Column: Stats nerds might appreciate Mesut Ozil, but real football men know better

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Graham Dougan was a youth prospect at Arsenal in the 1970s but never quite made the grade, making his career in the upper echelons of the old division two. He was also a Scottish U25 international. He is a regular pundit on TV in Malta and Luxembourg, and an after-dinner speaker of some repute.

He’ll write a column exclusively for the site and we hope you’ll enjoy his keen insight. This week he looks at the recent performances of Mesut Ozil.

To some he is a creative genius, like Picasso, Michelangelo or Vermicelli. To others he looks like Marty Feldman with TB, but there’s no question that Mesut Ozil is a player who divides opinion.

I look at him in awe sometimes. His eye for a pass is second to none except for one or two, and he has the tools to unpick the lock of every defence in world football apart from a few I can think of.

But for the most part he’s got great ability on the ball. The questions are over how hard he works. For all the incisive passing and ‘assists’ he provides, there’s a sense – and sadly as there’s no way to back this up definitively I have to trust my gut and my eyes – that he doesn’t work as hard as he should.

The shoulders slump, the head goes down, he ambles around the pitch, and you think to yourself ‘If only he had a bit of someone like Scotty Parker in him, he’d be the complete player’.

I’m reminded of Top Trumps, where each card is assigned a number to different criteria, and Ozil would be a great one to have if the category was ‘vision’ or ‘creativity’ but he’d definitely be a poor one to hold if you were trying to beat someone for ‘passion’ or ‘wanting it’ or ‘running around to make the opposition’s life difficult’.

I remember the Arsenal fans dancing with joy when Ozil was signed from Real Madrid for what was then a club record fee. Are those fans dancing now? I can’t see into everyone’s house like God, but while I’m sure a few are still bopping away, many more are standing in the corner holding their pint of best and thinking ‘This man does not stir my loins the way he did when he first arrived’.

Nowadays, people try all sorts of ways to prove to you that a player is good. They churn out the stats and for those of us who really understand the game we know they are nonsense. Back in my day there was no such thing as an ‘assist’. There was only a goal and occasionally a ‘Bloody good pass, Trevor’, but we didn’t give out a prize at the end of season award to the player who had made the most ‘assists’ because football was a team game back then.

I mean, where will it stop? Will they start producing stats for how far a player runs during a game, or how many touches of the ball he has? We can all see that when we watch the match but there’s no need to count because football isn’t about numbers it’s about goals which, of course, can be counted like numbers but in reality they’re not.

As for all this Expectation Goals nonsense, give me strength. I’ll tell you when you can expect a goal: when you get a good cross into the back post and one of your two burly centre-forwards straight-arms the centre-half in the back of the head and powers home a header.

Going back to Ozil, he was superb against Spurs in the derby two weeks ago, and his display against Huddersfield helped Arsenal to a win they didn’t really deserve, but you have to ask where has that been for the last few years? It’s all well and good turning up for two games, but what else has he done?

Where was he when Arsenal really needed him? You think back to the FA Cup last May and I barely remember him playing and but for the stout defending of Per Mertensacker they would have lost that game.

I remember when I was playing, a teammate had two cars. One was his day to day vehicle for getting to and from training, the other was a luxury motor which looked good, drove like a dream, and got him where he needed to go faster than anyone else and in some style.

That’s Ozil, and what Arsenal really need is a good old fashioned Ford Granada.

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101 Comments on "Column: Stats nerds might appreciate Mesut Ozil, but real football men know better"

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Alex

It’s a joke, right? If yes, it’s not even funny.

BennisBergkamp

I also spend my time criticizing the humour of free content around the internet.

Oberon

If your mate tells you a shit joke you tell him it’s a shit joke. This is worse as it goes on for far too long.

Kwame+Ampadu+Down

Someone not finding it funny I understand, everyone’s sense of humour is different after all. Someone struggling to understand that it’s meant to be funny ? (particularly when it’s one of the same people who had the same reaction the last time there was this column?) Frankly, that’s just a bit weird.

It Is What It Is

Shats fired.

Creasing

Arsenally

Alex, you need to see someone.

Stikkman

How is “does not stir my loins” not funny?

