It’s curious that Ozil should see his future linked to Wenger’s. I have two trains of thought. One, Ozil realises that he is something of an acquired taste – he is often a passenger on the defensive side of things, his footballing ability is gorgeous but subtle, hence the debate on whether he was ‘nicking a living’. It is, of course, possible to enjoy Ozil as a footballer and still bemoan his lack of goals, his unwillingness to track and his reluctance to mirror Sanchez’s high press – neither need be mutually exclusive. It’s conceivable that Ozil wouldn’t be given the current sovereignty he enjoys under Wenger by other managers
It’s over 20 years since Arsenal resided under an alternative manager. The club has been developed, stabilised and revolutionised under one of the most forward thinking and innovative managers of our generation. In fact, it’s hard to fathom Arsenal football club without Wenger at the helm – and it seems that Mesut Ozil considers his future entwined with the Frenchman’s own.
Yet familiarity often breeds contempt and there is no other club in England as divided over the current team and manager than Arsenal. Wenger recently claimed that no player is bigger than the club: “Arsenal is a big club. It is not one or two players who will make the difference. The important thing is we are in a strong financial position; that was not the case before [when the club changed stadiums]… what is important is always to take care of the values of the club, and the identity of the club, and not to depend too much on one or two players.” Yet shouldn’t the board take the same stance on their manager? Arsenal is not Arsene Wenger – whilst their respective histories and successes have been entwined neither need be dependent upon each other.
Mesut Ozil has spoken about how integral the manager’s future at the club is to his own: “The club knows that I am here most of all because of Arsène Wenger. He is the one who signed me and he is the one whose trust I have.” Arsenal have rarely conceded to a player’s demands – Walcott’s 2012 contract perhaps being the exception, so why should a player’s demands over who the manager is be any different to, say, wage demands or playing position. Ozil should not decide the future of the club, in the same way that Walcott or Bellerin or Monreal should not and it is only due to the player’s ability that his statements have garnered such attention.
It is undeniable that players enjoy playing under Wenger. The list of benefits are probably endless: he gives players freedom to express themselves, he is articulate, he nurtures talent, he is innovative in his training techniques, he views football as something between a performing art and a night at the opera, to name but a few. However, football waits for no man and it would take a great deal to convince many Arsenal fans after last season’s collapse and the groundhog seasons of the years before that Wenger is still the man to take Arsenal all the way to a title.
It’s curious that Ozil should see his future linked to Wenger’s. I have two trains of thought. One, Ozil realises that he is something of an acquired taste – he is often a passenger on the defensive side of things, his footballing ability is gorgeous but subtle, hence the debate on whether he was ‘nicking a living’. It is, of course, possible to enjoy Ozil as a footballer and still bemoan his lack of goals, his unwillingness to track and his reluctance to mirror Sanchez’s high press – neither need be mutually exclusive. It’s conceivable that Ozil wouldn’t be given the current sovereignty he enjoys under Wenger by other managers. Hypothetically, do you think Klopp would sacrifice his high press or Conte his rapid counter attack in order to incorporate the German into their sides?
A more positive view may be that Ozil witnesses the effect Wenger has on a day to day basis and truly believes that the Arsenal manager has what it takes to lead Arsenal to success. This is a player that has worked with some outstanding managers and is obviously well placed to judge a manager’s proficiency and expertise. But is he seeing it from a biased viewpoint? Students will often proclaim the virtues of their favourite teacher in school. It may be that he doesn’t give homework, he rarely raises his voice and he’ll occasionally wheel out the TV and DVD player on a Friday afternoon – however, that doesn’t necessarily make them the best person for the job.
I will admit that my opinion is one of scepticism. I respect and admire Arsene Wenger but I no longer feel he is the man to lead Arsenal to success. I feel that Ozil lives a privileged life among the Arsenal squad, rarely tasked with doing the dirty work that is now required of so many players, he can focus on what he does best. There are undoubtedly performances where Arsenal fans will swoon but occasionally the shrugs, the propensity for being brushed of the ball, the lack of energy in his performance, combined, can draw the ire of those around him, not least those of the Wenger Out brigade. He almost represents all that is good and all that is wrong with the club at the same time.
Regardless of your affiliation to Wenger In or Wenger Out and irrespective of where you stand on the Ozil spectrum, the Arsenal manager, present or future should not be discussed with current players. Yes they can be assured that Wenger will be in charge if that is the decision of the board but Ozil’s relationship with the manager should be a separate issue to whether the board decide to offer Wenger a new contract. To bow to the whims of a player, whether it be in terms of salary or in terms of personnel at the club, stinks of duplicity and hypocrisy. If the club decide it is time for Wenger to leave, then no ultimatum from a player, regardless of ability should change that. Ozil’s alignment with Wenger may result in both player and manager receiving new contracts, if that’s the case then Wenger’s comments on no one or two individuals being bigger than the club need be wiped from the record.
Til next time,
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