Mikel Arteta made a significant move to leave Mesut Ozil out of Arsenal’s 25-man squad for the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, casting the German out into the wilderness at the Emirates Stadium.
It comes only two years after the 32-year-old was handed a lucrative contract extension. Ozil has not performed to the standard expected during his seven-year career with the Gunners. It made it all the more surprising when he was signed for an additional three years in 2018 for a reported figure of £350,000 per week.
We are now in a position where we will not see a return on their £12m per year investment as the German will become a free agent in 2021 and will likely move on to pastures new. Arteta has made a bold decision to omit the 32-year-old, although his presence on the pitch would hardly change the fortunes of the club based on past performances.
The Gunners are backed in the Premier League betting odds at 4/9 to not finish in the top four this term – even if Ozil was active it would not swing the value in either direction, highlighting how underwhelming the last few years of his tenure have been in red and white. Most clubs would be in financial difficulty, having committed such a large chunk of their resources to a player not contributing. However, Arsenal are more robust than the majority of teams in the Premier League, but these mistakes cannot afford to become commonplace.
Another key player could be displaying concerning signs after receiving a similar deal to Ozil. The Gunners locked down Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the summer to a three-year contract extension. The Gabonese was entering the final year of his contract therefore the club had a decision to make whether to commit to the former Borussia Dortmund striker.
Aubameyang’s form since his move from the Bundesliga had been nothing short of sensational, scoring 54 goals in his opening 85 matches in the Premier League. The 31-year-old also played a crucial role in Arsenal’s FA Cup triumph over Chelsea last season by scoring a brace. He maintained his high standards by scoring against Liverpool in the Community Shield before netting the winning penalty in their shootout win. The forward opened his account for the new Premier League campaign against Fulham on the opening day in a 3-0 triumph for the Gunners.
His new contract followed, with the Gabonese reportedly receiving more than the £350,000 per week paid to Ozil – making him the top-earner at the Emirates. However, since signing the contract, Aubameyang’s form has dipped for the first time as an Arsenal player. There’s no reason to overreact as strikers go through peaks and troughs throughout their careers. The forward is an outstanding player and will more than likely return to his best sooner rather than later.
The club’s hierarchy may be more nervous than the fans on the street. Having paid out significant cash to Ozil – they have not received bang for their buck. They will not want history to repeat itself with Aubameyang. At the age of 31, there was an element of risk handing him the deal – his best days are probably behind him. Physical attributes decline with age and his pace is a major part of his game. Whether he can remain effective enough to justify his contract as he approaches his mid-thirties remains to be seen. The board room will be an anxious place over the next few months to see if their investment in their skipper pays off in the short term and in the years ahead.