Third+Plebeian

The best part of these Dougan articles is watching newcomers slowly come to terms with satire.

Goonas

that article didn’t tell me much

Hermitian

“Going back to Ozil, he was superb against Spurs in the derby two weeks ago, and his display against Huddersfield helped Arsenal to a win they didn’t really deserve”

Had to be said. Agree completely.

The last two games, if nothing else, have illustrated that Arsenal haven’t got a hope in hells chance of winning the PL. How many games is that we could have and should have lost this season but we have fluked points, it really is embarrassing now. We want or Arsenal back.

Sanllehi, Sanllehi, what the FUCK do you do?

Misha

You’ve embarrassed yourself. We win and you complain we should have lost. Don’t get that attitude. Oh, and check before you publish: we want or Arsenal back?

Hermitian

I’m guessing you didn’t like my small tribute to this absolutely brilliant article 🙂

Jasonissimo

Did you know an original Vermicelli stands in his drawing room?

Big+Mad+Andy

It’s like a politician taking the piss out of the characters in The Thick of It

Santori

?

We have 24 games left and. 72 points.

City lose 2 back to back and the gap is close to 6pts

If we beat united we cut our gap to them to 1point.

What nonsense is this.

If players had the same bottle as you do, there will definitely be little chance of success…just throw in the towel now.

Yato

You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

ronaldo

he wont be missed

Dr Zebra

Said Ronaldo at Real?

Jasonissimo

“You sell Alexis / and buy a lot of Parkers” ?

Big+Mad+Andy

Heh

yen

I guess in those good ole’ days you could say “that’s a bloody bad article, Trevor!”

IndieGooner

Gotcha at Vermicelli!!

Mesut

That had me in stitches!

The rich

Brilliant article.
Ozil is an amazing talent who’s a real joy to watch at times but not at others.
He’s certainly worth starting when he’s fit.

But Have we put the right type of talent/attributes behind him or in front of him? To get the best out of him? He always played better with Cazorla behind him.

Would we function better as a team with a different type of midfielder?

Arsene generally hasn’t put this squad together with any type of planning
Our signings are usually opportunistic, or made out of lack of planning or decisiveness… as was the Ozil signing

wizardry

You mean we didn’t sell Gervinho to Roma, so that Pamela can go to spurs, so that spurs can sell bale to RM and RM to sell us Özil?

Santori

I’d want a Ferrari for my runaround car…and one that cost the price of Ford Granada bc Wenger managed to want me a deal iutvof someone over his head in debt and willing to sell on…like ere Santi.

Stuart_Ten

Such insight.
Such analysis.

A Yank In King Arsene\'s West Stand
A Yank In King Arsene\'s West Stand

Top, top column. Would love to see a football roundtable with Graham, Philomena Cunk, and Barry Shitpeas.

BennisBergkamp

I came to the comments to chuckle at people who don’t understand satire. I was not disappointed.

Kwame+Ampadu+Down

I’ll be honest BennisBergkamp, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The lack of intelligence from people lashing out over this is kinda terrifying.

SantiSandler

It really is hilarious how many people ALWAYS take this column so seriously. Well, it might actually be more worrying then anything else…

ron

I’m waiting for Trump to retweet it.

Damo Dinkum

“we didn’t give out a prize at the end of season award to the player who had made the most ‘assists’ because football was a team game back then.”

If people aren’t laughing at this point, Lord help us all.

Cheupe

And that’s why he didn’t make the grade at Arsenal

Loko

.

Jth

Err, that is a photo of O’Reilly, the builder from a Fawlty Towers episode?

RyRyGooner

Not funny. Not remotely informed. Is this guy even an Arsenal fan? Keeps referring to us as “they” – what’s that about? By far my least favourite column on my most favourite site 🙂

Bendtnerschristmastree
Bendtnerschristmastree

Oh dear

Manwithaplan

Tell me about it..don’t know how this muppet gets a slot? Must’ve spent an hour looking through my old programs, almanac and google and no mention of this no-mark… clearly failed at football…now at analysis…should be binned!!!

Fox in the box

Ffs… You for real?

ronaldo

too true, im sure ozil would do alright abroad, but here he is absolute shit.

