Contracts at Arsenal are never straightforward and Mesut Özil’s is proving no exception.
We’re no different from other big clubs in that respect. We could each design a ‘contract bingo’ card and pretty much all come up with the same clichés. Outrageous salary demands end when they put a bit of Phyllis Nelson on the turntable and move closer before a usurper enters stage right with their riches and wealth beyond compare. And at some point, there’s a profession of love for the manager. There always is and I suspect Arsène loves them too. And I hadn’t mentioned the show of ambition. That’s always there.
Mesut understands the game and the teaser of an interview with Kicker, the German football magazine, publish today, underlines he knows how to play it.
“I am very, very happy at Arsenal and have let the club know that I would be ready to sign a new contract. The fans want that I stay and now it is just down to the club.
“The club knows that I am here most of all because of Arsène Wenger. He is the one who signed me and he is the one whose trust I have. The club also knows that I want to be clear what the manager is going to [in the future].”
Unsurprisingly, agendas lend themselves to wilful misinterpretation. He’s not said he will only sign if Wenger does nor is he outright asking for that. He’s not even demanding that they appoint x,y, and z in Wenger’s place either. What he wants to know is (a) what is Arsène planning and (b) are the club ready – as in do they have a robust succession plan – to hunt for a replacement if he walks away.
But Mesut, what price loyalty?
Özil is 28 years-old and this is probably his last contract where he will hold the whip hand in negotiations. The next deal will happen when he is past 30; age always counts against players at that point, or at least at Arsenal it does. So Mesut asked what’s happening with the manager, a natural step.
I do wonder if the position with his own contract is why Wenger isn’t going into the transfer market this winter; he hasn’t made up his mind where his future lies and can’t tell potential signings if he’ll be here in six months. And I don’t think the manager knows the answer himself either. While his natural inclination may be to renew, he knows that the pressure is intensifying. Possibly, he’s waiting to see if there are more protests this season and whether there is more of a feeling in the stadium that the crowd is become increasingly ambivalent toward him?
Remember the likes of Fabregas, Clichy, Adebayor and van Persie? I bet Arsène does. They pledged allegiance and professed love of the emperor but as soon as it became obvious that his new clothes were rather threadbare, they skedaddled to where they thought the grass was greener. And so it proved to be, with all of them winning more medals in their time after Arsenal than they did whilst at the club.
Whilst he will appreciate the supportive tone of Özil’s words, I doubt he’ll place any great store by it.
Who knows what’s going on
The simple truth is that Arsenal are stagnating, reaching the same plateau as the mid-90s where nothing the then-manager did made a blind bit of difference in the Premier League. We haven’t dropped to mid-table but out of the top four? That’s more of a possibility this season as (at present) we’re not just reliant on Spurs bottling it; we’re one of five teams fighting for three places.
I thought Arsène’s time as manager at the club was over four years ago. Personally, I’d have ridden off in a blaze of glory after the Hull FA Cup win. Now, we may come full circle in his reign and heading toward a fifth-placed finish, the position we occupied at the end of the season before he joined. My OCD finds that somehow reassuring even if my football side finds it disturbing.
The question in his mind has to be whether we can win the title again? Not with this squad or not with this squad following his tactical scheme. It’s a very good squad, don’t get me wrong, and arguably the best since we were last crowned champions but other clubs have moved on, become wealthier by fair means or foul, and there’s more competition.
No-one has a god-given right to win the title but by the same token, we do – with the money the club rakes in – expect them to challenge. That’s not entitlement, it’s the bald facts of football’s hyperbole. Past bragging about being able to compete with the likes of Bayern Munich have yet to come to fruition. With the current combination of manager and board, they are unlikely to.
Will Alexis follow Mesut’s lead?
I wonder if we’ll see a similar question posed by Alexis. If that happens, Wenger will be forced into action. He’s certainly going to spend time on Friday at his presser answering questions from the media. At the moment, they can batted away but not for long. Spring will soon be sprung and a decision made by Wenger.
There’s no point in believing the board will take it out of his hands; they’ve made it abundantly clear that they cannot do so. Nor do they want to. Stan likes Wenger’s approach because it protects his investment, Ivan & co because he takes their flak. A new man won’t necessarily do either as willingly.
2016 was a poxy year as far as I’m concerned. The new playlist remembers Billy Franks whose death last year was largely ignored by the mainstream media.