Inspiration continues to be found in some curious outposts. One of the greatest quotes of recent years can be discovered in the boxing movie Rocky Balboa. During a scene when Sylvester Stallone's fabled character is talking to his son about a job he is unhappy in, Balbao suggests that attitude to life tells you everything you need to know about a man.
"Let me tell you something you already know," says Rocky. "The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.."
Or not as the case may be when you think of Mesut Ozil and Arsenal during their 2-0 throttling by Bayern Munich in the Champions League last-16 first leg at the Emirates. Ozil suddenly seems to be unhappy in the job he is in. Losing in front of your home crowd remains a chastening experience but if there is a style to winning, there is also a manner in which to lose.
As the speech in Rocky Balboa tells us, difficult times reveal true strength of spirit, resolve and character, and a willingness to keep going in times of adversity. This was the type of evening Arsenal were subjected to against a Bayern team of superior technique and quality. Pep Guardiola’s side are not Champions League holders because they are willing triers. They exude class all over the pitch. Crucially, they are also a team constantly working and feeding off each other.
Most of Arsene Wenger's men deserved credit for fighting for over an hour with only 10 men after the loss of their goalkeeper to emerge with dignity from the ruins of this bludgeoning. It is fair to say Ozil did not bask in such plaudits.
In football terms, Ozil has been flogged to death a bit this season such is his importance and cost as the club’s record signing, but Arsene Wenger seems to be in danger of isolating the man he paid £42.5 million to land from Real Madrid last summer.
Ozil has departed earlier than the 80th minute only three times this season, but this cannot be trotted out as a viable excuse for abandoning his sense of duty against Bayern.
Mesut Ozil after missing a penalty against Bayern Munich.
Ozil is out of form as an attacking midfielder. He has not scored since December and has played provider for a team-mate to score only once in the past eight Premier League games.
Gone is the reputation that he arrived clutching with him from Real Madrid as the most potent goal provider on the continent, a man who has been voted Germany’s best international player for three straight years.
Quickly emerging is an altogether different picture of a player who is selfish, with an anaemic persona on his off days - of which there are becoming too many - and a luxury item only of benefit when the good times are rolling.
The days when he was feasting on goals and assists with eyes bulging like Marty Feldman seem a distant memory.
When you are stuck in the trenches, like Arsenal were against Bayern last night, Ozil is not the sort of figure you would want alongside you. Not when he is an empty shirt.
One moment of brilliance that saw him clipped by Jerome Boateng early in the match was quickly superseded by a poor penalty. The approach was lazy, the kick was awful and Arsenal had lost the chance to lead as Manuel Neuer clawed away the penalty down the middle. Ozil never recovered his gait from that moment preferring instead to linger over the miss.
"I prefer people run properly at the ball,” said Wenger exuding some diplomacy. "Everybody has his own style and you have to respect there's not one way of penalty taking. It's his style.
"He was affected by it. I think he wanted to do so well tonight, it affected him. You could see he will still shaking his head five to 10 minutes later. It had a huge impact on his performance."
Arsenal’s were plunged into an hour or so of deep despair when Wojciech Szczesny was sent off for bringing down Arjen Robben eight minutes before half-time.
David Alaba struck a post with this penalty, but Bayern’s relentless energy and enthusiasm against the 10 men wrought two goals in the second half, one from a fabulous Toni Kroos swipe and the other from substitute Thomas Muller's header later on.
Watched by the German national coach Joachim Low, one gets the impression Guardiola would not have suffered a performance like Ozil's from a player wearing a Bayern shirt. He would not have tolerated such an inexplicable descent into depression.
But then you have no such worries when players like Toni Kroos, Arjen Robben and Phillip Lahm are representing you. Ozil looked poor in such company.
Arjen Robben celebrates with the visiting Bayern supporters.
How he survived the full match is something of a mystery. Santi Cazorla was sacrificed for replacement goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski in the first half while Tomas Rosicky replaced Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain later on.
Ozil did little of note to stem the Bayern forays down his left side especially when Rafinha was introduced for Boateng at half-time. Guardiola loaded the right flank aware of the weakness. It looked like Ozil did not grasp the concept of covering.
Is he lazy? The stats say no. Ozil covered over 11k in the match so it is difficult to suggest he wasn’t running. It is just where he was running that seemed to be the problem. Football is not about keeping or looking busy.
Arsenal managed 12% possession in the second half, and completed just 38 passes after half-time.
A frustrated Mathieu Flamini, drenched in sweat such was his need to keep putting out fires, grabbed Ozil in the second half before his companion pushed him away.
Mesut Ozil sees his penalty stopped by Manuel Neuer.
Watching television pundit Michael Ballack suggests there are problems on the horizon for Ozil unless he changes his attitude.
"He (Ozil) looks a little bit lost in this team. He started well when he came, but it seems like he doesn't have the acceptance of his team now and he should be untouchable."
There are a few apologists for Ozil saying he is too tired and accusing fans of looking for perfection, but this is a player picking up £115,000 a week. Did Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp or Robert Pires, all better than Ozil in an Arsenal shirt, ever show such disdain during harsh times?
Mr Assist has quickly becomes Mr Anonymous. How a man carries himself is important. What he does to help others is the mark of a man. Ozil’s stockpile of credibility has nosedived because he seems to be unaware of giving for the greater good.
- Sports & Recreation
- Mesut Ozil
- Bayern Munich