One thing that has caused a serious uproar and divided opinions amongst Arsenal fans and pundits in recent times has been the treatment meted out to star midfielder, Mesut Ozil. The World Cup winner has been frozen out of the team since Project Restart. Despite starting for Mikel Arteta in his first few games as manager before the lockdown owing to coronavirus, the former Real Madrid midfielder missed out of the end of season runout which included the race to the Emirates FA Cup glory.
His fate has not been any better this season as he is yet to kick a ball for the Gunners this season and was also omitted from the Premier League and Europa League squad list. A decision that has been queried by fans in the wake of continuous absence of creativity in the team which has also culminated in back to back Premier League losses. It has been expected that after Arsenal failed to capture highly rated and coveted French midfielder, Houssem Aouar in the transfer window, they would turn their attention to their once-upon-a-time cornerstone that has turned into a reic and now a rejected one but to the dismay of many, he has remained frozen out with Arteta delisting him from the squad till the winter window at the very least.
Many have argued that the exclusion of Mesut has been down to non-footballing issues, citing his clash with the club over comments on the Chinese treatment of muslims and / or refusal to take a pay-cut in the wake of the Covid-19 interregnum. If it is not footballing reasons, why can’t Ozil get the chance to stake a claim to a place in the team even if it is a cameo role off the bench? He has been severely accused of lacking the work ethic needed to put in a defensive shift but with the acquisition of Thomas Partey who is expected to add steel to the rather subtle spine of the Gunners, Ozil can flourish by concentrating his efforts on attacking and picking out passes in the final third for proliflic marksman, Pierre Emeric Aubamenyang to bury. Still he remains frozen out, even officially and Arteta has come out to yet again reiterate the the continuous cold treatment of Ozil is solely his decision based on on-field issues and not decisions taken elsewhere but foisted on him.
“What I can tell you is that I tried my best, I tried to give him as many opportunities as I could. I am here to make decisions, the best decisions for the team and the club.”
This comment brings to bear some pertinent questions. How many opportunities did Arteta give Ozil, how fair has he been? Has Ozil been so piss poor that he cannot make the bench for even the Carabao Cup? Could Ozil be worse than Joe Willock who keeps getting starts and cameo appearances even on stages obviously bigger than his talent? Did Ozil get as many opportunities to prove his mettle like Shkodran Mustafi? The fellow German keeps getting opportunities despite his endless errors that keep costing Arsenal valuable points.
One thing is glaring, the Arsnal team is lacking in creativity and Aubamenyang is starved of support and chances, and that is why he is lagging behind on the scorer’s chat with just a goal from 6 Premier League matches so far this season. No matter how hard Arteta tries, he may not succeed in addressing the dearth of creativity in the team by shoehorn some other players into that role. What the team screams for is a natural creative midfielder with eyes for the final pass, sadly, the club has one who is allowed to just rot away at home even though he picks the fattest cheque at the end of every week.
Arteta seem to have made his decision and the jury is out for him. As long as Arsenal remain a shadow of his renowned self, failing to create chances and dominate games like the Gunners of old, people will continue to ask questions about Ozil and the decision to leave him out. The manager sees to the little and finer details but the fans see the bigger picture, time will tell if Ozil’s arm-length treatment is a tactical masterclass or a faux pas that would raise Arteta’s profile or dent his reign.