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Saturday, April 20, 2024


This week, Mesut Ozil’s exile at Arsenal has extended to unprecedented levels. The 32-year-old cannot play senior football again until January at the earliest after being left out of the Gunners’ Premier League and Europa League squads for what manager Mikel Arteta insisted on Wednesday night were solely footballing reasons.

“My conscience is very calm because I have been really fair,” Arteta said. “What I can say from my side is that it is just a football decision. My level of communication with him has been really high, and we know what to expect with each other.

“My job is to get the best out of every player, to contribute to the team performance. Here I feel at the moment, today, that I have failed.”

Ozil arrived at Arsenal from Real Madrid in September 2014 for a then-club-record £42 million fee, which became the physical manifestation of what then-chief executive Ivan Gazidis heralded as an “escalation in financial firepower.” The Germany international was intended to be the crown jewel of a new era, a club loosened from the constraints of self-funding their move to Emirates Stadium from Highbury, finally ready to challenge for the game’s major honours once again.

For a time, Ozil lived up to his billing of the “King of the assists.” During the 2015-16 Premier League season, he set up 19 goals — a tally only ever beaten by Thierry Henry and Kevin De Bruyne. Ozil’s £350,000-a-week contract was also hailed as a landmark moment for both player and club when he agreed to stay in north London in January 2018, but instead of cementing his status as Arsenal’s star player, he now finds himself fighting for his future.

Questions over his consistency and application have grown, and despite starting the first 10 Premier League games under Arteta, he has not played a minute since March 7. He hasn’t even been named to a matchday squad since June 25.

These days, Ozil is a lightning rod for criticism and emblematic for some of the mismanagement that has undermined Arsenal’s pursuit of trophies. Yet, Ozil’s agent, Dr Erkut Sogut (he holds a doctorate in law), has predictably hit back, believing the club must come clean about the real explanations behind their treatment of the midfielder.

In an exclusive interview with ESPN, Sogut states, among other things, that Arteta is not telling the truth for claiming Ozil’s absence is a football decision; Ozil should be shown the same loyalty Arteta received in his final two years as an Arsenal player, and Ozil turned down an offer from another club that included a £30 million signing-on fee to stay at Arsenal in 2018.

Arteta has largely attempted to sidestep Ozil questions when asked on an almost weekly basis during the manager’s news conferences at London Colney. Except the topic could no longer be avoided when Arsenal submitted their 25-man squad for the Premier League this week, leaving out one of English football’s highest-paid players, and Arteta said he has “failed” to get the best out of Ozil when he spoke prior to Thursday night’s 2-1 win at Rapid Vienna in the Europa League.

Technical director Edu stated earlier this month that Ozil’s selection was determined by performance alone, but sources have told ESPN that other factors were influential.


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