Analysis

What the heck is going on with Mesut Ozil at Arsenal?

Mesut Ozil what's happened?

A combination of curious injuries and ‘tactical reasons’ mean the Premier League’s second-highest-paid player is struggling to get a kick in N5. How did it come to this?

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Given his £350,000-per-week pay packet, it’s often asked whether Mesut Ozil is worth all the money. But, nearly five years into his polarising Arsenal tenure, perhaps the real question is whether he is worth all the conversation.

Has there ever been a more divisive and discussed player than the German? He has split opinion from the day he arrived in north London. Some Arsenal fans welcomed him as a game-changing acquisition, potentially on par with the arrival of Dennis Bergkamp. Others pointed out gingerly that a mercurial playmaker was the one type of player the squad did not require more of.

As Ozil helped the Gunners end their trophy drought with three FA Cups in four years – and even when he lifted the World Cup with Germany – he continued to polarise fans and analysts alike. His detractors claimed that he neither worked hard enough nor created enough. They said his body language wasn’t sufficiently passionate.

His admirers argued that his contributions were significant but perhaps sometimes too subtly delivered for everyone to notice. They said you don’t buy an Ozil to ask him to track back. Both sides brandished data to ‘back up’ their point of view. Few listened to one another and few changed their minds. The discussions quickly became as ubiquitous and exhausting as the Brexit debate.

But Brexit is – supposedly – going to be finally resolved one way or another in the coming months. But as his situation at the Emirates becomes ever more complex, is there any sign of the great Ozil debate coming to any sort of conclusion?

The German’s lot has been an incredibly unhappy one this season. He has failed to nail down a regular starting slot under Unai Emery, missing matches due to a series of peculiar injuries, including back spasms and catarrh. The new boss admits that some of Ozil’s absences have been for “tactical reasons”.

Mesut Ozil bench

There were reports of the German storming out of the training ground after being told he wouldn’t make the starting line up against West Ham. Then Emery was believed to have been annoyed by Ozil’s performance away to Crystal Palace, a match in which the German reacted angrily to being substituted in the 68th minute.

He sometimes stars – as against Leicester in October – and sometimes flops. One week he is so surplus to requirements that he doesn’t even make the bench; the next he is in the starting line-up and wearing the captain’s armband. This is one of the biggest names in world football. What’s cracking?