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Tactical Analysis: The transcendent vision of Mesut Özil

The sort of in-depth and graphically sophisticated analysis that Arsenal fans love.

Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

What makes a great attacking player? Liverpool fans might say "goals," supporters of Man United would respond "victories," and Chelsea fans typically look for completed elbows to the face. But this is an Arsenal blog, and Gunners' understanding of the game is more sophisticated than all that. We know that for a goal to be scored takes a Gestalt team action, off-ball runs into the half-spaces and everything else that smart football fans like us talk about.

There is one player who epitomizes this new ideal and fortunately he plays for the only team capable of utilizing his talents. Ever since he was a budding Arsenal academy graduate, Mesut Özil has been teaching us how to understand the game at a higher level. Cristiano Ronaldo might score more goals, and Paul Pogba might contribute on defense, but that is hardly what matters in football.

Let's start with a recent moment of Özil's sublimity.

There is of course no goal scored in this gif. But we hardly complain that there are no airplanes in Van Gogh's starry night sky. Just watch how Özil's in-to-out movement takes advantage of open space and overloads the defenders.

There are too many differences to list between our midfield maestro and the other, lesser beings who play football, but today we want to focus on his vision. While a traditional "winger"—as if players today should be limited to use in only the Außenraum!—might have stuck himself out wide to begin with, Özil sees that he can gegenrun from the center into that space.

We have broken down the components of our German genius' vision using the only tools capable of illustrating such ineffable brilliance: squiggly lines and triangles.

ozil abraxas

Özil recognizes the fullback has been occupied and that his teammate has a passing lane. Then he gegenperceives the player behind him as well as West Ham's mixed man and zonal defensive orientation, and he cuts wide with the blessing of cosmic Abraxas.

But that's an easy one. Consider now this own goal by Damien Delaney that gave Arsenal the victory at Selhurst Park. To many observers, it might seem that Özil does not "touch the ball" or even "appear on screen" during most of the move. But that is a stupid thing to think.


Did you see? Perhaps not. Even the most educated fans in our sport may need subtler issues spelled out from time to time.

For vision is not merely about one's own sight. Great players can move through this world of space and time outside the Gesichtsfeld of the Innen- und Außenverteidigeren. Here Mesut Özil has eclipsed the sight of not just the defenders but also the camera operators, gegentranscending visible form and extension to ultimate reality. But we can see him if we cultivate understanding. The cessation of ignorance can only come when I know that Özil and I are one; in other words, identify yourself with Özil, not with human limitations. The idea that we are bound is only illusion. So meditate and watch again.

You see it now. Wait until eleven seconds into the gif, for Özil gives us his signs in a rational way. A triangle of pure light fittingly marks where this dimension has been altered, shortly before Alexis gegencompletes his run and the fullness of a goal is delivered.

ozil being of light

If you still can't believe your eyes, listen to Damien Delaney explaining what happened in his post-match interview.

Beginningless, middleless, endless, almighty.
I saw Özil with eyes that are the sun and moon.
I saw Özil with mouths that are blazing fires
Setting fire to the world with his incandescence.

All halfspace that extends between heaven and earth,
All horizons are filled by Özil alone;
Having seen his dreadful and wondrous form
The three worlds shuddered, and that's how I gave up the own goal.

That is Reality. That is Özil. That is what you are.


The Short Fuse has been taken over today by Cartilage Free Captain, SB Nation's Tottenham Hotspur blog! For the humor-impaired, articles posted today are intended to be parody and do not reflect the views (or even the writing!) of The Short Fuse writing staff.