Mesut Ozil has been on Arsenal’s books for 6 years now, but the time has come for the Gunners to cut their losses and move on…
The arrival of German midfield maestro Mesut Ozil at the Emirates in the summer of 2013 was seen by fans of Arsenal as a step towards the club reestablishing themselves as contenders in both the Premier League and Europe.
On the back of yet another disappointing 4th-placed finish in the English top-flight, and their 3rd consecutive Champions League Last-16 exit, Arsene Wenger’s waning squad was in desperate need of big-name, high-quality reinforcements.
An altogether underwhelming summer for the Gunners followed, though, with it having appeared as though Arsenal’s loyal fanbase were set to be left disappointed once more.
Widespread frowns were inverted, however, upon the deadline day announcement of Ozil’s arrival from Real Madrid.
The gifted no.10 made the move to the English capital for 50 million Euro, by far the highest fee ever splashed out by the club’s hierarchy on a single player.
Ozil’s arrival came despite another impressive campaign in Spain, during which the German racked up 10 goals and 17 assists between La Liga and the Champions League.
And, to his credit, the gifted creator’s arrival at the Emirates quickly saw Arsenal break the club’s long-standing barren spell on the silverware front.
A pair of FA Cup triumphs followed in the two seasons on the back of Ozil’s move to England, albeit without the now 30-year-old managing to showcase his sumptuous best week-in, week-out.
The 2015/16 campaign, though, saw Ozil finally prove to the Gunners’ fanbase on a consistent basis just how special a player he is capable of being when firing on all cylinders.
Across 35 Premier League appearances, the Schalke youth product racked up 6 goals and a staggering 19 assists. This saw Ozil fall just one assist short of Thierry Henry’s all-time record of 20.
In addition, Ozil’s brilliance translated into the league table, as Arsenal secured 2nd-place in the English top-flight, their best finish in 11 years.
The following campaign also saw him largely impress, notching 12 goals and 14 assists across all competitions, as Arsenal bagged their 3rd FA Cup title in the space of 4 years.
However, the years since, in particular the latest under Unai Emery, have seen Ozil’s influence begin to dip in rather alarming fashion.
The 92-time capped German international has looked largely-uninterested, with the massive new contract handed to Ozil early last year having failed to translate into any meaningful improvement on the pitch.
As such, amid mounting unrest among Arsenal’s supporters surrounding a player who should, based on talent and outlay, act as their standout performer, the time has finally come for the capital outfit’s hierarchy to step up and find a way to move Ozil on.
Outlined below are key 3 reasons behind why the number 1 priority at the Emirates this summer should be to find a new club for their no.10.
Ozil’s lucrative contract
As highlighted above, Ozil is, by some distance, the top earner at Arsenal.
The new contract penned by the German maestro in February of last year has since seen him pocket a staggering £350,000-per-week.
This is an issue for a whole host of reasons.
First off, on the back of missing out on Champions League football, and the financial windfall that comes along with it yet again this past season, widespread reports have suggested that Unai Emery is set to operate on a shoestring budget over the coming months.
In fact, rumours over recent days have suggested that the monetary constraints placed on Arsenal’s recruitment team are likely to see them miss out on key target Yannick Carrasco.
Parting ways with Ozil would see the north Londoners bring in not only a transfer fee to add to their measly budget, but also clear almost £1.5 million-per-month off the club’s wage bill.
In turn, such a move would free up crucial funds in the Gunners’ reported attempts to tie key attackers Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang down to improved deals, whilst simultaneously ridding the club of any player unrest regarding Ozil’s frankly-ridiculous pay-packet.
Ozil is a complementary player
The next key factor behind why Arsenal need to cut their losses on Ozil this summer, is the fact that the veteran is, more-so now than ever, a complementary player, rather than a leader.
Ozil has always been at his best when surrounded by talent, and with the pressure off his shoulders.
