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This Year's Scapegoat: Mesut Ozil

Ozil has become a lightening rod for criticism lately and it shows a pattern of behavior that the fans and media display during adverse times.

Jamie McDonald

I believe it's time that we all step off the ledge and realize that the criticism directed at Mesut Ozil has become too much. While it doesn't take a football scout to realize that his form has dipped as the year has gone on, it also does not take a psychoanalyst to understand that the fans have started to use Ozil as a whipping boy for the team's issues. To make matters worse, the media --not sure if we fall under this-- has, like piranhas are known to do, begun to torpedo towards the blood. Countless features, quotes, editorials and comments have surfaced calling for Arsene Wenger to drop Ozil from the squad, either to teach him a lesson or to punish him for his bad form.

These squawking parrots seem to ignore the simple fact that Ozil has had a bad run as of late, which is in fact not as bad as it is being advertised, he is still Arsenal's most dangerous player. For example, and this people seem to ignore, in the FA cup game against Liverpool, the goals scored are created by this same player that's suffering from the worst form dip of all time. Ox might have scored the first one, but the pass that comes in after the corner was initially cleared, the pass that cushions itself on the chest of one Yaya Sanogo, the one that sails past the head of the defender before Yaya shoots, has it deflected and Ox scores the rebound, was a great pass from Ozil. The second goal as well is created by Ozil, while once again not taking anything away from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain , the pass that releases him and created the space for his assist to Podolski was a Mesut Ozil through pass.

I do believe that Ozil is suffering form wise, he has not replicated the same performances as he did in his Real Madrid days or from the first six games of the season, that is apparent, but he also suffers from ignorance of the fans. As fans speak on how Ozil should "take the game by the scruff of the neck", it becomes very stark that many people have not watched the player before his transfer --and now have based their opinions on a few highlight videos-- or know what type of player he is.

I have always thought of players like Ozil as being the catalysts. Not the huge catalyst for change that he was hailed as when he first signed --though he can also fill that role but needs help-- but that in essence, Ozil can lay the pass on your feet in a good position but he is not going to score, nor is he going to dribble past four players in Messi/Ronaldo fashion. In the first games when he was able to show what he could do, he had the assistance of a few players, such as Aaron Ramsey --who most assists have gone to-- and Theo Walcott, players that are agents of movement. Players that make forward runs. After the injury to both, and before the recent emergence of Ox, he was surrounded by players that flatter pass completion stats but lack the penetrating runs needed to trouble a defense.

So now we are here, in a weird space where headline baiting journalists are calling for the player to be dropped without context and fans are regurgitating the same information. If we are to be disappointed in Ozil's form, we also have to acknowledge what I suppose is his disappointment in the Arsenal team as well. The truth is, in the Real Madrid team, Ozil was surrounded by players with great attacking instincts who knew that he would find them with a pass once they moved into good positions, here, with us, players stand around when he has the ball and wait for him to conjure up something out of nothing.

Of course, as we always do when the team is doing poorly, or what we perceive as poorly, we start scapegoating. It happens every season, like crippling injuries or the hope of a Abou Diaby revival. At one time, it was Aaron Ramsey that was crucified for not only his own form, but the mistakes of the defenders, goalkeepers and the manager. There was also the blame on Jack Wilshere, the time when an Andre Santos shirt swap was the reason that we lost a game, the "Arshavin should play better as a CF even though he's an extra in The Hobbit" and so on and so forth. It's what we do, when we're faced with adversity, we pick out individuals and drag them through the mud in an effort to avoid the real problems of the team.

Going into this season and the winter transfer window, we were all well aware of the holes in the team. We needed a second --or first-- striker. We needed a defensive midfielder because the lack of pace of Flamini and Arteta is exposed every time we face a dynamic midfield, and we needed more depth as our rivals seem to employ two first teams. What we didn't need is an aging Swedish midfielder with a bad back, static play --barring the lovely Cazorla--from our attacking players, and so much more stuff that comes before Ozil's lack of defensive contributions, which everyone should have known about.

Ozil was responsible for the penalty miss that could have changed the game against Bayern Munich, but he was also the one who won it and he had the impression that he was raring to go for this game. He was not the one responsible for not tracking Arjen Robben, nor the keeper who fouled him and received a red card for his troubles, he was also not the one who failed to close down both Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller. The scapegoating is enough, Ozil's dip in form is not responsible for our brittle performances lately and we should stop treating it as if he's somehow the cause of the myriad of problems that we knew the team had before he was bought.