Where next for Mesut Ozil? Thanks to Arsenal and Unai Emery it's hard to say

Emery, who has been otherwise immensely impressive, could have dealt with the Ozil situation far better

Ed Malyon
Sports Editor
Friday 21 December 2018 09:26
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Arsenal: A look back at 2018

Around a year ago this week, Arsene Wenger received an early Christmas present of sorts.

The Frenchman, soldiering on through the latest storm in what would prove to be the dying embers of his Arsenal reign, received significant encouragement for the first time in mid-December of last year that Mesut Ozil, the club's star player, would be willing to sign a new contract at the Emirates.

Up until that point, negotiations had been paralysed and Ozil wasn't short of interest from other teams willing to capitalise on the fact that time was ticking down on his deal. Given the Gunner's on-field strife it would have been disastrous in both PR and football terms to lose arguably their most valuable player for what would amount to pennies and thus by the end of January, when Ozil signed his new contract, it was an unexpected lift for a club on the wane.

As Miguel Delaney wrote on these pages, it was welcome boost for a club with big questions hanging over it and one that halted their seemingly inexorable slide.

With that slide now smoothed into a promising upward curve, Arsenal are already unrecognisable from the faltering club of January and the situation with Ozil has similarly flipped on its head. Having handed the playmaker one of the biggest contracts in world football, the former German international is now considered available for transfer with the club ready to listen to offers. Against Tottenham on Wednesday night, Ozil was once again left out of the matchday squad - "tactical reasons" the club said - and it has become clear that there is no place for him in Unai Emery's plans.

While the question that begs to be asked is who might have the money and inclination to take a 30-year-old luxury player with a huge contract off Arsenal's hands at anything approaching market value, it is worth noting how Emery, who has been otherwise immensely impressive, could have dealt with this situation better.

The Spaniard's transformation of this team in a footballing sense could barely have been more convincing, leading Arsenal to a streak of 22 games without defeat and working within a framework that points towards future success. Sven Mislintat's recruitment has impressed thus far and the club appears to have transitioned fairly smoothly from the old, more dictatorial days of Wenger to a modern, committee approach with specialists leading the relevant departments and an emphasis on investing smartly.

Ozil's contract feels lodged in the Arsenal of the past, in those days when Alexis Sanchez or Robin van Persie were allowed to run down their deals and join a rival for a bargain basement fee. Obviously the ongoing Aaron Ramsey situation represents a lingering hangover from those times but Raul Sanllehi, Vinai Venkatesham and Huss Fahmy now have a focus on professionalising and modernising what goes on behind the scenes.

The fact is, though, that even if Emery has no need for Ozil he would be better served preserving the player's value. Instead he is currently tanking it, leaving him out of the squad entirely and making the player appear to all suitors as if he is a problem, rather than the sort of asset you might want to unload a significant sum to bring to your football club.

Ozil and Emery don't see eye to eye 

Had Emery played the game a little better, the next step for Arsenal would be a little easier. Instead, you wonder where Ozil might find himself next and the list seems pretty short.

Bayern Munich could have been an obvious destination for a German player of such quality but after his much-publicised fall-out with the national team and the country's Football Association there seems little obvious draw for the Gelsenkirchen-born player to return to his homeland or for Bayern to find the room in their wage bill to accommodate a player who is likely to be unpopular with the supporters. Real Madrid have already had the Ozil experience while Barcelona simply don't have the space in their self-imposed salary cap to take on another enormous wage, leaving the handful of clubs still considered to be Italy's old money or Paris Saint-Germain, who could have FFP questions to deal with.

All in all, it is hard to find a way out for Ozil at a time when he needs it the most and that is, in part, down to Arsenal.

Ozil has not bought in to Emery's methods

Emery could receive his own Christmas present of sorts if Arsenal can find a way to cash in on Ozil because it will free up so much money to facilitate the further remoulding of his squad. They will lose an undoubtedly productive player who positively sweats creativity, but if he is not even part of the new manager's matchday plans then he serves no purpose whatsoever.

As a player, Ozil was a totem for Arsenal - their first big-money signing as a £40m transfer and then a sign of their arresting decline when he extended his contract on monster wages.

The club are now back on the up, but the expectation is that he won't go on that journey with them. The totem will be sacrificed. It is yet to be seen at what cost.

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