Poor Mesut Ozil has come under quite a bit of flack recently. Having been hailed the missing link in Arsenal’s quest to end their trophy drought, Ozil hit the ground running after joining in a record deal from Real Madrid in the summer. As Arsenal’s relentless form slowed as too did Ozil’s, and for the last three months, the German has been inconsistent at best. The mutterings of discontent built up and finally came to a head in the Gunners’ first leg loss to Bayern Munich in which the former Bremen playmaker not only offered little going forward, but also served as a liability when defending.
Despite the fact that Arsenal’s squad has been ravaged by injuries and Ozil has been far from the only underperformer he has become somewhat of a scapegoat amongst the hyperbolic punditry crying crisis and predicting the complete collapse of Arsenal’s season. There was some redemption to be had for Ozil this weekend however, as Arsenal overcame a strong Everton side 4-1 to ease into the FA Cup semi-finals. The German was in supreme form, not only grabbing a goal and an assist for Giroud, but also tracking back regularly in a great all round display. It is a performance that is sure to once again endear Ozil to the Emirates faithful, especially if Arsenal do finally get back amongst the silverware. Having now made it to Wembley, if the Gunners do win the FA Cup it will have been without leaving London.
It is a task that looks that much easier now that Manchester City have been dumped out by current holders Wigan Athletic. Coming off the back of lifting the League Cup, the Citizens were clear favourites to win not just the tie but the whole competition. Instead Uwe Rosler came back to haunt his former club, putting to bed Pellegrini’s dreams of trebles and quadruples (unless City are able to pull off the unlikely feat of overcoming Barcelona in the Champions League).
Ozil wasn’t the only man to earn some measure of redemption this week, with Ole Gunnar Solskjær also earning a huge reprieve with victory over relegation rivals Fulham. Having joined the club in acrimonious circumstances, Solskjær has faced the unenviable task of replacing a popular manager having been picked by a widely hated owner. The pressure on the Norwegian has only increased with each bad result for Cardiff, the drubbing at the hands of Hull a particular low point for a manager struggling to get aggrieved fans onside. The match against Fulham was one neither side could really afford to lose, leaving the London club bottom and looking very much adrift. The Bluebirds on the other hand sit in the relegation zone only on goal difference, making up ground on the floundering West Brom. Sunderland and West Brom both have games in hand on Cardiff, but the Fulham victory at least gives hope to a club that previously had looked to be heading in only one direction.
At the Hawthorns hope will be hard to come by. Despite possessing a squad that looks fairly strong, their slide down the table has only picked up momentum despite managerial changes. Much like Magath at Fulham, Mel seems not to know how to turn his side’s fortunes around and Manchester United could not have been much more comfortable in their 3-0 victory over the Baggies.