Mesut Ozil close to losing his role in Germany’s squad

November 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Arsenal FC

When it comes to Mesut Ozil, the rumour mill has gone into overdrive in the last few weeks. The hottest gossip of all has the German set for a move to Manchester United, and a reunion with his old boss Jose Mourinho.

Joining United may well give Ozil a slightly better chance of securing the major silverware that has eluded him at Arsenal. Trophies, though, may be the least of Ozil’s worries in the coming months.

This international break has been a miserable one by anyone’s standards, and for Ozil, it has done nothing to dispel the nagging sense of doubt. For the Arsenal playmaker, a place in Joachim Low’s Germany team is no longer a given.

When Germany face France on Tuesday evening, Ozil is set to start on the bench. That, in itself, is no great drama. The worry is that he will also be starting on the bench at next summer’s World Cup.

As the world champions prepare to defend their title in Russia, there is a growing sense that Ozil is less crucial than he has ever been.

There is almost no doubt at all that he will make the squad, but as far as a place in the starting eleven goes, Ozil may be facing the biggest fight of his international career.

Part of that is down to his own performances. It has been a while since Ozil has truly enchanted the Germany fans, and his performances in friendlies have invited repeated criticism from all corners of the press.

‘Who had desire? Not Mesut Ozil, who is obviously no fan of meaningless friendlies against hard-tackling opposition,’ wrote Die Zeit after Germany’s turgid draw with England last Friday.

To be fair, there was barely a player on the pitch at Wembley who showed any kind of real desire or determination, particularly in the second half. Yet it is Ozil who seems like he has most to lose from such performances.

‘For all the talent at his disposal, Low’s challenge will be to cultivate the kind of ruthlessness which Ozil, Gundogan, Sane and Werner failed to show last night,’ wrote Bild.

On the back of the England game, the same Bild columnist drew up his ideal starting XI for next year’s World Cup, and Ozil was absent. The same happened when Bild conducted a poll of their readers to work out the fans’ favoured side.

Others in his generation remain absolutely guaranteed of a place in such lists. Whether the brilliant Toni Kroos or the struggling Thomas Muller, most of Ozil’s peers have retained their positions as undisputed first choice in their positions.

Ozil, on the other hand, is increasingly overlooked. The success of players such as Leroy Sane, Julian Brandt and the return of Mario Gotze means that it is even more crowded than ever in Germany’s attacking midfield.

The rise of players such as Julian Draxler and Leon Goretzka, meanwhile, represents a direct threat to the Arsenal man. Both players shone at last summer’s Confederations Cup.

While Draxler may well be hampered by a lack of game time at Paris Saint-Germain, Goretzka has lead Schalke into the top four this season, and is fast becoming the favourite to topple Ozil.

‘(Goretzka) has brilliant technique and tempo, both with and without the ball,’ gushed Low this week. ‘And he has personality. To me, he seems very mature for his age.’

That is the factor which should alarm Ozil the most. A quieter figure both on and off the pitch, Ozil’s lack of leadership qualities may prove decisive, particularly since the retirement of Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

‘Hierarchies are built on performances,’ said Toni Kroos at this week’s press conference. ‘Everyone can rise up the ranks with good performances.’

That is the key for Ozil. If the likes of Sane, Goretzka and Draxler are outperforming him, they may also end up overtaking him in the team hierarchy.

This is, we must never forget, the man who Cristiano Ronaldo once described as ‘the best No 10 in the world’ and was dubbed the King of Assists upon his arrival in north London. Ozil still has quality in abundance, and he has always been able to lead by example if the constellation of the team is right.

At this point, though, he must show off that quality like never before, if he is to keep his place in Germany’s pecking order.