Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports


If You Give Up on Özil, I’ll Give Up on You

International Breaks serve to do two things: 1. Get every Arsenal player injured. 2. Make every Arsenal fan believe the sky if falling. With no Arsenal action to speak of for two weeks, only bad things can happen. And only bad things have happened. After a full fortnight of negativity, starting with the loss to Chelsea, everyone has forgotten how well Arsenal played on October 1st. Saturday’s came cannot come soon enough

Obviously, there are a ton of concerns defensively right now. Depending on the severity of Laurent Koscielny’s lingering achilles problems, Arsenal could be giving full Premier League debuts to both Hector Bellerin (Calum Chambers is suspended for a match) and Isaac Hayden against Hull on Saturday. I have more trust in those two than most I suspect, but we’d all feel more confident were than another defender in the squad. Alas, there isn’t. But against the likes of Hull and Anderlecht, one would hope Arsenal has the firepower to outscore a team if they can’t keep a clean sheet.

But the story this break has revolved around Mesut Özil. Early last week, the German soccer federation announced the Arsenal playmaker had injured his knee and would be out 10-12 weeks. When I saw the news, I was heartbroken. Özil had finally been stringing together some great performances and was noticeably forming a great understanding with new striker Danny Welbeck. But looking at the fixture list, I reasoned that if Arsenal could survive any three month stretch without their best player, it was now. Sure, there are a few tough tests mixed in, but for the most part, the schedule looks nothing like what it was in September.

In Özil’s three month absence, Arsenal has no lack of players capable of filling his role. I’ve been reading that Jack Wilshere has been having an excellent run with England, so maybe he should get the nod in the number 10 role. Santi Cazorla could also slide over, or Tomas Rosicky could return to the lineup. Should Cazorla move inside, that might give Lukas Podolski or Joel Campbell a run on the left, if only until Theo Walcott returns. If Wilshere gets moved forward, Abou Diaby or Francis Coquelin will need to come into the side alongside the holding midfielder. The only option I’d be worried about is putting Aaron Ramsey in the number 10 role when he comes back.

Speaking of Walcott, the images of he and Serge Gnabry back in full training brightened my otherwise gloomy international break state this morning. I feel like many people have forgotten about Walcott, but he could absolutely be a game-changer. Couple his pace with Welbeck and with Alexis Sanchez and suddenly Arsenal becomes lethal in the final third. I cannot wait for Walcott to get back on the field. Just imagine what it will be like when Walcott, Sanchez and Özil can play together.

But the story didn’t end with the injury for Özil. The media has used this injury as an excuse to write about how Wenger is fed up with Özil, how he wants to sell him in January, how Özil is fed up with Arsenal and how he also wants to leave. All of a sudden, every step that Özil took in the right direction in September has been forgotten. The media has used an unfortunate injury (a knee injury is unlucky, not the product of a lazy player or poor coaching) to return to their relentless Özil hatred. Frankly, it’s appalling. While I don’t believe a lick of what’s being written, in the international break, it’s hard not to pay attention to it.

Why would Arsene Wenger give up on his record signing now – a record signing who started brightly at Arsenal only to be derailed by an injury, proceeded to win a World Cup, and has steadily grown more influential this year? Özil is the answer to Arsenal’s problems, not the cause of them. Surround him with players that complement him and he becomes one of the game’s very best players. Watch some tape of Real Madrid from only two years ago and tell me you’d sell him. I dare you.

That the rumored price of a deal to Bayern Munich is 30 million pounds is an absolute joke. Arsenal bought him for 42, and despite what the media would have you believe, he has not lost more than 25% of his skills. Big teams like Bayern have the funds to overpay, so why Arsenal would ever accept a low-balling bid like that for Özil I don’t know. Would I sell him for 45? Maybe. Only if Wenger brought back a Javi Martinez type in the deal. But other than that, absolutely not.

So please, Mr. Wenger, from the bottom of my heart, I implore you not to give up on Özil. He is your best player and your key to success. You lose when he plays poorly and win when he plays well. If that doesn’t tell you he’s important to the squad, nothing will. Change your tactics to work with Özil, don’t try to change him. If you do give up on our number 11, I will have no choice but to give up on you.



Die Beste Halbe von Fußball Bisher (The Best Half of Soccer So Far)

Hoffentlich Die Mannschaft spielt viele mehr Spielen in Brazil weil mehr Deutsch muss ich schreiben! After a full twenty-three hours without watching a World Cup match (it felt strange, believe me), I was able to tune in to the Germay-Ghana game, hoping to see some German delight. But instead, I was treated to one the most enthralling half of soccer the World Cup has offered thus far. As a U.S. supporter first and foremost, this game was agonizing to watch at times, not to mention that Germany would be my obvious team given my familial roots and second language choice. ESPN’s Jon Champion called the scoreless first half a “game for the purists,” but the second half was for everyone.

Before I get to everything else, I have to question Jogi Löw’s decision to bring on the inexperienced Shkodran Mustafi at right back at half for Jerome Boateng. While Philipp Lahm may be his ideal holding midfielder at this point in the German captain’s career, there comes a come when the best right back in the world should be playing right back. I am fine with Boateng on the right, because he is sound defensively and certainly capable of sending in the odd cross. But when Boateng is not on the field, Lahm needs to shift to defense. Germany’s options for holding midfielders off the bench are far better than their secondary options in the back. Mustafi messed up today, allowing Andrew Ayew to get in front of him for a game-tying header. Another mistake could cost the Germans tremendously down the line.

Aside from that, I felt like Germany were a step slow tonight. They were adventurous going forward for much of the match, but remain a few causes for concern. With all the fluid movement up top, they leave their defenders very exposed at times. The backline is more than capable of holding down the fort, but Löw’s tactics put a lot of pressure on his back four. Should there be a giveaway in midfield, like there was on Asomoah Gyan’s goal, there’s not much the defense can do without cover from any wide areas.

The highlight of this game for me was Miroslav Klose’s goal. That it came so soon after his arrival on the pitch provided a further testament to his goalscoring prowess at the World Cup. While the public might be in love with posterboy Mario Götze, Klose is simply ruthless. When Germany needs a goal, he needs to be on the field. Götze should start in my opinion, but don’t forget about Klose. He’s got a little more left.

For me, Mesut Özil had another decent game, but again a keener desire to score himself could have been the difference. Many might be dissatisfied again with his perceived lack of interest, but I feel it’s wrong to judge him for his resting facial expression, though you can fault him for not sprinting back after giving the ball way. Özil made a lot of intelligent runs to get into wonderful spaces, and two or three times you had to wonder if he had a shot in him. Maybe it’s a lost cause to want him to shoot more, but he has a strong shot in him when he decides to let one go. But alas, you know what you’re going to get from Özil these days. He certainly has more to give, but we’re only going to see it if we allow him to be himself. Germany needs him badly, and would be unwise to give up on him right now.

Lastly, Ghana is a heck of a team. In most every group, they would likely be going through. They were woefully unlucky against the U.S., and today they certainly were on par with the Germans. While they will probably be going home, it would be wrong to say they underperformed. Some teams just get unlucky. And no, I don’t mean England.

It sounds like I missed a good one in Argentina and Iran earlier today. But it looks as if we might see a lot more of Lionel Messi.