What if… Arsenal hadn’t handed Mesut Ozil his new contract?

Mesut Ozil is somewhat of an enigma at Arsenal; the playmaker has all the talent in the world but cannot get an extended run in the starting XI, despite seemingly fitting the bill for the formula that Unai Emery has found success with in recent weeks – two strikers up front with a creator tucked in behind.

The German has broken all kinds of records since his move to the Emirates Stadium from Real Madrid in 2013 – he was the fastest player in Premier League history to reach 50 assists, achieving the milestone in 141 appearances, while his goal against Leicester in October 2018 saw him reach 30 goals in red and white and thus become the competition’s most prolific German, surpassing the record previously held by Jurgen Klinsmann.

Rewarded for his exploits in North London with a bumper £350,000-a-week contract in January 2018, the maestro has hardly repaid that salary since, as Aaron Ramsey – who is leaving in the summer after – keeps him warming the bench.

The signing of Denis Suarez surely pushes the 30-year-old further down the pecking order and so Ozil looks set to remain one of the Premier League’s most expensive back-ups. What could have been at Arsenal, though, if the number 10 hadn’t signed that new contract just over a year ago?

Aaron Ramsey stays at Arsenal

Ramsey has agreed pre-contract terms with Juventus having failed to secure a new contract at the Emirates Stadium and will leave on a free in the summer.

Having read what Ozil is now earning, perhaps Ramsey felt that he should be paid a similar amount, although Gunners chiefs have elected against granting him parity on wages – or any wages at all, for that matter – preferring to let him leave for a free at the end of the season.

That may well have been influenced by how much of the wage bill Ozil is already taking up, or the fact that it’s proved difficult to get both performing to the best of their abilities in the same starting XI. In any case, it feels as though on some level – whether financial or football – a choice between both attacking midfielders was made, the Welshman being pushed out the exit door.

Ozil offloaded

The 30-year-old’s eye-watering earnings surely make him very difficult to shift, even if Emery has run out of patience with him. Who in their right mind would match the £350,000-a-week he rakes in at Arsenal considering the quality of performance, or lack thereof, that he has produced this season? Even PSG would surely find that hard to justify.

Had the German not signed that bumper deal though, it is certainly less likely that he would still be in red and white as other teams would feel far more inclined to take a punt on the attacking midfielder, who is valued at £31.5m by Transfermarkt.

In any case, it would certainly have been easier for Arsenal – and particularly Emery – to move him on in January.

Far more active January window

Arsenal secured Suarez on loan from Barcelona and the Spaniard was their only piece of business last month, as loan moves for Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez and Inter’s Ivan Perisic failed to come to fruition.

Had the Gunners’ books been a tad more balanced – Ozil is by far their highest-earner – then fans may have seen a few more fresh faces through the door in January.

They are in desperate need of a new centre-back and a more athletic right-back after Hector Bellerin sustained an ACL injury that will ensure he sees out the rest of the season on the sidelines – Stephan Lichtsteiner showed he is well past it against Manchester City.

Neither of those problem areas were addressed, though, and Arsenal now have a mountain to climb if they want to finish in the top four.

Pl>ymaker FC’s Theo Ogden was at the Emirates on Friday to see Alexis Sanchez come back to haunt Arsenal. Check out Gunners’ fans reactions in the video below…