What is going on with Mesut Ozil? Paul Merson and Alan Smith give their verdict

So, what is going on with Mesut Ozil at Arsenal? Does he have a future under Mikel Arteta? Or will this be painfully drawn out until his contract runs down?

The 31-year-old German, who has a year left on his current Arsenal contract, does not appear to be part of Arteta’s plans at the Emirates, having not played a single minute since the Premier League restarted.

Ozil was playing regularly before coronavirus halted football, raising question as to why the midfielder is now suddenly out of favour.

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Sky Sports pundits Paul Merson and Alan Smith gave their view on the situation, with both feeling it is too late for Ozil to change his game to suit Arsenal.

Merse: He’s the worst player in the world without the ball

Former Arsenal forward Paul Merson feels it is too late for Ozil to fit into the Gunners’ style, with Arteta looking to solidify the team and make them more durable defensively, and insists Ozil is one of the worst players in the world when your team do not have the ball…

“I think Ozil is a prime example of a player who has to play in a proper team, that is going to be right up there, dominating football matches. He’s got to play in a majorly successful team.

“He can’t play in this Arsenal team, here’s why: he’s not going to change his game now in his 30s, and Arsenal aren’t going to change their game for him. He isn’t tracking back, chasing players, and you need him in a team where you’re getting 70 per cent of the ball each week, and he’ll play. You get players around him, let him play.

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“We all know how Ozil plays, you give him the ball and he’ll find you. If you don’t have the ball, he won’t win it back for you for love nor money. He’s not interested when they don’t have the ball. How can you give someone £350k-a-week when we all knew that was his style of play?

“If he hasn’t got the ball he’s one of the worst players in the world! I would say that. Name me a worse player in the world when their team doesn’t have the ball? I’ve never seen somebody so disinterested when they don’t have the ball, but he hurts you at the other end!

“Can Arsenal form a team around him? At the moment, it’s at the stage where you can’t do that. They’re not going to change the team for him. He’ll pick up his £350,000-a-week and everything is rosy for him.

“They have to come to a deal with him; maybe he’ll take £200k a week somewhere else. I don’t know how this gets resolved though. Does he want to play football? If he loves football, he has to come to a deal with Arsenal, but it’s easy to say that. Nobody wants to lose £150k a week, no matter how much you earn! Who is mad enough to throw that money away, no matter who you are?”

Smith: Strong management from Arteta

Former Arsenal forward Alan Smith believes Arteta has shown strong management in not picking Ozil in recent games, but fears this process could be drawn out over the next year, with a lack of clubs interested in signing him and paying his mammoth wages…

“It seems that Arteta wants to draw a line under it, and convince the players he’s not part of the plans, and he’s passed the buck to Ozil and said: ‘What do you want to do about it?’ Hopefully leave the club would be Arteta’s reasoning. That would free up a bit of money in terms of his wages.

“It’s always going to be a talking point for as long as Ozil’s at the club. I don’t know whether anything could happen in this transfer window, there aren’t too many links with any clubs. We might end up having this situation for another year until his contract runs out. He might get used now and again, but he won’t be a core figure in his plans.

“It’s something Arteta could have done without. He’s got enough on his plate, without constant questions about the German’s future. But Arteta is decisive; if he decides somebody doesn’t fit in going forward, no matter how much they’re earning, he’s not going to pick them. That’s strong management, and I think Arsenal need that.

“Can he fit in at Arsenal? No, I don’t think so. This is an era at the club where everybody has to really dig in and work incredibly hard off the ball. Ozil is too long in the tooth to change his game now, and I don’t think physically he is capable of doing what Arteta wants him to do, either.

“It might be another year before he leaves the club, but I can’t see much of a future there for him.”

‘Seven years of confusion’

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Gerard Brand on the Sky Sports Football Weekend Review podcast:

“My main feeling would just be confusion over Ozil. That wouldn’t be a new feeling either.

“Arsenal fans often seem quite split on Ozil. There are those who want to know what on earth is going on, who want to know how Arteta is going to use him, who want to know why he doesn’t always perform every week, those who don’t like his body language. And then there are those who hark back to moments of class he’s shown in an Arsenal shirt and wonder whether he’ll do it again.

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