Mesut Ozil: Arsenal’s very expensive problem


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Seven years ago the German arrived in North London amid much fanfare, in a deadline-day deal that was supposed to usher in a new era of success at the club.

True, there’s been some success over those seven years — three FA Cups and a Community Shield — but many Arsenal fans are left wondering what could have been, especially given the team last won the Premier League title in 2004.

But Ozil hasn’t played for the first team since March and Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta did not name him in his Europa League squad for this season.
In the meantime, Ozil remains one of the highest-paid players at the club, reportedly earning an estimated $450,000 a week.

Don’t mention it to Arsenal’s bean counters, but that’s a lot of money for someone who isn’t playing.

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Mesut Ozil has fallen down the pecking order at Arsenal in recent years.

‘The team is evolving’

Such was Ozil’s stature in world football, Arsenal set a new club record to sign him for $54.8 million in 2013.

His form for previous club Real Madrid was much to get excited about and he was considered one of the best players in the world in his position.

At times, especially early on, Ozil was able to showcase his quality in the Premier League. But, as former manager Arsene Wenger’s reign ended in acrimony, Ozil’s languid style of play was often interpreted as “lazy” and the midfielder began to bear the brunt of some fans’ frustration.

Not that tracking data statistics has always backed up that “lazy” tag — during the 2016/17 Premier League season, Ozil ran 329 kilometers during games, a distance only bettered at Arsenal by Nacho Monreal.

Since Arteta’s appointment, Arsenal has looked more defensively secure with a greater emphasis on organization and Ozil’s style of play just doesn’t seem to fit.

Arteta, who lined up alongside Ozil during his playing career, has since shown he has a ruthless streak in dealing with players.

Notably Matteo Guendouzi, who joined Hertha Berlin on a season-long loan in the recent transfer window. His departure came after he grabbed Brighton’s Neal Maupay by the neck on the pitch in June; Guendouzi didn’t play for Arsenal again.

“The team is evolving and you can see the level they are achieving,” Arteta said in September when asked about Ozil. “We want to evolve more and play better, so we need to maintain that.

“I try to select the players that are, in my opinion, in better condition. We are picking players we believe are the best for each game and as you can see, we keep changing.

“You can see that it is very difficult, not just for Mesut [Ozil], but for some to make the squad. Every week, we try to pick the right players.”

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PR battle

With the writing seemingly on the wall, all that’s left is a contract. A very lucrative one at that.

It’s an expensive problem that Arsenal will be left with unless an agreement is reached to rip up his contract before it expires next summer.

But Ozil has settled in London and seems in no rush to end his time at the club.

In an interview with The Athletic in August, he admitted that the last few years have been tough but said he was determined to see out his contract.
Mike Pompeo backs Arsenal star Mesut Ozil in China row over  Muslim Uyghur minority

“I’m here through to the last day of our agreement and I’ll give everything I have for this club,” said Ozil, who helped Germany win the World Cup in 2014.

“Situations like these will never break me, they only make me stronger. I showed in the past that I can come back into the team and I will show it again.”

To make matters worse, Ozil has also been at odds with the club off the pitch, as the PR war between the two continues to simmer.

Arsenal caused a social media furor this week after it was revealed the club made redundant the employee who dresses up as the iconic club mascot Gunnersaurus.

He was one of a number of staff members let go as the club deals with the financial consequences of the pandemic.

Amid the criticism, Ozil took to Twitter and offered to pay the employee’s salary as long as he remained a player at the club.

It was a move that proved popular with the Arsenal faithful and was, perhaps, a not-so-subtle dig at the club’s hierarchy.

Arsenal was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNN.

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Ozil hasn't played for Arsenal since March but continues to be one of the club's top earners.

What next?

While it’s unlikely we’ll see Ozil in an Arsenal shirt again, it’s also not yet clear where he will go next.

At 31, Ozil still has plenty to offer top-flight football but finding a club willing to pay his wages may be tricky. He’s also left a complicated legacy at Arsenal which may serve as a warning for a future employer.

A simple search for Ozil on social media shows just how polarizing the player has become. To some he’s an unappreciated genius whilst to others he’s a lazy talent who has failed to make the most of his opportunity.

“I don’t think he will leave a legacy, it’ll just be a footnote. He could have been an absolute legend at the club but there is no legacy for him at Arsenal,” said Layth Yousif, editor of The Gooner — a publication dedicated to Arsenal.

“There is only a slight bitterness and regret that he hasn’t performed as well as he should have done.

“It’s not his fault he’s on that money but he hasn’t earned it. He’s got nowhere near to earning it and that’s what frustrated Arsenal fans.”

CNN Sport reached out to Ozil’s representatives for comment but is yet to receive a response.

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