The summer of 2013 seems to be a long time ago. Manchester United were Premier League champions, Liverpool were still floundering around while trying to get the club back on the perch after going 23 years without a league title and Manchester City just sacked Roberto Mancini to bring in Manuel Pellegrini.
It was also then that there was a feeling Arsenal could finally be coming out of their shell after they shelled out a then club-record fee of £42.5m to sign Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid.
The arrival of Ozil was expected to be a game-changer. Arsenal were finally prepared to spend the big bucks again and there was a promise of a new era at the Emirates. The scenes of jubilance in that part of north London was apparent when the Gunners announced the signing on deadline day.
Seven years and 254 appearances later, Mesut Ozil is now the most well-paid pariah in world football. The German has a contract worth £350,000 with Arsenal and is the highest-paid player in the club’s history.
But Ozil has not played for Arsenal since March and has not been part of the matchday squads since July. He is well and truly an outcast, a very expensive one at that, in Mikel Arteta’s squad.
The decision to leave him out of their Europa League squad could mean Mesut Ozil has played his last game for the club despite having another eight months left to run on his contract.
When he finally leaves the club at the end of his contract next summer, there will be relief more than any feeling amongst Arsenal and their supporters. The scenes of transfer deadline day in 2013 have long been forgotten.
Arsenal and Mesut Ozil have fallen out of love with each other
There was always a feeling at Arsenal that Arsene Wenger indulged Mesut Ozil at bit too much. For all his assists, goals, flicks and tricks, the German’s work ethic has always been under the scanner.
For too long he was seen as someone who was great when the team are playing well but he can’t be trusted when things are going wrong on the pitch. However, Wenger vouched for Ozil and the German repaid his former manager with some glorious performances as well.
But once the Frenchman left Arsenal, the scenario was likely to change for Ozil. Unai Emery tried to bring him in line and even dropped him from the starting eleven to send a message across to the German.
But as the results went downhill, the former Arsenal boss was forced to get the attacking midfielder back into the team. Emery didn’t last long and in came Mikel Arteta in the middle of the season.
Initially, it looked the new Arsenal manager was prepared to trust the German and he was a certain starter again under the former Gunners midfielder. But something happened between the start and end of the forced mid-season break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mesut Ozil broke ranks with the squad and refused to accept a wage cut, which infuriated Mikel Arteta. The German was ultimately proven to be right as Arsenal did sack 55 of their non-playing staff despite the squad agreeing to take pay cuts to save those exact jobs at the club.
But the German was made into a pariah and his name was leaked to the media.
After the season resumed, Ozil was an unused substitute against Brighton and Southampton but since then he is well and truly out of the Arsenal squad. While Arsenal continued to brief for weeks that he was injured, the midfielder made it known that he was fit and available for selection.
It was an embarrassing situation but there was no getting away from it as Ozil made it aptly clear that he would see out the rest of his lucrative contract until the end of the season.
Mesut Ozil feels no obligation to leave Arsenal and he is keen to make the club pay for making him an ostracized figure within the squad and amongst the fanbase.
He further embarrassed the Premier League club when he offered to pay the salary of Jerry Quy, the man who has been wearing the costume of the club’s much-loved mascot Gunnersaurus for the last 27 years after he was sacked from his job as part of the club’s plans to save more money.
It was a PR win for Ozil and further embarrassed Arsenal who have not won any friends by sacking 55 of their employees in the summer and gutted their scouting department in cost-cutting measures.
It would be a remarkable turnaround if Arteta considers selecting Ozil again. The Arsenal manager has mentally moved on from the German. Arsenal will have an opportunity to shift him out in January again but Ozil has no interest in leaving until next summer.
Will Arsenal bite the bullet by paying out his contract and get rid of him in the coming months? Mesut Ozil might not play again but his frequent utterances on traditional and social media will continue to be annoying background noise for Mikel Arteta and his squad.