Back in September 2013, Arsene Wenger could hardly keep the smile off his face when he was asked about new arrivals the day before Ozil signed on transfer deadline day.
"Maybe we'll have a good surprise for you,” he said before breaking out in a huge grin.
Just 24 hours later, Arsenal supporters were mobbing TV reporters outside Emirates Stadium as the news of Ozil’s arrival from Real Madrid for £42.5million was confirmed.
If you would have said back then his career at Arsenal would finish like it is now, few would have believed you.
The German cannot even get a game against Dundalk in the Europa League on Thursday and will instead by watching, and probably tweeting, from his sofa.
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088)
There are opposing views on why Ozil has been left out of both Arsenal’s Premier League and Europa League squads.
Arsenal are adamant it is due to footballing reasons. Both technical director Edu and manager Mikel Arteta have spoken on the record about their stance, with Arteta saying his “conscience is very calm.”
Ozil’s camp, on the other hand, have suggested that other factors are at play and have publicly called on Arsenal to give a proper explanation to supporters.
Fans have questioned if Ozil’s comments in December 2019 about the mistreatment of Uighur Muslims in China are behind his exile.
Others have suggested it could be his refusal to take a pay cut in March when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
But the midfielder played 11 of the next 12 Arsenal games after the Uighurs comments last season, while Arteta has insisted it is not down to his refusal to take a pay cut.
Whatever the reason, the fact a player of such brilliant talent is not playing football is such a shame as an Arsenal career that started so brightly comes to a sorry end.
Ozil was shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or in 2013, and during the 2015/16 season he was at the peak of his powers.
Playing in the No10 role he led Arsenal to a second-placed finish and ended the campaign with 19 Premier League assists - a record only bettered by Kevin de Bruyne and Thierry Henry with 20 apiece.
That form now seems like a distant memory.
Ozil’s time at Arsenal can be split into two definitive parts: the Wenger era, and the post-Wenger era.
Perhaps the chant sung by Arsenal fans was right all along and he really is “Arsene Wenger’s man”.
Ozil looked his best under the Frenchman, who arguably more than any manager in world football knew how to get the best out of attacking players.
The pair had a strong bond and trust, too, and it is telling Ozil said back in 2013 that he joined Arsenal partly because Real Madrid had lost confidence in him.
“I was certain I would stay at Real Madrid but afterwards I realised I did not have the faith from the coach or the bosses,” he said.
“I am a player who needs this faith and that is what I have felt from Arsenal, which is why I have joined.”
Ozil has never had that same connection with an Arsenal manager since Wenger left.
Right from the off under Unai Emery it didn’t feel like Ozil would suit the Spaniard’s style, and earlier this year the coach lifted the lid on their differences.
“He has to be self critical too, analyse his attitude and commitment,” Emery said in an interview with the Guardian.
“I tried with all my might to help Ozil. Throughout my career, talented players have reached their best level with me. I was always positive, wanting him to play, be involved.”
Things also failed to click with interim boss Freddie Ljungberg, who dropped Ozil after he kicked his gloves following his substitution against Manchester City.
“Mesut was injured, but I would not have picked him for the squad because I want to make a stance that it’s not what I accept from an Arsenal football player,” said Ljungberg.
Ozil featured regularly under Arteta when he was appointed, but his place in the team always looked under threat when Arteta shifted to a 3-4-3 formation. The system doesn’t seem to suit Ozil, who has always been at his best as No10.
There are also questions over whether Ozil fits the structured and organised approach Arteta demands, which is at odds with the fluid freedom offered to players under Wenger.
Those days under Wenger were, without doubt, his best in an Arsenal shirt and, as his time in north London comes to an end, they should not be forgotten.
Back then his performances on the pitch would get everyone off their seat. It is a shame that even against Dundalk he can only keep us entertained by tweeting during matches.
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