Marge

Weekly column not required, Blogs. I want more for my £0.00!

DannyJZuko

In the words of Drax the Destroyer, “Nothing goes over my head; my reflexes are too fast. I would catch it!”

Matt

Exactly. We need more analysts like you and Lawrence Gray-Hodson.

Ben

Middle name Souness?

Mike

The timing of this, what shit did I just read. Its looks like bad attempt to become ArsenalFanTV

Ozenal

Nice take on Ozil. Will you do more pieces on general stuff or mainly on players?

I think our issue is mainly one of teamwork, rather than an individual player. Especially when you have a excitable border collie in Alexis and try to pair him with a great dane like Ozil. Okay the dog analogy is a little loose, just trying to explain why there seems to be something missing out of possession and backup this point that you made.

Ozil is firstly a highly intelligent player. He won’t chase a ball if he knows there are unmarked opponents. Call it lazy, I say he is saving his energy for bursts forward.

Secondly, Alexis is indisciplined. Which is why I liken him to a puppy. He is all body language and expresses himself with movement. So when the opposition have the ball he will sprint without considering whether Ozil (or others) are in a position to do so. You will often see him race towards the ball, expecting others to follow his body language like a pack. His natural tribe is his national team who do exactly this and he is often the instigator of the press.

Thirdly Ozil is a player with a great appreciation of space, therefore will naturally not be close to an opposition player when the opponents get turned over, and it looks like that as the initial chasing down the ball he looks out of position but this is because he knows he can do maximum damage if the ball gets turned over so close to opposition goal and with the defenders out of position.

Wenger knows this, which is why I believe he moved to a 343 formation, to avoid having Ozil in the centre and being bypassed so easily when we try to press.

AlexiLacOzil works so well because out of possession we can press one side of the pitch with AlexiLaca and once Ozil needs to press, the space is more compact and the sprints he needs to make have a higher percentage chance of success.

This also explains Wenger’s reluctance to field Giroud from the start of a game where we need to press. As even if Ozil manages to cover both the player near Giroud and himself and get the ball, Giroud isn’t fast enough to maximise the space created by the quick transition.

The problem isn’t one individual player. Just a product of having two world class players who have some inefficiencies in style out of possession, which is preferable to having differing styles in possession. Something I feel 343 has helped maximise the potential whilst still allowing them to combine in possession. This could very well be the reason Ozil decides to stay if it continues to work, unfortunate timing of Laca’s injury, and I can see why Wenger was keen to keep Laca healthy and away from 90th minute horror tackles.

From Ozil’s point of view not having the requisite quality around him has held back his potential. And frustratingly for Wenger the promise of bringing the best out of Ozil has become more an exercise of minimising the weaknesses of sub standard transfers by utilising Ozil’s talents in a more efficiency capacity. A deep lying midfielder who can transition play quickly and find Ozil is the ideal way to maximise the whole teams potential and stop having to rely on Ozil to just keep possession (because we give him the ball in already congested positions). That deep player is of course Santi. The closest we have to him is Jack, but his impact injuries will be targeted by opposition players. So our only two alternatives are to develop a youth player in the next couple of weeks or improve Xhaka’s ability to get out of tight spaces. Yep so youth player then…

As fans we need to appreciate the micro-systems that players combine to create rather than individuals. As no individual is perfect, although our perception is that is what is needed.

Manny

I respectfully don’t agree Graham. You remind me of the argument in Hip hop. These days of “it was better in the day” “It’s changed too much” Football has changed, so has everything in the world its evolved. Stats actually help us to say you know what for all the running around Scott Parker did he was average and thats why he mostly played for mostly average teams. Ozil embodies the German stereotype. He is efficient and he looks better in a better team. You don’t stick a Rolls Royce in a field.

Gooner4lyfe

Excellent response

Josh trainor

Cannot for the life of me work out if this column is written in a tongue in cheek manner or not.
If not, I’d implore you not to allow Graham another… Stone Age opinions on modern day football are worthless. I’d take game information based on stats over the body language readings of an old man brought up in an era when players drunk like fans and “stick it up em they don’t like it” was a used football pitch phrase. Graham is the kind of chap who would take one look at Messi and dismiss his abilities based on his size.
I’m all for criticism when it’s due, this is mistimed, misinformed and dated.
Up the Arsenal.

