Alexis Sanchez Will Take Heat Off Ozil And Allow Him To Thrive
Mesut Özil was unfairly criticised by pundits and fans alike last season for such things as not imposing himself enough, going missing and being lazy. Even though Özil didn’t have an exceptional season numerically, he was still a key player for Arsenal and his subtle style is often simply overlooked. It’s no coincidence that the team struggle whilst he’s out injured and it’s a shame that he’s only widely appreciated when people want him back.
The £42million price tag brought with it a huge amount of pressure, expectation and relentless scrutiny. The aforementioned criticisms of the German are almost laughably predictable considering the English obsession with a hard worker and a visible one at that. Graft and ‘getting stuck in’ just isn’t Özil’s game, he’s more delicate than that. He operates as a creator should, roaming in and out, exploring various viewpoints whilst simultaneously drawing the defenders into unsighted positions and giving his teammates the space to exploit and ultimately inflict damage upon the opposition.
Özil was adored in Spain and praised more than he was criticised. Why is the case different in England? It’s partly down to the social attitudes and the general perception of what it means to be a ‘good player’, as aforementioned. It’s also down to the leagues being slightly different in pace of play and Özil having more time to orchestrate. But really, for me, it is because he was playing in a team so full of quality that the attention was not always on him. Ronaldo was the star of the show and as result of all the focus being on him, Özil was given the room he needed to flourish.
Much like Ronaldo for Madrid, Alexis Sanchez is the new headline act at Arsenal. The Chilean’s flair and energy is electrifying and it’s quenching the crowd’s thirst for explosive action on the pitch. With the weight lifted off his shoulders, Özil won’t emerge, but rather submerge into the depths of Arsenal’s play. Like a powerful energy force, the best of Özil will be almost unnoticeable until the realisation of it’s devastating effects. Oh and how devastating they will be with players like Alexis and Walcott ahead of him.
One of the great tragedies of Arsenal’s horrific recent injury record is the star-crossed trio of Özil, Alexis and Walcott. Arguably the most influential and effective players in Arsenal’s attacking third, have barely played with one another. Finally it seems as though they will be playing alongside each other and suddenly opposition defenses will have a lot more to think about when facing Arsenal. The dynamism, movement, pace and finishing that Alexis and Walcott have between them will relieve Özil of pressure on the pitch too. He won’t be stifled as much as last season, as well as the fact that he’ll actually have players who can make intelligent runs in behind.
It will be this shift in focus, however, from Özil to Alexis that will see the pair thrive side by side. Now, without the pressure of having to be the talismanic spearhead of Arsenal and with season and a bit of English football under his belt, Özil will be feeling much more comfortable and accustomed. The hope for Arsenal fans is that his soft serenity and percipience in tandem with Alexis’ vigorous verve will not just make for contrasting beauty, but help produce consistent results in what simply has to be a very good second half of the season for the Gunners.