Vultures behave in a menacing manner. This includes actual, flying, vultures but also the journalists who act like them. Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail is a bit of a vulture.
Ashton's assessment of Mesut Özil's performance against Bayern Munich is impressive on several scales. First, the pictures of a despairing Özil are underlined by captions that betray logic and reason en route to slaying the villain of context. Second, he confidently states that Özil plays on the right for the German national team. He did that once in the past 10 qualifiers, in a 3-0 win over Ireland. He scored in that game. If Ashton would have even bothered to watch Germany's last game against Chile, he could see Özil playing behind Miroslav Klose in the No. 10 role and save himself the embarrassment of inventing reality for an agenda. He also confusingly states that Özil had "a face on him like a slapped backside" before being substituted at the half against Bayern, which really says more about the writer than the player he intended to insult.
These things -- along with everything else in the article that's not a graphic -- suggest that Ashton didn't watch the game too closely. It is strange to say that Özil had only 21 touches on the ball at the half and comparing that number to Thiago Alcantara's 66, Bastian Schweinsteiger's 47, Arjen Robben's 33 and Franck Ribery's 33 without mentioning that no Arsenal player had completed more passes than Manuel Neuer's 14 at halftime. It's very odd to blame a player for not touching the ball when Arsenal -- as a team, not one player -- were completely dominated and starved of possession.
Ashton also suggests that this is just a repeat of Özil's previous performances; notably against Manchester City (when Arsenal were beaten 6-3) and against Liverpool (where an incredible opening 20 minute blitz led to a 5-1 defeat). He conveniently relegates Özil's last performance against Everton as a sticking plaster because these things do not matter in the grand scheme of tired rhetoric. In both of those games, Arsenal were dominated -- as they were against Bayern -- but yet somehow, the work of 11 men is solely attributed to the failings of one.
This is not to excuse the fact that Özil has experienced a poor run of form in 2014. But -- and this might come as a shock -- that sort of run is normal for players, even those named Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Players in the Premier League like Wayne Rooney, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Robin van Persie, and Oscar go through the same types of dips.
As much as we'd like to believe otherwise, athletes are human. Humans that cannot be expected to maintain a high level of performance for half a year without some sort of regression.
It's just as ridiculous to dismiss the fact that Özil suffered a potentially serious hamstring injury in the first half. The whole article screams of confirmation bias. Nevermind that the team could barely pass the ball and the player was running around with a potentially-serious injury. These things don't matter because Ashton thinks he's a waste of money and every bad touch is evidence of that. It's a silly belief that insults not only the intelligence of the reader but also the work of the athlete.
The melodrama is childish in the most unflattering way. Fans of the game should have enough knowledge at this stage to know the trajectory of form in football, the difficulty of acclimation to a different country and the impact of team performance on individual performance. Writers like Ashton should be more reasonable. They should also be more sensible and steadfast in the suppression of the irrational urge to overreact to situations.
But instead we are in a world where a writer can claim that a world class player "isn't worth two-bob" while revealing that said writer hardly watches the player in question and inadvertently embarrassing everyone in the process.
Of course, Ashton could be trolling all of us with his writing. I really hope he's trolling.