As Arsenal gear up for the North London derby against Tottenham this weekend, Mesut Oumlzil will be an issue of media and public debate.
Questions of whether he best plays off a striker in the customarily number ten, or as a left-sided forward, will emerge again. In addition, a range of other football critics will point out how he is too poor defensively, and therefore should be sold, as speculated, to Bayern Munich. However, one thing I can confirm is that Oumlzil’s problems aren’t exclusive to him, but quite synonymous.
When Jose Mourinho arrived at Chelsea last season, Juan Mata’s career at Stamford Bridge came to an end. Reason? He wasn’t good defensively according to Mourinho. I found that explanation from the ‘Special one’ quite narrow. Mata had just been Chelsea’s best player for two successive seasons.
Not only had Mata scored and created loads of goals, he was flamboyant in everything he did. But, as it turned out, he became a victim of Mourinho’s defensive mindset. Every coach has a philosophy that works for them, and therefore they can’t be begrudged from implementing what comes naturally to them.
In the same breath, attack-attack-attack is what comes naturally to Arsene Wenger. And while we may condemn him for being less tactful in his defensive approach, for the purists, his offensive football philosophy is what meets very well with the eye. Which is why I am dumbfounded when people reproach Oumlzil for being the reason Arsenal failed to beat Man-City and Dortmund because he didn’t offer himself much defensively.
But unless you have played football, you will never know that form is never permanent. But class is. And that is what Oumlzil is – class. That is why the Frenchman has kept Oumlzil in the first team. He knows the magic in the German’s left foot. But better still, Oumlzil is undoubtedly top-drawer and has no place on the bench unless it is clearly inevitable.
And that is what a technical man like Wenger needs nothing more. Which begs the question: who needs Oumlzil to defend yet you have Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny? Let every player do their role and no doubt the team will win, otherwise, the Arsenal and opposite fans having a go at Oumlzil are simply not being practical.
I doubt Mathieu Flamini can do what Oumlzil does and vice-versa, which means they both have strengths and weaknesses. Flamini is good at clattering opponents which Oumlzil isn’t. Therefore, if the German hasn’t got it in his DNA to defend doggedly, that shouldn’t be a reason to ridicule him, yet Flamini won’t do a quarter of what he to does.
Since when have good defensive abilities been the mark of a good player? It may be a strength that Wayne Rooney has, but I don’t think Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo can boast of it. That is why, any top coach, worth their salt devises a playing strategy that will suit all his players.
And in this case, I bet, Wenger, unlike the rest of us, is happy about what Oumlzil does, and if not, he needs to get a formula to get the best out of him. For example, when Oumlzil was at Werder Bremen and Real Madrid, he played in a free-role behind the target-man, either Ivan Klasnic or Kareem Benzema respectively as opposed to being an outside forward, where he is expected to drop back to support the full-back.
Of course that inevitably means dropping either Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere, which Wenger seems unready to do now because of the defensive ability those two British players offer in the middle of the pack to protect the defence. But Zinedine Zidane used to play on the left-side too for club and country but he was never known for any defensive fortitude.
That was the work of water-carriers like Didier Deschamps, Patrick Vieira, Claude Makelele, Edgar Davids, Alessio Tarchinardi and Antonio Conte. As I conclude, let us stop the defensive-minded mentalities we have.
Otherwise, we are contriving to kill talents like Mata and Oumlzil whose forte isn’t defending but scoring and creating goals, which is largely what football is all about.
Source : The Observer