Arsenal Stuck with Ozil, so Arteta Has to Make it Work
I remember the fanfare that arrived with Arsenal’s club-record signing of Mesut Ozil in September 2013. If I recall, we just defeated Tottenham with a deft Olivier Giroud finish which settled the contest and we had the international break to bask in the euphoria of the signing of the German superstar from Real Madrid, while some players on the Spanish outfit, notably Cristiano Ronaldo, expressed their displeasure with his departure. It took him just 11 minutes into his Arsenal debut to record his first assist for Giroud in the 3-1 win against Sunderland. After 26 games in his maiden campaign with the Gunners, Ozil notched up five goals and 10 assists. He crowned the campaign with the biggest prize in world football when Germany dominated the world stage in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
In the following seasons, Ozil continued his fine form with his best assist haul (19) coming in the 2015/16 season while his best scoring haul arrived the season after with Ozil scoring 12 goals for the club, which actually turned to be his personal best in terms of goal scoring in his entire career. Then 2018 happened. Ozil struggled with form and fitness and with grumpy Alexis Sanchez close to the exit door, Arsenal had a big decision to make on his future, which ended up making him the highest paid player in the club’s history. That fat salary came with its fair share of expectations, and Arsenal fans can attest to the fact that Ozil isn’t the same player that he was in his early days with the club. The injuries certainly increased and the form was shabby as well. Then there were the off the field activities that raised a few eyebrows.
The man that brought Ozil to our beloved club left after 22 years of service and we expected Unai Emery to make the best out of his situation. Sadly, it was pretty much the same as he was ostracized from the team with the Spanish gaffer having little or no faith in the German playmaker. Their exchange when he got substituted for Joe Willock in the 2019 Europa League final proved to be the last straw and it was evident that Ozil was only going downhill from there. The shitefest with Emery ended in November 2019 and the young and vibrant Mikel Arteta joined the club, offering everyone a clean slate. Ozil looked like he had found a new lease of life under the new manager, featuring consistently as the creative hub in his 4-2-3-1 setup, and even notched up three assists (Norwich, Brighton and West ham) as well as a goal in the win against Newcastle. His work rate and distance covered also increased under Arteta’s tutelage. These are not staggering numbers by any margin but Arsenal was struggling from the depths Emery plunged them into, so every player had to pull their weight for the new gaffer, since he offered them a blank check, forgiving their previous footballing transgressions.
The COVID-19 pandemic took center stage and football was brought to an abrupt halt with the most faithful of fans having little optimism that we would see the beautiful game again, but it resumed in June with much excitement, even though Arsenal’s defeats against Man City and Brighton dampened the spirits, one thing that stood out was that there was no Mesut Ozil in the match day squad. With the games coming thick and fast, and squads heavily depleted from a fitness standpoint, one would expect that every manager would want to utilize the entirety of his squad, let alone, its highest earner, but not Arsenal. Ozil remained in oblivion as fans wondered what was really going on – footballing reasons or chronic back pain, bottom line was that Ozil was unavailable for selection, and we continued to struggle to create chances.
It was only expected that the fans would be expecting the club to cash in on an out-of-favor player with a huge salary and at least some worth in today’s transfer market this summer. However, Ozil’s recent interview with the Athletic (£) has revealed a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes but the conclusion we have gotten from the German playmaker is that he’s going nowhere and is still determined to prove his doubters wrong and make his mark on the team.
He has come to the public to share his thoughts on his situation and it’s clear that Arsenal have been pushed to the same corner similar to that of Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck, but with Raul Sanllehi declaring that we will be faced in such a situation again, it is going to be a very dicey situation to say the least.
Let’s stick to the realities we are clearly aware of – Mesut Ozil is still contracted to Arsenal for one more season before he’s going to be available on a free transfer, and we are certain that the likes of Fenerbahce, Istanbul Basaksehir and co will be licking their lips at the prospect of having such a talented footballer in their ranks. However, the onus is on Mikel Arteta and the club to steer the ship in the right direction and make this upcoming campaign a sort of make-or-break type for Ozil, that’s if the executive decision is not to sell him despite his recent comments.
He’s still a very valuable player to the squad, capable of scoring a goal or two and most importantly, creating chances for his teammates. This is a player that has notched up 28 goals and 53 assists in 155 appearances for the club – and we know that he creates a whole lot of chances that don’t get converted so those assist numbers don’t do justice. Yes, we are clamoring for Philippe Coutinho and the magic he can bring to the side, but we still have a player in Ozil that is still capable of so much more – but he has to be given that chance to prove his worth.
Arsenal is stuck with Mesut Ozil, so Arteta has to make it work.
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