Mesut Özil, Narrative, And Past As Prologue

Buck up little camper - Shaun Botterill

Let's talk about Özil again!

First of all, before I start, I would absolutely encourage you to go read Zito's piece about scapegoating Özil, because it's excellent.  I'll wait.  Go ahead.

Back now?  Good.  Now that you've done that, let's talk about lazy narratives, shall we?  In the past few seasons, the story goes, Arsenal have tended to fade in February a bit; as I am wont to do, I didn't believe that, so I looked at some numbers.  According to data grabbed from uk.eurosport.yahoo.com, here's what's happened the past few Februaries:

2009-10: 12 points available, 9 earned
2010-11: 12 points available, 10 earned
2011-12: 12 points available, 10 earned
2012-13:  9 points available, 9 earned
2013-14:  12 points available, 7 earned

So it looks like the "always fades in February" thing kinda sorta means "Had a bad February this year, relatively".  Sounds pretty non-slumpy, right?  I guess the legendary Arsenal Spring Disaster Slump Thing happened in March?

2009-10: 12 points available, 10 earned
2010-11: 6 points available, 2 earned
2011-12: 15 points available, 12 earned
2012-13: 9 points available, 6 earned

Wow.  Those are some serious slumps, right?  Those two months totally decided Arsenal's fates for years! Oh wait no.  Arsenal played consistently good football pretty much every one of those months, with the exceptions of March 2011 and last month.  So when people start parroting the "Arsenal always fade this time of year" canard, reject it.  Dispute it.  Prove them wrong.  Because it's not a case of Arsenal fading; it's a case of Arsenal being less consistent than Manchester City, Chelsea, and Manchester United.

Those are two vastly different things.  "Fading" implies starting well and falling apart at the end; what I saw when I looked back at the data was an Arsenal team that had spots of inconsistent play followed by several good results.  Which is kind of what Arsenal are, if you must cast a narrative; inconsistent.  This year, that inconsistency has been an isolated game here and there, rather than two or three weeks at a time (at least until the middle of February), but I'm still not seeing the "fade" that certain members of the press would have you believe is happening.

What does any of this have to do with Mesut Özil?  It's all about the narrative.  If you believe the popular narrative, Mesut Özil is a failed experiment - despite the fact that that experiment is currently in its eighth month of existence.  As go Arsenal, so goes Özil - started good, faded late, right?  Well, at least one other writer doesn't think so:

The way it works is that anyone who fancied Arsenal to lose its fizz in February isn't interested in agreeing that this hasn't happened. They thought it would, so they decide it did. Part of this is deciding that one of the key differences between what Arsenal is like now and what it was like before isn't really a difference at all-Ozil isn't a powerful catalyst or a masterful addition, but a mediocre, overrated waste of money.

You see, Mesut Özil had the misfortune of joining a team with a conveniently pre-cast narrative; a team that refuses to spend any money ever (despite spending money every summer), a team that can't compete with the big boys (despite being in first place for most of this season and only being a point off the top as of this writing), and a team that always loses its best players (well, OK, fine, this one's been true, but the effect of that has been almost comically overstated at this point).

Viewed through that lens, then, Özil is another in a long line of things Wenger has got wrong, despite the fact that Wenger doesn't get as much wrong as he's given blame for.  I choose, as I think most of you do, to view Özil in a different light: as a player who will make a huge difference for Arsenal not just this season, but next (when he should be fully acclimatized to the ridiculousness that is the Premier League December fixture calendar, in part), and for years after that.

If I could boil down the mission statement of TSF into one or two phrases, it'd be something like "Rejecting The Popular Narrative Since (I can't remember what year Ted started doing this!)" or "The Short Fuse: Helping You Think In Better Ways About Arsenal".  Please don't buy into the lazy, convenient narratives about Arsenal, and please help spread the word that those narratives are wrong.  Arsenal may win the league, and Arsenal may not, but Arsenal's fate will not be decided by what happened in previous years - particularly since, y'know, what people say happened didn't really happen.

Arsenal's fate will be decided by what they do now, on the pitch, and Mesut Özil (and Olivier Giroud, since we're talking about narratives) will be a big part of that.  Anyone who insists differently based on what they read about what happened three years ago?  They should be ignored.

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