The main criticism of Mesut Ozil has always been his lack of activity off the ball along with his sheer indifference to track back and help out his defenders. Arsene Wenger was never the manager to take him to task for that. Under his regime, Ozil was allowed to do as he pleases. And while the 29 year-old is at his best when the reigns are loosened, he simply has been too inconsistent in his tenure so far with the Gunners to allow for this to continue. Unai Emery has finally been the man to hand him a soft ultimatum. Ozil was substituted in the 68th minute of Arsenal’s 3-2 loss to Chelsea. Wenger would rarely pull off the star midfielder and in the unlikely event that he did, he was to be replaced by a player who would essentially play garbage time. He missed Saturday’s 3-1 against West Ham United amidst speculation that he had been dropped entirely by Emery. Reports later surfaced that Ozil had training the previous day with a cold and this was would make it the seventh instance where he had missed a game with illness. Nobody is suggesting that Arsenal are covering up the fact that he conveniently misses games when he comes under a barrage a criticism though the idea that is not the first instance at which this has happened does raise concerns about Ozil.
Emery has decided to not carry on the tradition of Wenger’s “Laissez-Faire” approach to training. There are stories with his past teams of intensive session where he and his training staff break down hours upon hours of gameplay. The Spaniard is known as one to not care about names or résumés of his players. Instead of focusing on the past, Emery chooses to look at what his players can offer in the future and for years to come. Another distinction between the two managers is their playing style. Emery is more reactionary and will set his sides according to their opposition. Wenger on the other hand had a set style of play where Arsenal would always want the ball and build pressure off of their possession. We saw the best of Ozil under this system though his worst moments were glaringly obvious. He disappeared way too many times for player who was supposed to galvanize and be the spearhead of their attacking play. Emery wants to change this.
Reports have now surfaced that Emery has demanded the Ozil is to make a concerted effort to more when the ball is not at his feet. While rumors have floated that the two have fallen out, Emery has made a concerted public effort to deny any of these claims. Emery’s tactics and methods are a rude awakening to much of the squad, who have marinated in their own mediocrity during the final years of the Wenger regime. Some of taken well to the change while Ozil is yet to adapt. Take Aaron Ramsey as an example. While he has been touted by many to be the next captain of the Gunners, Emery has not handed him the armband because he is one of the lost tenured members of the club. Ramsey will have to earn his spot even though it is the last year on his current deal and he possesses all the leverage in the world in negotiating a new contract with his current employers. The Welshmen is said to have been dropped from the starting XI after a disappointing game in their season opener. He bounced back against West Ham and was their liveliest player in the park. He broke through West Ham’s lines and was constantly making menacing runs behind their defenders. Ramsey forced the Hammers’ into uncomfortable positions and unsettled their already shaky defense. He created chances by not being still and was in fact the most energetic and dynamic player that Arsenal have fielded all season. These are not the things that can be easily seen in the stat line or the next day’s highlight reel. Ramsey had the unnoticed qualities that are often overlooked by the average fan. I cannot say for certain that Mesut Ozil would do the same if were in a similar position.
He needs to take a page out of Ramsey’s book. This will be the challenge that will define the rest of Ozil’s career with the Gunners. He cannot be immediately offloaded. His albatross of a £350,000 week contract that was signed at the beginning of the calendar year has made him impossible to offload. Other clubs will not want him as Ozil will demand the same wages and nobody with the right mind will want to pay him such a figure if he continues with his lethargic play on the field. And, Arsenal will seek ample compensation in the form of an exorbitant transfer fee; something that is unlikely for a player who is slowly reaching the end of his prime. Ozil and Emery are stuck with another and it is on the player to alter his attitude and effort to fit with the requirements of his head coach. Ozil will have to try and emulate Aaron Ramsey’s performances against West Ham. While it may be a one of, it is a blueprint that the former German international can use to secure playing time under Emery. Arsenal happens will be hopeful that he is capable of change. If this club is to make a run to get back into the top four, Ozil may the player one player with the sheer talent to put them over the hump.
Relief can best describe the mood of the Arsenal faithful on January 31st. For the first few months of the past season, it looked as though both Ozil and Sanchez would be leaving London for a journey elsewhere. With the Chilean forcing a move to Manchester United, it looked as though Ozil followed suit. He agreed to a contract extension on the last day of the transfer window and the Emirates Stadium. The idea that he could have moved on for a under market fee or on a free transfer would have been unfathomable. His contract extension looked really good back then. Though we are yet to see if the extra bags of money that he gets to haul home will inspire him enough to give his 100% on a daily basis. He flickered from his best to his absolute worst since extending his career with Arsenal. The ball is now on Ozil’s court. He’ll have to prove that Kroenke’s money is well invested in him.
Ozil will definitely want to get back into the team again, especially after both he and Arsenal have committed towards a shared future. There is no doubt that when he is at his best, the Gunners are an extremely fun team to watch in the final third. They travel to Cardiff City tomorrow before the start of the first international break of the season. As Ozil is indefinitely terminated his relationship with the German national team, he can take the coming week off to set his mind right. Arsenal are a better team when his he is in peak condition. Only time will tell if the No. 10 is back to the first team and if he can hold his starting spot with his dazzling – but hopefully – consistent play.