquestionable talent, importance to the team and my undying love for the man is not what concerns us at this present time). Yet again, just because he himself has a shot accuracy of only 41% as well as a meagre conversion rate of 18.8%, this does not all of a sudden make Ozil ‘absolutely useless’. Matthew Gooder, just because we do not have a 50-goals-a-season-striker does not mean our principal playmaker is failing at his job, or even playing badly, it simply means *drumroll as the title will now make an appearance in the actual article* a workman is only as good as his tools. 

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Arsenal, especially with the injuries to Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott, do not have the necessary means to make Ozil stand out. Aaron Ramsey was succeeding in doing what Ozil’s previous Madrid teammates, and not to forget his national team, do on a regular basis, and that is convert the chances he creates. The main goal scorers at Real Madrid, let’s not forget to mention there were three of them, all had a conversion rate of 60% and above last season. Thus not only is Mesut Ozil more likely to accumulate an incomprehensible amount of assists with these stats at his disposal, but this increased likelihood to do so in itself accentuates the class of his performances, as chances created evolve into assists. This previous luxury of his is not available and so far this season he has been dependent on the form of the young welshman to facilitate the aforementioned stat transformation.

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I will admit that in recent times Ozil has made costly mistakes, the penalty miss was devastating and there were some loose passes against Liverpool, but by no means has he been playing badly. The magic of this article in making people like Matt and Bryce we met earlier look stupid is through focussing on the upcoming comparison between Mesut Ozil and the rest of the league’s best, which thanks to Squawka’s in depth analysis, removes the tainting lens of Arsenal’s painfully ironic nickname, The Gunners, from Ozil’s performances.

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This lack of firepower upfront so masterfully alluded to just now has burdened Mesut Ozil in terms of recent criticism yet the fact he has created 20 more chances than any other Arsenal player, demonstrates his superiority as our foremost playmaker. Secondly, when pitting him against the league’s best in terms of key passes – (the ideal stat to remove the aforementioned jeopardising factors) – you can clearly see that in this list he is only behind Luis Suarez, the best player in the league, in assists (for those of you who only care about that stat) and if you bother to do the math like I did, he averages the same amount of key passes per game as Eden Hazard (2.5). He is also streaks ahead in terms of completed passes and pass completion, bettered only slightly by David Silva. I will not insult your intelligence by writing about every stat visible in this graph, nor bore you anymore than you might be by discussing everything in substantial depth, but this graph is perfect in painting the desired picture for my argument. When considering ALL of these stats, Ozil is up there with those considered to be the best in the league this season, and we should not be so easily led by the aforementioned demon of analysis, fantasy football or rely solely on assists to decide whether a playmaker is playing well.

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To round this half rant/half enlightenment off, it is clear my main has been to shut everyone up. Mesut Ozil is a world class player and when the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott return, as well as the potential strengthening of the squad in the summer, Ozil will have no problem in proving this once again. Not only will Ozil have someone to convert the chances he creates through Ramsey; but with the width and pace of Walcott comes the opportunity for Ozil to play more of those defence splitting passes that makes us all weak at the knees. Many people also neglect the fact at the age of just 25, the best of Ozil is yet to come whilst even the German national team has come out in defence of their compatriot’s ability. Patience is a virtue and although it is very much lacking in the game at the moment, just like every foreign player that graces the Premier League, the longer Ozil plays for Arsenal, the better he will become (look at Luis Suarez) putting an end to all this nonsense about him being ‘perhaps one of the worst signings over the last few years’ and even appeasing all those assist junkies with an absolute truck load of them in the seasons to come.

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So really, just like we were implored to do with Britney… LEAVE MESUT ALONE!

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  1. Also, before anyone comes back with the other well known phrase ‘a bad workman blames his tools’ please just think about it and realise how in football, it really doesn’t apply unless I was writing about Mesut Ozil not getting assists because of the boots he is wearing…

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