We’ve all sung it. Either at an Arsenal match, with other Arsenal fans in a bar or pub, or by yourself quietly as you remember the Leicester City match last fall, the first-time volley against Napoli, or the bounce-shot against Liverpool.
“Weeeeeeee’ve got Özil, Mesut Özil.”
The brilliance of Mesut Özil once again ignites the Emirates terraces with song. The strained vocal chords part of you is singing along with the crowd, while the other part of you is hopeful that the joyous tune will propel Unai Emery to play the once majestic playmaker that allowed Arsenal fans to dream wild dreams again.
Deadline day during the summer of 2013 is a day Arsenal fans won’t forget any time soon. The purchase of Gareth Bale from Tottenham motivated Real Madrid to sell the suddenly surplus-to-requirements Özil to Arsenal. The purchase opened the new era of Arsenal at the Emirates, after years of scraping the bottom of the barrel and selling our best players to our rivals in order to pay our stadium debt.
Özil’s arrival was the signal of one painful chapter closing for Arsenal fans, a chapter that saw them evolve from one of the best teams in Europe to a team with promise and hope but little to show for it. A fanbase that was used to consistent success had to put their expectations on hold, and Özil arriving was a signal to many that Arsenal were working on getting back to where they had been.
Arsenal have Mesut Özil. They are more aware of this than anyone else, regardless of public opinion. And yet, Unai Emery and the suits upstairs have come to a pretty clear agreement that they don’t see him in their future plans. Arsenal’s talisman over the last several years looks to be surplus to requirements.
“I just don’t think you understand.”
Playing 70 odd minutes against Watford, playing another 70 minutes against Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup. With Arsenal not being able to get out of first gear attack-wise, Özil’s omission from not only the starting XI but the squad as a whole has left Arsenal fans not able to understand why the man who has been the face of Arsenal for most of this decade is being pushed out.
Leaving out a star player is one thing, but when the player you are leaving out provides the one thing your team lacks, it is going to raise some eyebrows, and some voices. Emery has gone back and forth with Özil, leaving him out for long stretches of last season as well, before integrating him into the squad towards the winter months. Leaving no explanation, starting a narrative and discussion that has seemed never ending. Until this past week.
Emery, Sanllehi, and even Özil’s former German national teammate (and current head of the Arsenal Academy) Per Mertesacker have provided much needed clarity over the last few weeks regarding Özil.
Emery has plainly said that other players have deserved chances more, Raul Sanllehi recently echoed that same sentiment in recent fan forum, and Mertesacker mentioned that Emery requires a certain fitness level from his players.
The full court press from the decision makers of the club shows that they wanted to set the record straight once and for all. Without mincing any words, Arsenal as a club essentially wiped their hands of the blame, putting responsibility for Özil’s lack of playing time on his well documented and often overblown lack of fitness or intensity.
“He’s Arsene Wenger’s man. He’s better than Zidane”
Özil has been the perfect test case as to how Arsenal have changed from a structural point of view ever since Arsene Wenger’s departure. Throwing players under the bus, or exposing them for criticism from the media, was never Wenger’s method. Instead, he would direct the blame on himself, over and over again, which definitely was a factor in the fan resentment that built up over the last years he was in charge.
This isn’t the case anymore. The players are in the firing line much more than they were with Wenger, and nobody benefited more from Wenger’s style of humility than Özil. Extra days off, effort issues, these things were all overlooked by Wenger who focused on the extraordinary things Özil brought to the table, instead of lasering in on what he didn’t.
Özil isn’t the teacher’s pet anymore, the benefit of the doubt that was built in is no longer there, and the 30 year old who is understandably set in his ways is having a hard time adjusting to the new demands after years of comfort.
He may not be better than or as influential as Zidane. But his mercurial talent has been an inspiration to many youngsters growing up, especially at London Conley, who now look to take the reins away from the playmaker and guide the club. They all say he’s the best player they’ve seen. And they aren’t wrong. Time gets the best of us all.
“We’ve got Mesut Özil.”
Not for much longer. Arsenal have been looking to offload Özil for months now dating back to last January. With Fenerbahçe circling like always, it seems like the long transfer saga might actually come a close this coming January. Özil’s connection with Turkey is strong, as his wife is Turkish and they just celebrated their marriage in Istanbul. All signs point to Özil’s inevitable departure.
Özil means more than just the flicks and tricks and unbelievable passes. Özil was a new chapter. That chapter is closing, and a new one is about to start.