Despite doing everything he can, there hardly seems to be a player with a more tumultuous time at his club than Mesut Özil does at Arsenal and it’s time he packed up for friendlier pastures.
At times, Arsenal fans seem to be baying for his blood after he puts in the inconsistent performances that have, sadly, come to epitomise his time in London. He gets blamed for losses and his poor work rate is singled out, even when Arsenal themselves have been, at the best, lacklustre.
Yet, when it goes wrong for the Gunners and he’s absent, he’s all the fans want to see on the pitch. This year the Arsenal faithful have been piling the blame on Unai Emery for not playing the midfielder and have somewhat scapegoated the forlorn Granit Xhaka for keeping him out the team.
Arsenal fans are amongst the tempestuous in the league. For reasons unknown, they still seem to believe they’re better than battling for fourth place. Watching Arsenal Fan TV, which is not an advertisement for the whole fan base, of course, you’d think the club should be Champions League finalists.
But sadly, they’re not much better than a team scrapping for fourth or fifth, along with Chelsea, United and Leicester.
They seem to forget what Özil has done for the club. His £42.5 million arrival coincided with Arsenal ending their nine-year trophy drought with the FA Cup, and a fourth-place finish in the league. He’s, mostly, played to his ability when needed to and do.
While recent years have seen a decline in Arsenal’s prowess, but that’s hardly just to lay it on Özil’s shoulders which appears to be the case. Arène Wenger’s troubled last few years and Emery’s odd animosity towards the German has made his time difficult.
That’s not enough for Özil and he should be demanding more. Not only should he be demanding more, but he should be looking for a way out before the club becomes any more toxic and does unrepairable damage to his career.
In an interview, Özil refused to change who he is because he’s been successful everywhere he’s played – and he’s not wrong.
I’m a perfectionist and sometimes I want too much perfection.
If a game is not going well or I play a bad ball, of course I get frustrated because I know it can be better. It’s the same when I come off the pitch looking angry.
So, if the differences between Emery and his playmaker are unreconcilable, it would seem that the time for the German to ditch London for newer and more appreciative support, from within and without the club, has come.
His selection, or lack thereof, is an issue to be raised again after Arsenal’s loss to Liverpool in the League Cup. Albeit a weak opponent, it was no mean feat that Arsenal were 4-2 up at the home of the league leaders.
With the German on the field, Emery’s side looked to have something different about them. Movement in midfield, chances created, there was an unusual energy around the Gunners.
But Emery took Özil off for Mattéo Guendouzi, most likely to conserve him for the weekend match against Wolves. Once he was off, Arsenal had lost energy and creativity in midfield. Granted, Guendouzi provided Willock with the assist, but it was hardly a demanding assist – unlike Özil’s for Maitland-Niles 15 minutes prior.
What would seem as a do-or-die match for Özil turned out to be a fantastic showing and Emery seemingly realised the fault in his ways, putting Özil in for only his second league match this season. Despite the unsatisfactory result, Özil at least played – but it just isn’t enough for a player of his calibre.
The big question, though, is where Özil could actually go to. His salary of £350,000 a week is remarkably high, particularly when you think it’s £150,000 more than Aubameyang and nearly double Lacazette’s wages.
He still has the potential to be world-class, that much is unquestionable. Put him in the City team and he’d wreak havoc from midfield. But at Arsenal, he’s crippled by harsh treatment, despite being their most talented attacking midfielder by a country mile.
His place to go would be the MLS. It’s no longer just a graveyard for players who can’t hack it in Europe anymore. Rooney is returning to England and Ibrahimović has teased a return to Spain.
Much like Carlos Vela has done with LAFC, Özil can use the MLS to rebirth his career and ignite once again the creative flair that he was so adored for. MLS clubs have the financial capital to manage his wages, although a cut would hardly be unfair.
It could also mean a team would play around him, giving him the freedom to rein in the no. 10 role that he so beautifully orchestrates. Perhaps David Beckham’s Inter Miami could tempt him.
One thing is for sure, and that’s that the longer he tries to persevere in London, the greater his climb will be to return to the peak of his powers.