People’s general perception of the modern winger has become castigated in a way. No longer do the criteria require just a burst of pace and the ability to cross the ball into the eighteen yard box, but a range of attributes that vary on the ‘style’ of the winger. For example, not every winger that you see in a team is blisteringly quick, able to get past their full back as he scrambles back hurriedly to block the perpetual cross, no – in another case, that winger may have the ability to cut inside and deliver a sweetened pass into the box, or play one-two’s with a team-mate and still beat his man, and whip the cross in.
Modern football has changed a lot of things in our view and perspective of things, whether it is related to the game or not. Tactically, managers nowadays have to rethink their strategies when believing that the 4-4-2 would be the best route in their next game or that the 4-2-3-1 would have a significant advantage of their opponents in the cup quarter final at home, and since wingers have become a staple to any system within football since it’s incarceration, it was only a matter of time before football itself would develop a new role for the contemporary wide man.
So when Mesut Özil signed amongst the whirlwind that was the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ in his own signing for Real Madrid, that apprehensive understanding of what a winger would normally be expected of would be dead. Özil is no speedster. Granted, he is a magnificent talent and given the time he has ahead of him, can become a real world class player (the coaching staff at Werder Bremen will tell you just that) but he is no player to run at the opposing full back with such force that he stumbles over as he swerves ferociously off the pitch.
This brings me to the brief point of what has slowly bucked a small trend in the Premier League, though the world of football has been very much used to the concept – the advanced playmaker. If you have never watched David Silva play for either Manchester City or his previous club Valencia, shame on you. I would go as far as saying that he is the best midfielder in the league, but at running risk of scathing criticism I will withdraw the statement with unreserved apology. Nevertheless David Silva’s prude excellence lies not within his physical assertion on the defending opposition, but his flourished technical abilities that make him stand out. Like a paint brush and an easel. It’s mainly the reason why he has the most assists in the league and averages the second-most key passes a game (behind Juan Mata). His importance to Manchester City cannot really be measured with any tool, but any player or fan can tell you how much of an indispensable figure he is to the left wing of their attack.
The same is with Özil. A clasped atmosphere around the Santiago Bernabeu on the evening of a Spanish night when Los Galacticos are rampant will evoke signs of both content with the team’s performance and how they feel about the players. When their little German winger touched the ball again and again in their home game against Espanyol, the crowd would be eager to see what he could come up with. Quick thinking and a weighted pass whilst he is closed down naturally was the course of action, but you could tell that he was almost always going to bring something good out of it. An almost palliative inevitability soothed the fans amongst the chanting and roaring that seemed to have filled the stadium and its overcast lights.
Hence the Mesut Özil effect.
I personally love watching this beady eyed, sweat drenched six foot footballer cogently keep Madrid’s attacks going in the final thirds of the pitch. His performance at the 2010 World Cup was outstanding, which has led to beliefs that it was to be the ‘icing on the cake’ for Werder Bremen to be bombarded with interest and offers from clubs around Europe. I found myself impressed by his skill and eye for a pass, only wishing that he could come to the Premier League and develop it further. Alas, he lies within the ranks of one of Spain’s most prestigious clubs and will perhaps continue to do so until football’s ideology of old age. His influence on the side is not totally individual – something that would be quite far-fetched – but he has had brought a significant change to the way that Mourinho deploys him and the way that his team plays entirely. It is unfortunate, however that, Özil cannot sustain the arduous task of a ninety-minute game week in and week out that is particularly critical of most players’ games, but the Özil effect could shed light on a new trend in European football if pushed on with.