During the finest spell of his career, in Spain with Real Madrid, the German played alongside the likes of Xabi Alonso, Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain.
Being surrounded by such a bevvy of attacking talent allowed Ozil to pull the strings, as, admittedly, few others can, but under minimal pressure, with world-class players to pick out and provide for in the final-third.
Crucially, the Blancos’ orchestrator was also provided with the freedom to roam and pick up pockets of space, with little to no defensive responsibility.
These are the kind of luxuries that come with plying your trade alongside some of world football’s finest players.
Even during the impressive early years of his career, with the likes of Schalke and Werder Bremen, Ozil thrived under a general lack of expectation, outside of the Bundesliga’s top clubs.
The difference now, of course, is that at Arsenal, the midfielder, as arguably the club’s most talented player, is expected to take games by the scruff of the neck and provide for his teammates on a weekly basis.
Simply put, though, this is just not Ozil’s game.
The 2014 World Cup winner is not, nor has he ever been, the type to stand up and take over when the pressure is on and backs are to the wall.
This was made evident for the umpteenth time in the Gunners’ final, and most important fixture of this past season, in the Europa League’s finale versus Chelsea.
When Arsenal needed their no.10 to fix up and perform, he did the opposite, disappearing into the background.
This leads me onto the final factor behind exactly why Ozil’s sale needs to be prioritised this summer.
The Emery fighting spirit
Just weeks ago, Unai Emery pointed to precisely what he feels went wrong at Arsenal during the final years of Arsene Wenger’s reign:
‘When I arrived here, we changed some things. Before Arsene Wenger, Arsenal was very competitive. With Wenger, it was very competitive and also he gave the team quality players, with a competitive spirit, who created the best moments in Arsenal. But in the last years they lost being competitive, keeping only the quality.’
This final point is crucial:
‘Lost being competitive, keeping only quality.’
This, in essence, is what Emery was brought to the Emirates last summer to eradicate. The ‘nice’ Arsenal persona. For too long during Wenger’s tenure, the Gunners had been viewed as pushovers, who only showed up and fought when it suited them.
Gifted attackers, if not willing to put in the work and graft themselves, need to be backed by a group of disciplined and hard-working compatriots to perform at their best.
Evidence for this point can be found throughout the recent history of the Champions League, with the dominant Real Madrid side of recent years having been backed by a leader in Sergio Ramos, and a disciplinarian in Casemiro.
Even the great Barcelona sides of the past decade were built upon the key principle of hard work over everything else.
Take Premier League champions Manchester City as an example closer to home. The Citizens, on paper, do not appear the type of side who would graft, work and fight for every loose ball.
But this is precisely what they do, and crucially, it is precisely what the club’s attacking stars do. Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Gabriel Jesus… The list goes on.. All of Pep Guardiola’s squad work towards a common goal – to win.
As outlined above, if your team’s focal point i.e. Ozil, does not value hard work and commitment, then he becomes a luxury.
Luxury players need to be backed by.. well, not Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka.
Unai Emery, as was made evident during the more-successful months of his debut Arsenal season, intends to build his side based on the core values of hard work and fighting spirit.
Last summer’s arrivals in north London only further highlight this fact – Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Lucas Torreira, and even Stephan Lichtsteiner – players who will sacrifice to win.
Ozil, at 30, simply cannot be relied upon to change his ways and adapt his temperament so drastically at this point in his career.
This is not a personal jibe at the German, but simply a clear pattern based on his past.
Time to say goodbye
In summary, if Arsenal’s squad was nearing its peak, with an ideal blend of talent and graft, then Ozil would no doubt prove successful at the Emirates next season.
However, with Unai Emery attempting to build a new squad, with his own personal, ‘competitive’ stamp on top, the German international, accompanied by his lax attitude and £350,000-per-week wages, simply does not fit in.
As such, Ozil’s sale needs to be prioritised over all other business by Arsenal this summer, to ensure a clean slate and the best chance of success moving forward.