Since Unai Emery was hired as the new manager of Arsenal, one of the things fans were looking forward to was to see how Mesut Ozil would be used in the team. Under Arsene Wenger, he was the creator-in-chief, but had issues with tracking back and helping out in defence. How that would translate under Emery was of keen interest to everyone.
As it turns out, Emery has chosen not give Ozil a long leash like Wenger did, and instead has put the player in his place. The Spaniard has dropped the star midfielder a number of times this season, under the guise of injuries. There have also been multiple reports about training ground disagreements between the coach and the player.
Amidst all this, the club finds itself in a conundrum – what to do with the German. He earns a salary of around £350,000 per week, but the club are barely getting any return for the money they are paying to him. In contrast, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang earns £200,000 per week and is leading the Premier League goalscoring charts.
To be fair, there have been some moments when Ozil has shown his quality this season. The Leicester game comes to mind as well as the Burnley match, where his intelligence and vision shone through. But truth be told, such matches have been few and far between for a player of his calibre.
Having signed a long-term deal with a significant pay bump last January, one gets the idea Ozil is comfortable staying at Arsenal and playing at his own pace, irrespective of what the coach demands. With him no longer playing in the German national team either, there is no international spot to play for as well.
But that would be too simple a judgment to make. One cannot deduce the state of a player’s mind based on random observations, at least not if one wants to get closer to the truth. However, it is evident that the same intensity is not present in all matches that he plays, and there is certainly far lesser urgency in his backtracking than the manager would like.
Every champion team in the current era have embraced the art of pressing the opposition and putting pressure on them when not in possession. Irrespective of the kind of player you are, it is now mandatory for you to work extra hard to keep the ball or try to win the ball. For that, the manager would need someone who is ready to put in the hard work along with the intelligent stuff.
At Arsenal, Ozil has one of the least number of tackles per game, with even the likes of Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette having more tackles per game than the German. It is no longer enough to be good in the final third and jog around while the opposition transitions into a counter attack. The manager needs all his players to do their utmost to help the team score as well as not concede.
Even when it comes to creating chances, Ozil is not at the top of the charts at the club. The German has created only 1.7 chances per 90 minutes whenever he has featured, and is behind Sead Kolasinac and Aaron Ramsey, who have 1.9 and 1.8 chances, respectively. With Ramsey also only coming on as a substitute in most games, it is a damning indictment of how much use Arsenal are getting out of Ozil.
It is unsustainable for Arsenal to continue keeping the playmaker in the shadows, especially considering the pay package he is on. Considering that the player is 30 years old, it is unlikely he will change the way he plays the game at this juncture of his career. The Gunners will need to find a way to utilise his skills or consider selling him to free the wages he’s getting as they can be used on other players that can fix more pressing issues in the squad.
But which team would be willing to take such an expensive player who doesn’t want to track back or help in pressing the opposition?