Arsenal’s woes go far beyond Ozil

The scrutiny in Munich was meant to be on under-performing Mesut Ozil but whatever the German could do, Bayern’s Thiago Alcantara could do far, far better as Arsenal were outclassed in Europe yet again - leaving Arsene Wenger as the man feeling the heat of the spotlight instead of his star midfielder.

It seems strange a player who has played more than 450 games at the highest level, who lifted the World Cup with his country, won La Liga with Real Madrid and collected two FA Cups with Arsenal, should be under such intense focus for the quality of his contribution, but that was the case in the Allianz Arena on his return to Germany.

The problem for Ozil, however, was that although he responded to the challenge, he quickly found the performance of Spanish international Thiago effortlessly eclipsed anything he could conjure up.

The 25-year-old, who began his career at Barcelona, dominated the match from midfield, scoring twice – including perhaps the game’s outstanding goal, Bayern’s third – to leave Arsenal with another impossible task in the Champions League and with far bigger questions to answer than Ozil’s stuttering form.

So how harshly can we judge the midfielder for a result that was decided in a frantic second-half in which Arsenal lost defensive lynchpin Laurent Koscielny and were ripped apart time and time again? Pre-match speculation even suggested Wenger would leave the German out of his startling lineup following a string of disappointing performances - a period during which even the assists Ozil has been so famous for have noticeably dried up, along with the goals which have been nowhere to be seen since mid December.

The story, which proved false because Ozil was chosen in Arsenal’s starting 11 and played the full 90 minutes was played out against a backdrop of a contract dispute, including suggestions the 28-year-old was stalling on a new deal and actively considering a future away from north London.

With so much going on it was inevitable, especially in these days of quick-fire opinions, Ozil’s loyalty and attitude would be questioned; but the story that looked most damaging was a ‘behind the scenes’ quote claiming Arsenal’s players were fed up with their teammate’s lack of input and complained he was given special treatment from his manager.

These kind of rumours are hard to investigate but they also linger uneasily in the air and are even more difficult to shake off; so this result wont’ make it any easier..

Ozil’s first chance to make a mark came with a 27th minute free-kick which was spilled by his former schoolmate Manuel Neuer, and it ultimately set up a period of pressure which ended with Alexi Sanchez’s equaliser.

Just as telling was his contribution after 40 minutes when he showed good energy to rob Thiago of the ball in midfield and then drove forward to help set up a chance that perhaps Granit Xhaka should have scored. He also burst through again late in the first-half, this time on the left flank, and forced an excellent save from Neuer just when it seemed the glory could be all his.

The problem for Ozil is Arsenal’s embarrassing capitulation in the second-half means those moments meant absolutely nothing in the end.

Journalists and pundits have already jumped hungrily on a line he doesn’t perform in the really big games and correcting it is not going to be easy in a team so far short of being a power in Europe.

The real truth is Arsenal don’t often perform in the big games, so how can you expect an attacking midfielder to save them if he doesn’t enjoy enough of the ball?

On this occasion Ozil didn’t have a bad game, he made contributions in the first-half that could have helped his side into the lead, he ran, he worked, he did his bit; but he was simply eclipsed by an opponent who was far more outstanding - and Arsenal as a collective suffered exactly the same fat, to an even greater level.

We all know it will take far more than a revitalised Mesut Ozil to save Arsenal or their manager now after the way they were dismantled in the second half. Perhaps the spotlight has been on the wrong person all along.


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