According to the Daily Mail, Mesut Ozil’s eternal struggle for form in the Premier League could come to an abrupt end in January, with the midfielder allegedly growing increasingly unhappy at the Emirates and Bayern Munich prepared to spend £30million to bring him back to his native Germany – something the 25 year-old has since denied adamantly on Twitter.
But every transfer rumour, no matter how farcical or absurd, dips itself into reality somewhere along the line. Perhaps a murmuring of discontent overheard in a quiet corridor. Perhaps gossip from an agent targeting another jackpot. Or simply, a representation of prevailing public opinion, picked up and distorted into something new by the tabloids.
The latter suggestion certainly rings true with Ozil – the German international has never truly looked comfortable in his own skin at the Emirates, regularly dividing opinions of supporters, pundits and journalists alike. So, the question must be asked; are Arsenal about to give up on their club record signing?
Looking back on it, Ozil was always an unnecessary purchase, a reactionary one, somewhere between the realms of vanity and panic. The last thing the Gunners needed as they approached the 2013/14 campaign was another lightweight, offensive playmaker – their squad already was, and still is, riddled with them.
But after pulling out of the deal to sign Gonzalo Higuain over the issue of valuations, Wenger found himself confronted with a stadium’s worth of angry supporters demanding a marquee signing as Arsenal lost 3-1 to Aston Villa on the opening day of last season. The Gunners gaffer quickly responded by declaring ‘the transfer window starts now’ and by the end of the week had attainted Ozil’s signature.
Since then, Arsenal have been trapped in a fruitless experiment of trying to find room for Ozil in a midfield that’s already bursting with high-quality attacking talent, and are still waiting for positive results; on the left, on the right, or in his favoured position at No.10, the German international is yet to dominate games in the manner a £42.2million signing should.
There are apologetic arguments out there, some of which I largely agree with; Ozil has played a constructive, almost subliminal hand in several Arsenal goals, the ‘second assist’ if you will. He’s also averaged 2.3 key passes per match in the Premier League this season, the best return in the Arsenal squad.
Likewise, the central role is one he’s largely excelled in for Real Madrid and Germany, yet Wenger seems almost allergic to the notion of playing him there regularly. For that reason predominantly, the Arsenal boss has never truly treated Ozil like a club-record signing. His position in the starting XI often comes at some form of compromise, when in truth, the team should be structured around his playmaking qualities.
After all, this is one of the leading talents in world football we’re talking about – one who made Cristiano Ronaldo ‘furious’ when he left the Bernabeu in summer 2013, one who Jose Mourinho once compared to Zinedine Zidane.
But in comparison to the dynamic, impactful attacking midfield displays we’ve become accustomed to in the Premier League, such as those of Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata or David Silva, Ozil’s performances in the last year have been way below the standard.
I’m a firm believer in the old adage of allowing a season to settle, yet the 25 year-old’s displays in the current campaign have been arguably more disappointing – in the Champions League, where stars of his calibre should be earning their pay cheques, particularly. One can discuss Ozil’s position in the starting XI until the cows return to pasture, but it’s not as if opportunities to prove himself as something more than simply a flamboyant sideshow on the flanks haven’t been forthcoming.
Does that mean Arsenal are ready to quit on the most expensive acquisition in their history? Wenger’s an exceptionally stubborn manager – something Arsenal fans will already be more than aware of – and it’s seems more likely he’ll spend the next decade attempting to make Ozil a success at the Emirates than admit defeat and sell him on after just eighteen months.
Yet, Wenger’s had one year and three transfer windows to find a solution that better facilitates the German star. So far, he’s come up with nothing, almost distracted by the superior form of Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla and more recently, Alexis Sanchez.
And, according to reports, Ozil’s departure would pave the way for Sami Khedira to join the Emirates ranks in January, swapping one high-earning World Cup-winning German for another. The Real Madrid man, although not the complete holding midfielder he’s often made out to be, would provide intrinsic balance to Arsenal’s midfield, adding some vitally-needed physicality and tenacity when facing high-quality opponents. He may not be as eye-catching, as elegant, or as well suited to Arsenal’s philosophy, but the 27 year-old would bring variety to Arsenal’s fatally lopsided squad.
Finding a player of such category has lately been playing on Wenger’s mind, believe it or not. He told BeIN Sport in September; “We still need a physical presence with prodigious ability like Vieira or Petit.” Khedira more than ticks that box.
For that reason alone, the old German switcheroo, Arsenal might – just might – be prepared to cut their losses, both in footballing and financial terms, on Mesut Ozil.