Damo Dinkum

“I’ll tell you when you can expect a goal: when you get a good cross into the back post and one of your two burly centre-forwards straight-arms the centre-half in the back of the head and powers home a header.”

Come on, what’s mistimed, misinformed and dated about that?

Mrnkrm

Dafuq did I just read

Tomek

I hope all the people not chuckling are not British, at least you have some excuse for not appreciating this flavour of satire. If you ARE British I… Smh (written by a Yank)

Excellent rhubarb Arseblog.

Kristian Linz

I Norway we have a saying; It ain’t necessary good article, just bacause Its satire article

arseblog
Admin

Norwegians must have a saying for everything!

A Different George

Also a skier.

Damo Dinkum

:’D

Kristian Linz

We have a saying that says; Norwegians have a saying for everything and that ozil is one of the finest since Carlos Valderama.

Midgunner

For fucks sake people its meant to be satire, surely that’s obvious right??

It Is What It Is

You, like many others, are a seemingly decent person. By decent, I mean good, well above average, on a ‘blog commenter’ level. (I don’t know you personally, so i’m loath to jump the gun and say that you are a good person in real life. Heck, we have an ex-priest, a rambler…you could be anyone).

Why? Either for wanting to defend the article and writer, or hoping (against all hope, and odds) that all fingers are equal, and its really not that bad.

It clearly is that bad. Definitely, nailed on, for me at least.

And then I find out this format/column isn’t being premiered. Besides, this is Arseblog. If you didn’t know, now you know. Noope, that hasn’t worked so far.

Sooo, carry on. I ask that you join me in SMH.

Naija-gunner

You hit the nail on the head with that fair assessment.

Robin van Pussy

Honestly most guys don’t understand Ozil ,he’s such a visionary he controls play in the most subtle ways , even when he doesn’t play the killer pass like he did last night , he will make a pass or movement that allows others to make a great play, case in point for the first goal against Huddersfield yesterday he played that ball into xhaka probably knowing full well that it was two touches away from a goal. Great to see Ramsey and Granit learning the small things from him its like we have three number 10s

Calm

Sorry but it was Lacazette that played the ball into Xhaka>>>Ramsey>>>Lacazette>>>Goal. Ozil gave the ball to Lacazette before that.

Arselee

Haha, a little too cerebral for some, aye blogs?

mpls

Which confirms my worries for the future of this world. We’re doomed.

ajuhamza

People here just criticizing the article in comments section are pathetic. Back in my days, we used to find the author and kick his butt to bleeding, if we did not like a certain article.

ClockEndRider

Ahh, The Doogster, as he was affectionately known on the Clock End…,,

ignatz

Graham has a point, would you take Ozil over Scotty Parker, Michael Brown or Karl Henry? That’s what I thought.

Inflamed Pulis

My family had a silver Ford Granada with a burgundy interior back in the ’70s. For the time period, I’d rate it 6 out of 10.

A young Eddie McGoldrick
A young Eddie McGoldrick

This satire is absolutely spot on in places, so much so that it confused me as to whether it is satire or not. I’m only reading Wikipedia from now on.

Petits Handbag

I hope non Arsenal fans don’t read the comments section. Some of you our making us look like right mugs.

ritabhash

The number of people not getting the satire is a bit worrying.
I was chuckling throughout the article and that comparision to Scotty Parker was just too good. Admittedly, I struggled to get a lot of the British humour in Graham’s previous articles but this one was pretty easy to figure out…or was it? Seeing the number of people not able to figure it out is a bit worrying

Who?

