“Arsène Wenger was one of the main reasons why I came to Arsenal but it would be wrong to say that my future depends only on the trainer.”
Those were the words of Manchester United transfer target Mesut Özil when speaking to German newspaper
The player then gave an indication of wanting to stay at Arsenal by renewing his executive box at the Emirates. But, with his contract up next summer and a renewal yet to be in place, doubts remain concerning the player's future. These doubts were addressed by Wenger recently.
The Frenchman was surprisingly positive about the situation, saying:
“I think in the future, you will see it more and more…You will see more and more players going into the final year of the contract because no club will want to pay the amount demanded. I’m convinced, in the next ten years, it will become usual.
“It’s not an issue. I think it’s an ideal situation. Why? Because everyone has to perform. When you’re a football player, you perform until the last day of your contract.
“Whether you have two or one year left, it doesn’t change. You want to play and do well.”
But now there is a glimmer of hope that Özil may remain with the Gunners beyond next summer with The Sun reporting the German international will sign a new contract…if he is given Jack Wilshere's No.10 jersey.
While Özil has argued that his future is not impacted by Wenger's decision to stay on, it should be impacted by his performances.
He endured a poor 2016/17 campaign – eight goals and nine assists in the Premier League – and he has become a symbol for the failings of the North London club.
Rather than entertain his pandering and letting the player flip back and forward before potentially leaving on a free transfer, Arsenal should have shown a position of power and determine their own fate, showing the attacking midfielder the door in the summer.
Through September and October, the German – just like his team – was stunning. He scored five goals and picked up two assists, with three man of the match awards.
Yet, when his club needed him away at Bayern Munich, he disappeared. It was a tough game and he was never going to be given lots of time on the ball, but it wasn’t about that.
For one game, Wenger needed all 11 players to put in a shift, run and put their body on the line for the cause. Özil lasted about ten minutes, with Manchester City transfer target Alexis Sánchez pointing and shouting at him to track runs in the opening exchanges.
When Arjen Robben opened the scoring, Özil was turning his head the wrong way, looking almost disinterested.
His coach wasn’t asking him to change his whole style, it was one game, and he couldn’t do it even for one half. You can blame Wenger for picking the German in the first place. But when you are given the nod, you should do your best. Özil failed him on every level.
Throughout his career, the former Werder Bremen starlet has shown himself to be a very skilful, creative, almost magician-like player. But when push comes to shove and he's required to dig in, he’s vanished.
Özil is in the last year of his contract and reports suggest that he, along with fellow team-mate Sánchez, is looking for around £290,000-a-week to stay at the Emirates.
If you are a game-changing, influential player – Sánchez comes a lot closer – you can often justify stretching and changing your budget to keep them at a club, but Özil hasn’t been and his statistics last season showed another drop in performance. Not for one second should Arsenal be entertaining his purported financial demands.
“I would like to win the Champions League one day. With Arsenal,” he told Bild. “You are never satisfied as an athlete. You need this motivation.”
Everyone needs to believe, but Özil’s lack of self-awareness is almost laughable.
Arsenal’s failure to get past the round of 16 in Europe’s most prestigious club competition doesn’t exactly lean towards a run to the final.
If you are a contender, it’s understandable, but truthfully, Arsenal are not. And they are probably further away from that goal with Özil in the team.
His body language, effort on the field and standout numbers last term suggested a crash in form. But looking deeper, you can see a complete downturn in what he brought to Arsenal’s attack last season.
His shooting remained fairly consistent, attempting 1.2 shots per game – in 2015/16 he attempted 1.4 and in 2014/15 he attempted 1.3.
THE DECLINE IN PERFORMANCE
What was alarming were the parts of his game that he has built his career around. His successful dribbling fell from 1.2 per game to just one. The amount of passes he made dropped from 65.1 to 63.9, with key passes going from 4.2 per game to three last term. In return, the assists he added went from 0.5 to 0.3.
Özil’s performances are not worth a new contract at his age. This will be his last big deal, but he’s not shown enough to prove he’s worth the fuss.
Arsenal fans are always hoping for big-name signings and signing the German from Real Madrid in 2014 was a huge coup. But now, with his interest and contributions dropping, it’s time to look elsewhere. Monaco, and Thomas Lemar, might be the place to start.
It’s important to perform against the smaller teams, but Özil contributed no goals against Bayern, Chelsea, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – he has been a passenger since that stunning comeback against Ludogorets in Bulgaria.
Better players are available for that type of money and with the reported interest from United and Bayern Munich in the past, you will always find a club that thinks they can get the best out of someone like Özil.
There will be a fear that letting him go to a Premier League rival could come back to haunt them, just as it did with Robin van Persie.
However, considering what the 29-year-old is demanding from the London club, Arsenal need to take control of this situation and reject Özil’s demands. And, if he doesn’t like it, he is free to move on.