It’s a sign of the modern game, that a player can sign a new contract at the start of the year, and still be linked with a move away from his club a few months later.
This is the situation Arsenal now face with their enigmatic play-maker Mezut Ozil.
The former German international has been at the heart of near constant transfer speculation for the past couple of seasons. A contract extension in February this year was supposed to settle the issue of his future. However, his absence from Arsenal’s starting XI at Bournemouth has reignited the paper talk.
Emery’s call to dump Ozil from the line up caused much debate, particularly when the Spaniard questioned his player’s mindset going in to the game. With a new man at the helm in North London and the club attempting to regroup after the Wenger era, they may well have a decision to make on their flamboyant and temperamental midfielder.
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Emery was stamping his authority on the team with his decision at The Vitality. It must be with some bemusement to his colleagues and supporters, that the manager believed Ozil lacked the correct amount of intensity for an away game in the Premier League.
Arsenal are ambitious, they want Champions League football back at The Emirates as quickly as possible. Big games coming and if the club’s highest paid player is deemed unable to face Bournemouth, then it does not bode well for future matches.
It will also not go unnoticed by his team mates. His fellow players will likely be irked by seeing him sit out of certain games, while they toil away for points.
The last thing Emery needs is discord in the dressing room, which has so far looked a happy place this season. If Ozil is to continue yoyoing out of the team for certain games then it does beg the question of his worthiness in relation to those big bucks he is being paid.
There is no denying the German’s quality and influence at Arsenal. He has been involved in 113 goals in all competitions for the club since 2014. That stat alone is telling, but more than bland numbers, Ozil offers a real creative spark to whomever his employers are.
He links up beautifully with forward lines, sees passes others don’t and has a first touch that other players couldn’t emulate if they tried for twenty years.
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There is a but here though. It’s a big one too. The World Cup winner is guilty of slipping into anonymity at times. His vanishing act is known to infuriate Arsenal fans and with good reason.
A player so blessed should be the great dictator of matches, controlling the flow of games and orchestrating attacks. His body language and demeanor though can, at times, give off the impression of a player who’d rather be somewhere else.
This has rightly raised questions about Ozil’s commitment and desire. They are two things which are pretty hard to forgive if they are lacking, regardless of the quality he possesses.
It would be a huge call to jettison Ozil altogether. His contract runs to 2021, and one noticeable absence from a game doesn’t mean Emery is about to cut the chord.
Ozil can still offer so much to Arsenal and they will need his creative influence this season as they push for a top four spot. However, Emery will need everyone on board and will be aware of the Gernan’s status as the club’s top earner.
Ozil is 31 at the end of the season. Clubs in The Chinese Super League are known to be keen, it could be cash in for the North London outfit. The emergence of Alex Iwobi as one of this season’s stand out performers under Emery, also reflects positively on future prospects without Ozil.
You simply cannot have your star player picking a choosing when he plays. No matter how much of a commercial and footballing asset he is to The Gunners, they will need to think long and hard about what they do with Mesut Ozil. It could well be the biggest call Emery has to make at Arsenal.