It was Wenger, after all, who convinced Özil to leave Real Madrid for Arsenal back in 2013. Özil enjoys playing for the team, loves living in London and basks in the trust of his manager. He is happy with his lot, especially given the pay-rise on the way, if he does eventually put pen to paper.
“I am very, very happy at Arsenal and have let the club know that I would be ready to sign a new contract,” Özil told Kicker. “The club knows that I am here most of all because of Arsène Wenger. He is the one who signed me and he is the one whose trust I have. The club also knows that I want to be clear on who the manager is going to be.”
Wenger has had a two-year extension on the table for some time but has not decided yet if he should sign it. If he does, between now and the end of the season, it seems likely that Özil will do the same.
But while Özil is happy with the direction of the club, Alexis Sanchez does not look quite so satisfied. That was the message of his fury at the end of the 3-3 draw at Bournemouth last Tuesday, or when Arsenal took the lead and then slumped to defeat in those two defining away games at Everton and Manchester City last month. He is hard on his team-mates at the best of times, not afraid to lambast them on the pitch or to make it very clear that they have dropped below his own high standards.
Sanchez, in short, looks less happy at Arsenal than Özil and will require more convincing to keep him at the club. If Özil wants Arsenal to stay on the same path, Sanchez looks like he wants a change of direction, with all that implies.
It is very easy to see a scenario in which Wenger signs, Özil signs and Sanchez leaves this summer. Next year Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck will share the striking duties and Arsenal’s 2017-18 season will end up like any of the last five, ten or even 12.
Although Arsenal fans could wonder if there might be another way. Whether they come fourth or not this year it looks like the team are not about to turn a corner, and are not about to catch up with Liverpool. After so many years of doing the same thing, they look like they are in need of a change. Many fans will think that Sanchez, and not Ozil, is right.
Both are world-class players but Sanchez is more unique, and therefore more valuable to Arsenal. There are quite a few brilliant number 10s out there who could be persuaded to come to Arsenal. Neither Isco nor James Rodriguez is fully settled at Real Madrid, Mario Götze is at Borussia Dortmund and even Julian Draxler, at Paris Saint Germain, might still want to come to England one day. Modern European football creates players with these qualities and they are not hard to find.
But how many players like Sanchez are there in the modern game? If Arsenal lost him, how would they replace him? Paulo Dybala at Juventus is a fantastic player but does not have Sanchez’s same bullish physique. Antoine Griezmann is a second striker, not a lead man, and might be out of Arsenal’s price range. If Sanchez goes to PSG, China or wherever else, he will not be replaced like-for-like.
So what if Sanchez, rather than Özil or Wenger is the man that is the most important to keep at Arsenal? What if he is the person whose demands should be met, financially and across the board? It would be expensive but it would be a sound investment in the top player at the top of his game. Even if it means ripping up everything else.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies