Mesut Özil subdued on Arsenal return but back to doing his job | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 12.08.2018
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Mesut Özil subdued on Arsenal return but back to doing his job

Mesut Özil's first competitive game since quitting the Germany team ended in defeat as Arsenal fell to Manchester City in their Premier League opener. But at least he can start to get back to being just a footballer.

There can be few footballers as keen to get the club season started as Mesut Özil must have been. World Cup disappointment was followed by the explosive tweets that announced his resignation from the Germany setup and the still-simmering racism and integration row that they provoked.

For a long time, Germany duty seemed a place of sanctuary for a player who, at times unfairly, became a lightening rod for criticism of an Arsenal side who stagnated so badly at the end of the Arsene Wenger era.

The situation now seems reversed, with Özil’s new club boss Unai Emery and his players offering words of support and empathy that stood in sharp contrast to his Germany teammates and many at the top of the German FA (DFB).

Early struggles despite support

"All of us want to help Mesut feel like it is his home here with us, like a family," said Emery. "As a team we support him here, we try to make sure he feels good, so he can train and perform at his best," added goalkeeper Petr Cech.

But all the love and support in the world can’t get the ball off Pep Guardiola’s masterful Manchester City side and Özil, stationed out on Arsenal’s right, barely had a touch in the opening half hour as City swarmed over their opponents.

The visitors were directed from deep by Özil’s fellow picture poser Ilkay Gündogan, who escaped from the photo furore with considerably less censure than his former teammate.  Arsenal were lucky to be only a Raheem Sterling goal down at that point.

Fußball Premier League Arsenal - Manchester City (Reuters/J. Sibley)

Ilkay Gündogan's Manchester City beat Arsenal 2-0 on Sunday

The playmaker almost sparked the Gunners in to a goal on the counter on 33 minutes with two trademark measured passes but was spending most of his time as a supplementary right back as Arsenal struggled to cope with City’s pace out wide.

On the fringes

Özil started to see the ball as Emery’s charges started to get in to the game just before the break but a couple of misplaced passes in presentable positions brought groans from the Emirates Stadium crowd.

There were more grumblings on the hour mark as Özil took an unnecessary touch on a through ball played to Stephan Lichtsteiner and was flagged offside just as Arsenal started to get a toehold in the match. 

Almost as soon as they got that toehold it slipped away, as Bernardo Silva lashed in City's second on 64 minutes. As Arsenal made changes in search of a path back to parity Özil found himself back in his more familiar and comfortable central role. But he still cut a marginal figure, and wasted Arsenal's best chance with an uncharacteristic heavy touch. 

Özil has had better days but, in recent times, he's also had a whole lot worse. After the politics, tweets and recriminations, the 29-year-old can finally get back to just being a footballer. 

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