This one lost me at “Scotty Parker”…

agooner

sumps up the mindset when someone expects Ozil to do like ” Scotty Parker in him”.. i remember back when many stupid pundits would want Arsenal to sign
Scotty saying thats what Arsenal need..
wow such a slump in quality of writer now..i am amazed how this guys doesn’t understand assist.. one of the worst articles i have read.

agooner

if this is meant to be a satire then kudos but i must admit i hav never read graham before so not able to catch where this was a sattire…:)
definitely using Scotty Parker riled me up …:)

Runzac

If football is about scoring goals then Özil is great. If football is about tackling, pushing, pulling and physical fights then Özil is shit. There´s the “big” enigma.
For me he is great – I dont expect him to be physical and doing flying tackles all over. However we need someone behind Özil that can “clean up after him and make interceptions and tackles and read the game defensively. There´s where AW has failed.

mpls

Forgive me for playing the man a bit here, but this comment section has done nothing to quell a few opinions I had been forming.

And I’ll leave it at that for the sake of Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Jozzer

So true. Please could we group fans at the Emirates by IQ?

Malteria

Shockingly poor column! What kind of Arsenal fan are you? Of course he did not deliver in every single game but who does bar Messi and Ronaldo maybe?! Mesut has been highly influential and productive since he arrived at Arsenal, creating loads of goals. But he’s not only about assists, he makes things happen, very rarely gives a pass away and scores some goals himself. It’s no coincidence that without Mesut, Arsenal couldn’t create anything decent at Burnley. And his work rate? Of course he could do more but who couldnt? Do you see Messi, Neymar or Coutinho chase back?! Tired of this talk. Mesut is gonna be missed hugely when he’s gone…

Can_gooner

One of Graham’s best. Had me laughing from Vermicelli onwards. At least up until the comments when it became obvious that it went way over the heads of many.

Gooner4lyfe

What a load of rubbish! 2nd division footballer, Scottish youth teams!? That might as well be Sunday league back then!
Malta and Luxembourg -Those hotbeds of football!!! – NOT!!
You would rather Scott Parker to mesut ozil!? That’s like saying you prefer McDonald’s to a fillet steak!!
Mr Dougan you are a joke!!
Get this clown off the blog!!
It sounds like mesut did more last night in 10mins than you did in your whole career!!
Your a bitter nobody, who wishes he had a quarter the talent of ozil!!

Espen

Calm down. Mr Dougan doesn’t exist. It’s satire.

CLOCKENdRIDER

How very dare you. We on the clock end salute “The Galway Galloon” . Top man who never shirked a challenge despite the loss of an arm.

Fox in the box

Certainly is a ‘nobody’ ?

NevilleNeville

“His eye for a pass is second to none except for one or two, and he has the tools to unpick the lock of every defence in world football apart from a few I can think of.”

This make me laugh…

Santori

Ian Wright prattling on about Ozil only good for “this type of opponents” (meaning disrespectfully Huddersfield) is the real fool.

He forgot Ozil also helped take apart Spurts not a week ago?

The same Spurts him and his media pack would seem Arsenal lucky to emulate.

Media very quiet about genius Ponchentino and power shift lately.

Chris

Tired of British commentators talking about “how hard he works” Brits haven’t won a world cup since the 60s… Why do these “real football men” insist they know “real football”… What have they won to say an English style is superior? I don’t see anyone hiring a homeless real estate agent so why are all these British pundits offering their opinion on how a world cup winner should play? I don’t see Barca Real Bayern Juve United Chelsea hiring English coaches… So why do English commentators think they know “what arsenal needs”?

Fox in the box

Hi Chris, you are some craic! Doogs forever…

Jozzer

Poor old Doogs, he was a great prospect until he lost an arm and ended up as a waiter in ‘Robin’s Nest’ – what a waste.

CLOCKENdRIDER

Oh how quickly we forget…..

WalkItIn

The best article I’ve read today bar none, with the exception of one or two.

Charvakan

Laugh-out-loud stuff. Thanks. Here’s hoping Ozil builds on this run of superb form and challenges the assist record again. And stays healthy!

Mohammad

This article is a joke
and you are a hater of Özil.
You mentioned that football is not about numbers!
So who wins the game!
if a team scored 1 goal and the apponent scored 2 goal,Then who is the winner?

Zino

Probably the worst article I have ever read on this usually brilliant website. Full of clichés, of “it was better before” (and I’m not even that young) and simply poorly written. At least not at all to the standard of what we are used to.

ENJ

“I’m not even that young”. Well clearly a little too young to understand satire.