ESPN released their top 10 world rankings for each position. They have, predictably, made a dog’s dinner of it, namely with Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil.
Everyone has their own opinions when it comes to the quality and influence of various players. I, for example, always heralded the talents of Kieran Gibbs, while other were less fanatical about his abilities. It is natural, given our human nature and fickle football fandom, that our evaluations of players differ, and quite substantially in some cases.
But that does not mean, however, that narratives lacking founding or justification should be tolerated.
Conclusions drawn should be done so through careful and considered examination of the evidence, from the statistics that have been produced to the film that can be studied. So imagine my surprise, then, to see Mesut Ozil omitted from a list that he has every right to be included on.
ESPN have released a ranking of the top 10 players for each and every position. You can find it here. It is interesting reading. Rankings always are. But they have, in all honesty, made a dog’s dinner of it.
First and foremost, they have convoluted many of the positions, far more so than they ever needed to. For example, they have separated ‘Attacking Midfielders’, ‘Wide Forwards’ and ‘Forwards’.
That seems like a contrived distinction that doesn’t need to be made, especially given that Arjen Robben, one of the most traditional wingers of the past decade, has been considered a forward, with the word ‘winger’ even being used in the passage of text that comes with his ranking. Odd, to say the least.
But perhaps the most egregious claim of all is to suggest that Ozil is not one of top 10 attacking midfielders in the world. I should, first of all, give you the names, in order, that ESPN believed to be better than Ozil, some of which I do agree with: Kevin de Bruyne, Isco, David Silva, Andres Iniesta, Philippe Coutinho, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Marco Asensio, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Koke.
It is difficult to argue against the likes of de Bruyne, Isco, Iniesta, and even Silva being ranked higher than Ozil. I believe that most people would see them as better players than Arsenal’s creative maestro. But it is the inclusion of Asensio, Mkhitaryan, and Koke ahead of Ozil that is puzzling.
Let me give you a few numbers. In the past three seasons, including this current campaign, Ozil has averaged, in the league, 0.5, 0.3, and 0.6 assists per 90 minutes played. Mkhitaryan is the only one who comes close, with 0.6, 0.1 and 0.5 assists per 90 minutes. Koke, meanwhile, has averaged 0.2, 0.2, and 0.4 assists per 90 minutes, and Asensio has averaged 0.2, 0.2, and 0.3 assists per 90 minutes.
Similarly, Ozil chance- created-per-90 minutes over the past three years is 4.2, 3.2, and 4.3. Mkhitaryan’s is 2.7, 1.9, and 2.9; Koke is 1.8, 2.0, and 2.3; Asensio’s is 2.3, 1.9, and 2.1. It is not even close.
I can allow for people thinking that Alli and Eriksen and Coutinho are better players than Ozil, even if it is not an opinion that I necessarily ascribe to. But to rank Asensio, Koke and Mkhitaryan ahead of Arsenal’s playmaker is criminal. It is an oversight that is just plain wrong.