New season, same Mesut Ozil conundrum.
It wouldn’t be a Premier League campaign if fans and pundits alike didn’t partake in the annual pontification of Ozil.
The Arsenal man, once the club’s record-signing, is easily one of the most divisive characters in world football.
We’ve discussed the German midfielder at unrivalled length already.
There is however a fresh question mark hanging over the head of Ozil this season.
Are the Gunners actually better off without him?
Unai Emery’s men have recovered from the back-to-back defeats that kicked off their season, going onto register nine consecutive victories.
The 29-year-old has missed just three of those conquests.
Even for the six wins that the German was a part of, just how big has his contribution been?
Flattering to deceive in the disappointments against Man City and Chelsea, Emery made a statement by hooking the midfielder after 68 minutes at Stamford Bridge.
Not to walk all over his managerial grave, but it was the kind of bold decision that Arsene Wenger never would have made.
Ozil was then omitted from the squad for the 3-1 win over West Ham, Emery citing illness as the reason behind his No10’s absence.
Nobody believed it and rumours of a training ground bust-up between the pair were rife. No smoke without fire, right?
The World Cup winner was then thrown back into the fold for the victories against Cardiff and Newcastle.
He found the net for his first goal of the season and what proved to be the winner in the latter.
However, Ozil still failed to seriously stamp his authority on these fixtures.
The enigmatic midfielder continued his run in the side during the hard-fought 2-0 win over Everton.
Ozil failed to impress before Emery made a tactical switch in the second-half that saw the German moved from out-wide to his preferred No10 position.
That has long-since been a dilemma with the German. Arsenal fans were forced to watch him out of position under Wenger and are going through groundhog day once again.
He was thrown back out-wide for the visit of Watford where he showed fight in what was a difficult day for the Gunners.
Ozil capped off an impressive performance with a well-taken goal that helped his side to all three points.
Just when it looked as though his season was turning a corner, last weekend was an utter disaster for the German’s stock in north London.
Arsenal cruised to a 5-1 win over Fulham in what was without doubt their best performance of the season so far.
And it all happened without Ozil.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan took up the No10 role in his absence and was suburb.
The Armenian’s attitude and overall involvement throughout the 90 minutes was just far superior to anything we’ve seen from his German team-mate under Emery.
Whenever we’ve seen the best of Ozil this campaign it has unsurprisingly come from a central position.
His best however has still not been good enough for the club’s highest-earner whose position is one so crucial to the Gunners style.
The two major identity changes that Emery hoped to bring to Arsenal was a press from the front and playing out from the back.
Ozil’s questionable work-rate seemingly renders him useless at most of the requirements as a No10 in an Emery system.
The Spaniard experimented with Ramsey as the most advanced midfield player after failing to be convinced by Ozil’s work-rate.
The guinea pig test of the Welshman failed too. We’ve seen a consequent contract debacle ensue there.
In recent weeks it has looked as though Emery has ditched his pressing-plan as he simply doesn’t have the profile of player to deliver an adequate press.
The Spaniard’s willingness to effectively surrender one of his philosophies in order to appease Ozil shows the chance he is willing to give him.
How long will that patience last though?
The Gunners boss has already shown he’s not afraid to make bold judgements on players, personally taking the contract offer to Aaron Ramsey off the table.
Emery would have no issue adopting a stern approach with the divisive German, having already dealt with the egos of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe at PSG.
The German’s reported wage of £350,000-a-week makes him a scapegoat both on and off the pitch.
Such a paycheck demands a level of performance that he simply isn’t delivering.
Arsenal set the benchmark so high with Ozil’s contract that it leaves other players in a powerful position when it comes to securing new deals.
The Gunners have boxed themselves in.
Ozil’s days at the Emirates could well be numbered if his level of performance fails to improve.
As Arsenal fans, we all want nothing more than to see our top-earner succeed.
And there’s no doubt Ozil is one of the best in the business when he’s on his day. At times we are blessed to have him.
How often do those days come though?
Looking into my crystal ball and putting all the pieces together, this could well be his final season in north London.
Prove me wrong, Mesut.
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