Ed Woodward gets plenty of criticism (and some of it richly deserved), but Nick Miller describes a numbers man pushed into the Old Trafford limelight. It's not easy...
It's been a long time in the making, that Southampton Philosophy. And in one summer, it's all been ripped asunder. Has it been replaced by another or the same old?
Football, like life, is littered with examples of Things You Thought Would Be Brilliant But Turned Out Not To Be. Juan Sebastian Veron in England, for example. Or The Phantom Menace. Or Be Here Now, which an adolescent Profile365 was distraught when we discovered we'd be on a family holiday on the release day of, but with the benefit of hindsight should have just forgotten about and enjoyed the package trip to Tenerife. That's Oasis, by the way kids, the band the singer from Beady Eye cut his teeth in before really getting into his creative stride.
The question of whether Mesut Ozil falls into this category has been discussed at a length that has bordered on tedium, in the same way that the Thames is bordering on various houses in the south of England - lapping at the window, with only the judicious use of sandbags separating your carpet from grubby river water.
Everyone started off pretty positive about the whole affair. After all, this was Mesut Ozil. And he's brilliant, isn't he? F**king Mesut Ozil, we repeated, over and over. After a few weeks of so-so performances, the world then seemed to divide into two camps: those who watched Ozil play and decided he was loafing around and didn't seem all that arsed, and those (largely Arsenal fans) who pointed to his stats, insisting through assists that it was £42million well spent.
As the season has progressed, the former camp has been taking over the latter, culminating in some rather ugly scenes last week as Arsenal lost to Bayern Munich, during which Ozil missed a penalty then shuffled around looking like a man who'd been kept up all night by a neighbour doing some nocturnal DIY. Or perhaps his hotel room is next to Olivier Giroud's. (Obviously because Giroud is a big fan of seminal sketch show 'Big Train' and stays up late watching his favourite episodes, honking with laughter into the night. Why, what did you think we meant?)
Neutrals scoffed. Mathieu Flamini got awfully cross with him. One particularly irked Gooner called BBC Radio 5Live in order to demand that Ozil was fined a month's wages for missing that penalty. As overreactions go, that was up there with Tommy DeVito shooting Spider in Goodfellas over a misunderstanding about a drink.
Other things have gone wrong too. Per Mertesacker shouted at him for not waving to the fans. And last week, he reportedly had a little prang in his car. Unfortunately, the prang was not with another vehicle, but with a photographer. The photographer was not happy.
Multiple excuses/reasons for Ozil's somewhat underwhelming performances have been proffered, the most common of which is that the poor lad's just knackered. He's used to playing in countries that are clearly happy to actually talk to their families over Christmas, rather than distracting themselves from their bleak domestic situations by watching football, and thus have a winter break. Ozil is used to putting his feet up for a few weeks, but the English slave-drivers instead insist on him playing football.
Arsene Wenger might well have been listening to the throng, dropping/resting Ozil for the 4-1 bottom-smacking of Sunderland, officially because of a 'dead leg' (presumably administered by Flamini after the Chinese burn didn't work), but in reality he was probably subscribing to the theory that a rest is as good as a change.
Perhaps Ozil is sluggish because he's unhappy. By any logical assessment, one of the last things Arsenal needed last summer was another creative No.10 type, but when the opportunity to sign Mesut Ozil arises, you bloody well sign Mesut Ozil. Unless you're David Moyes. And while he didn't exactly dominate the early games he played, he was given credit for Arsenal's early season form because he lifted the mood of the whole place. Everyone wandered around with dopey great grins on their faces, and it was all down to Mesut. Thus, the Ozil Effect, since applied to Manchester United's purchase of Juan Mata, (and marginally less so to Grant Holt's arrival at Aston Villa), was born.
It was presented as if Arsenal as a club, from the fans to the players to the poor whelp who has to ask you £13.90 for fish and chips, were suffering from seasonal affective disorder, and the arrival of this glowing ray of sunshine from the east (via the west) had lifted the gloom. He was the human equivalent of taking a bit more exercise, eating more veg, getting a hobby, making more love or just watching Big Train re-runs long into the night. It was a time of such giddyness that an un-umlauted vowel on Twitter began to look out of place. People looked stupid, but at least they were happy.
Now, the Arsenal mood-lifter is depressed himself. That old Muhammad Ali line about being so mean he makes medicine sick? Mesut Ozil is the anti-depressant who has become gloomy. A black dog is on his shoulder. The gloaming has descended. But he's gone for a lie down, or somewhere that serves drinks with little umbrellas in them, and hopefully he'll be back and smiling soon.
Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter