It’s the final day of 2018. Tomorrow we can all make our resolutions for the year ahead to be better individuals and to help make the world a better place (and eat fewer peanut M&Ms).
Football clubs don’t make resolutions though, but they have to make decisions and Arsenal have a big one to make about Mesut Ozil. Whether the knee injury he’s reportedly out with is actually knee injury or a bruised ego or something else, what’s clear is that there’s an ongoing issue between the German and Unai Emery. We have a situation where our highest profile player and highest paid player doesn’t get picked for games away from home anymore.
Bournemouth are too physical – and they are statistically the least physical team in the Premier League. He was on the bench at Southampton and dreadful when he came on. Taken off at half-time against Brighton. And of course he didn’t feature in the 5-1 demolition at Anfield because of the knee injury he complained off after training. We’re reaching a point where this is becoming unsustainable because, quite frankly, you can’t have a bit-part player on £350,000 a week. Not only that, because of Ozil’s fame and reputation, it’s not as if his absence will be overlooked or not cause ripples. Every time he’s out it’s a big story, and each subsequent absence causes further ripples and adds weight to it all.
Does Emery simply not trust him? Has there been a falling out? Is it a case that the manager won’t allow a star player to derail the dressing room because he wants or expects special treatment? Is it simply tactical, as Emery keeps insisting? I wish I knew, but whatever the reason or reasons behind it, Arsenal have got a problem they need to deal with one way or the other.
Either find a way to integrate Ozil into the team, and harness the talent and creativity we all know he has on a consistent basis, or bite the bullet and move him on. Both appear to be easier said than done, of course, but there doesn’t really seem to be any sensible in-between option. Can you really pay someone £18m a year to play some home games against opposition that might not test him too much physically? Of course not. It makes no sense on a footballing level and on a financial level it’s completely absurd.
Ozil has a contract until 2021 which, if he sees it out, will see the club pay him £42,000,000. That’s a hell of a lot of money, and you could easily make the case it could be better spent based on what we’re getting for it right now. Let me also make it clear that Ozil’s salary is what Arsenal decided to give him to tempt him to stay, a long-lasting goodbye gift from Ivan Gazidis, so you if there’s anger about the money side of things it should be directed there. Every player is going to try and get the best possible deal for themselves, and Ozil and his agent played a blinder in that regard.
Yet with that kind of salary comes a responsibility to produce on the football pitch, and bar the occasional game and odd moments when his quality is on show – the pass to Kolasinac the other week, for example – we haven’t had value for money. Now, with his stock falling faster than Wall Street in 1929, and his appearances in the team more and more fleeting, we appear even less likely to see it on a consistent basis.
So, what to do? I know it sounds ludicrous to consider selling our most creative player when we’re a team that is lacking creativity in a big way, but he can’t create from the bench or his box at the Emirates. If there’s no hope of reconciliation here, or no way that Emery can bring him back into the team bar the odd selection here and there, I don’t think there’s any other option but to try and sell. It’ll be tough because few clubs can afford to pay £350,000 a week but it’s not impossible. A golden handshake where he’s given a chunk of that potential £42m he’ll earn if he stays might be part of any potential deal, but it’ll still be difficult to do – particularly if the player isn’t that keen on leaving.
I think Emery is making the point as clearly as he can to the powers that be that Ozil is not part of his long-term plans. If it’s an either/or scenario, the club have little choice but to back the manager, regardless of how unpopular the player’s departure might be seen to be. How they replace him, or reinvest the money it would free up could go a long way to applying salve to any burn, but maybe it’s a necessary step for the future.
The legacy of the last few years is an imbalanced squad and terrible spending which is impacting us financially today. Massive transfer fees on players not worth half of what we paid for them; poor deals like Lucas Perez which cost the club £15m in transfer fees plus wages; overpaying Ozil because we were so desperate; overpaying Mkhitaryan who came in on £200,000 a week to replace a £130,000 a week Alexis Sanchez who, at least, contributed a lot in terms of goals and assists during the good times; seeing valuable players like Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck allowed to run their deals down and getting nothing from them when selling and reinvesting was by far the best option.
There’s a lot for these new people in charge to deal with, along with the continued loss of Champions League revenue which, according to the new Managing Director, hits us to the tune of tens of millions every season. For a self-sustaining club that’s a lot of money, and it’s why getting back into the top four or winning the Europa League is so vital. We can’t afford to keep wasting cash, and a Mesut Ozil on that pay-packet who barely plays because the manager doesn’t fancy him is a waste of both money and talent and we can’t allow it to continue.
I’m very curious to see what happens in January. I think it’s going to have to be busier than we expected, and probably busier than they wanted it to be, but circumstances change and you have to be able to react. Can we? Let’s see.
Finally, just a moment to wish you all a very happy, peaceful and healthy new year. From all of us here at Arseblog, our sincere thanks for being with us throughout what has been a very busy and very eventful 2018. Your support is hugely appreciated and we look forward to bringing you much more in 2019.
I’ll leave you with yesterday’s somewhat epic Arsecast Extra, links below. Catch you next year!