Mesut Özil: Why an exit would benefit all parties
Few players can divide a fanbase like how Mesut Özil does. The German has been described with a variety of adjectives since he moved to North London. These range from ‘genius’ to ‘lazy’, ‘brilliant’ to ‘lethargic’ and with the occasional ‘world class’ or ‘fraud.’ Personally, I really like Özil and find that he is a convenient scapegoat whenever Arsenal don’t play well. Having said that, there’s no doubt that his performances haven’t justified the wages he is on to any extent. A move away from London could be beneficiary for everyone.
From the outset, it is very unlikely that Özil is going to leave the club this summer, purely for financial reasons. Few clubs can afford the £350,000 per-week salary he is on and fewer would be willing to go anywhere close to that sum of money. His recent antics where he appeared to criticise Emery reaffirm the fact that neither the German nor the Spaniard seem comfortable with each other. Arsenal would do well to shift the German this summer and this could lay down the foundation for the long process of rebuilding that Arsenal need to go through to even finish in the top four let alone challenge for the title.
It’s all about the money
Since Özil signed that contract extension, his performances have been far from satisfactory. There was a period where he simply was not selected for away games by Emery and this combined with illness, back spasms and other behind-the-scenes drama have meant that in hindsight, the contract extension looks like a poor deal for Arsenal. Much has been made about the tight financial situation that currently plagues the Gunners. After Kroenke’s complete takeover, the balance sheets of the club are no longer made public but it is common knowledge that Arsenal cannot compete financially with any other club in the top six.
The wage bill is particularly worrying as many Arsenal players are on contracts that, with all due respect, are far too lucrative for their abilities. This combined with the massive packages being paid to the likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang means that Arsenal are in dire need of shifting underperformers on high wages. Özil would be the starting point given that the German is the second highest earner in the league but simply does not turn up for games as consistently as he should be doing.
Özil and the tactical aspect
Unai Emery may not be the man to take the club forward. These shortcomings have been seen in Arsenal’s spectacular collapse over the end of the season. However, the fact remains that Emery will take charge of the Gunners for another season at least. Özil simply does not fit into Emery’s tactical system. The Spaniard can be blamed for making Arsenal unidimensional and dull at times but this doesn’t change the fact that if he were to stick with a similar system next season, Özil would have no useful part to play in it.
The German is not a presser but still doesn’t fit in, which is ironic considering Arsenal are not a pressing side. At the same time, he cannot play in the central role that he favours because Arsenal struggle to transition the ball from midfield, forcing him to drop deeper. At times, he’s been shunted to the flanks, preventing him from influencing the game at all. One could argue that even Mkhitaryan’s performances do not justify his wages. However, the Armenian is still quite versatile, quick and hardworking, making him a viable option in Emery‘s system. The unfortunate reality is that another year under Unai Emery is not going to do Özil any good unless he is content with collecting his wages and fading into the rafters.
There has been a lot of talk going around about how Arsenal are planning on cancelling Özil’s contract and paying him the due amount. This is definitely not going to happen. Emery could have very well told the club’s leadership to sell Özil at all costs. Can Arsenal find a buyer? The most plausible move seemed like one to Özil’s favourite club, Fenerbahçe but the Turkish club’s chief was recently in the news putting to bed any chance of Özil joining the club. Perhaps a Chinese club could be interested but with the spending from China reducing and strict restrictions on the number of foreigners allowed in the Chinese Super League being placed, the German seems unlikely to move there either.
The situation is quite sad as one of the most talented footballers over the past decade or so has just faded into oblivion. Özil is abused by a large section of his own fans and the way he was treated by the DFB and his former German teammates is bound to have left scars as well. At this point, it would be best if Özil were to go somewhere where he could finish his career with his head held high while Arsenal free up the finances in required to rebuild the side.