Sunday 13 December 2015

The wizardry of Ozil doesn't get enough credit

Arsene Wenger's post-match comments about the second goal against Aston Villa revealed a lot. He mentioned how Mesut Ozil is a complete player, who gives more than he receives in terms of chances. A staggering 13 assists is testament to the fact.

Despite this, Sky Sports gave the man-of-the-match award to the scorer of the second: Aaron Ramsey. Yes, the Welshman had a good game, but did he eclipse Ozil? No, not in my opinion.

Ozil's passing was exceptional, as was his balance, that was more reminiscent of a ballerina than a footballer. Arsenal fans are finally beginning to see the best of Mesut, but the pundits are lagging behind with their praise.

Against Villa, other much-maligned players came to the fore, with Theo Walcott winning the penalty that Olivier Giroud expertly despatched. Giroud was Thierry Henry's man-of-the-match and I would say he was a better call than Ramsey. Giroud didn't put a foot wrong, although he looked a bit nervous before taking the penalty. The point is the Frenchman took a few deep breaths to focus on what he needed to do and then he made sure he hit the target. The delay around the awarding of the penalty created a sense of injustice at Villa, which made me think Giroud might miss; he was coolness personified.

The sense of injustice was Arsenal's when Walcott was ruled offside just before he netted. It would have made it 3-0, but it didn't stand. It was clearly the wrong decision by the officials.

After the break, Arsenal looked tired after their long-haul exertions in midweek and started to give the ball away in vulnerable positions. To his credit, Mathieu Flamini shielded the back four to good effect. In fact, when Hector Bellerin launched into attack, 'Flames' spent a lot of time filling in at right back. Ramsey did something similar on the opposite flank for Nacho Monreal.

This way of playing gave Arsenal a solidity that has not always been there. I particularly liked the way Laurent Koscielny dovetailed down the left, as when the centre back went wider to intercept, Monreal dropped into the vacant central defensive position. There was a certain fluidity about Arsenal that you only get with a settled team.

Meanwhile, Petr Cech in goal oozed confidence as he equalled David James's record for the most clean sheets in the Premier League.

Arsenal go top of the league for 24 hours and can remain there if Leicester slip up against Chelsea.

As a footnote, I'd like to mention how Henry said that players don't point fingers in the dressing room nowadays. He said he was considered a 'weirdo' for doing it. Personally, I'm not in favour of finger pointing. I believe there is no point dwelling on past mistakes as players usually know what they have done wrong. Coaches should concentrate on the positives and talk about how to improve performances. Singling out players for abuse can never be good inside or outside the dressing room. Confidence is a fragile thing for many players and once lost it can take weeks or months to return.

Only constructive criticism is useful. Most players will not respond well if you shout at them: 'Are you playing, or what?' That's exactly what I heard a famous coach (who I'm reluctant to name) shout at one of his young charges playing for the reserves. That particular player never made it in the game. The youngster should have shouted back: 'Are you coaching, or what?'

To me, abuse is not coaching. It makes for interesting punditry, and this is clearly something Henry excels at, but it's no good for most players. That's why I don't see Henry following in Gary Neville's footsteps to turn from punditry to management.

Not only that, but truly great players rarely make good managers. Johan Cruyff is an exception that comes to mind, as is Glenn Hoddle, but they are relatively few and far between. Top ex-players find it hard to explain what comes so naturally to them and they become frustrated with the lack of ability at their disposal once they hang their boots up. For that reason too, I say Henry should stay a pundit and not be tempted into football management.

Sent from my iPhone

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