Reports and rumors have surfaced that Mesut Özil could be on his way out of Arsenal as soon as January. While this isn’t necessarily breaking news, as the playmaker has made just two appearances on the season, it is a disappointing development in his illustrious career. The former German international has collected trophies in all three countries that he has been involved in, as well as playing a significant role in Germany’s 2014 World Cup triumph.
Nearly 31 now, Özil is heading towards the autumn of his career. This should be an exciting time for a player of his stature. He should either be a prominent figure in a top European side or possibly looking for a new challenge as a club’s premier signing. Nevertheless, it seems as if Özil’s career could be taking an unforeseen left turn.
Despite this troubling time, Özil’s tenure in north London should be looked at in a positive way. Once widely considered as one of the best playmakers in the world, he left Real Madrid during the prime of his career to join the Gunners. His signature in 2013 took many by surprise for a few reasons.
Real is one of the most prestigious clubs in the world. Not many players (that are performing well) willingly leave the Spanish giants for a club that was struggling to compete for trophies. After all, Özil won La Liga with Real and was named into the UEFA Team of the Year prior to joining Arsenal. The Gunners were also known for not spending a ton of money on players. Özil’s £42.5 million fee smashed the club’s record signing at that time.
The Özil signing changed everything for Arsenal. It was the exact moment that both shifted the entire financial outlook of the club and helped end a trophy drought. In the five previous seasons prior to Özil’s arrival, Arsenal had a collective net spend of -£28 million. This means that they actually made money during these five years on player ins/outs. In the five years beginning with the German’s signature, the Gunners had a net spend of nearly £220 million. The massive fee (at the time) that the Gunners paid Real for their star playmaker was certainly the start of this financial revolution with the club.
Not only did Özil signify monetary change, but he also performed on the pitch. The Gunners, with obvious help from their German number 10, ended their trophy drought in Özil’s freshman season in London. Arsenal went on to collect three major trophies in Özil’s first four campaigns at the club.
Statistically speaking, Özil began his Arsenal career on fire. The attacking midfielder racked up assists at a record pace. In fact, Özil held the record for fewest appearances to get to 50 Premier League assist prior to Kevin De Bruyne beating the feat this year. His 2015/16 campaign in particular, which included 19 league assists, was one of the best seasons by any playmaker in Premier League history.
After all of these achievements and triumphs, how does it come down to this? Well, a few poor performances mixed in with multiple minor injuries and illnesses, along with a managerial change make for a dangerous recipe for one’s career. There’s no doubting how much Arsene Wenger meant to Özil (and vice versa). When the Frenchman retired as Arsenal manager in 2018 and Unai Emery was appointed head coach, it signaled a big shift in Özil’s career at the club.
Sure, Özil can potentially excel for just about any coach on the planet, but Emery forces every player to be active and exuberant both in matches and in training. This, however, does not appear to be Özil’s strong suit. Despite Emery’s side desperately needing an influx in creativity, the Spaniard has stuck to his guns regarding his policy.
Nevertheless, it appears as if Özil’s days could be numbered at Arsenal. If true, it would be a sad ending to a great relationship between player, club, and fan base. Regardless of how it pans out, however, the German will go down as one of the most important players for the Gunners over the last decade or two.