Mezut Ozil is a Luxury Emery Can’t Afford

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Mezut Ozil (Arsenal.com)

Mezut Ozil, one of the most enigmatic players in Arsenal’s history, seems to be heading for the exit at the Emirates Stadium.

Manager Unai Emery is still in the process of renovating the squad he inherited from Arsene Wenger. Wenger may have achieved legendary status at Arsenal, but in his later years, the team stagnated. Emery has already gotten rid of many of Wenger’s deadwood. When the often-injured Danny Welbeck heals, he’ll likely be shown the door, Jack Wilshire was shipped out to West Ham, and Aaron Ramsey already has one foot out of the door. Now it looks like Ozil is going to join them. According to the Daily Express, clubs from Italy, China and Turkey have made inquiries.

Ozil has talent, but he only seems to show it against lesser opponents. When the team is flying, he looks world class. But can he grab by the team by the scruff of the neck and drag them forward? Too many times, Ozil goes absent in games and you end up wondering if he’s even on the field! Also, since Ozil is Arsenal’s highest paid player, at a salary of close to $450,000 per week, you expect him to lead the team.

The truth about Ozil is he is the definition of a luxury player. He’s great when he’s on song, but too often the team carries him when it’s supposed to be the other way around. Ozil is a great player, but I would put him in the second-tier of soccer talent. Although he’s a World Cup winner, he’s not in the same class as Ronaldo and Messi, who I classify as tier-one players. (Ironically one of his nicknames is “German Messi.)

Coaches find ways to work with players with phenomenal talent but have a few deficiencies in their game. So you have a midfield maestro who doesn’t tackle back. Then you sign an industrious holding midfielder, like N’Golo Kante, to do the dirty work. In addition, some players are so good that their talent makes you forget their weaker points.

Thierry Henry wasn’t the greatest of headers of the ball, but his speed, dribbling, passing and finishing made you overlook that. Diego Maradona hardly ever used his right foot, but his deftness with his left overcame that flaw. Unfortunately, Ozil’s talents don’t overcome his flaws.

It seems Emery shares my opinion because he favors a midfield with all players firing on all pistons, not relying on a mercurial star to have a good day. This is supported by a December Daily Telegraph article.

“Eleven months on, Ozil finds himself a fringe player who does not fit into the Spaniard’s tactical revamp. He has not started a Premier League match since Nov 11 and was not even in the squad for Wednesday’s Carabao Cup quarter-final defeat by Tottenham,” said Jon West.

Arsenal also realizes that if they offload Ozil, they can significantly lower their wage bill. The main problem is finding a club willing to match his paycheck. But either way, I doubt Ozil will still be at the Emirates at the end of the season.

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Manny Otiko writes about race, politics and sports. He has been published in Salon and LA Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @mannyotiko.

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