Is Mesut Özil on his way out of Arsenal? | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 13.10.2017
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Is Mesut Özil on his way out of Arsenal?

A poor start to the season, conflict with club legends and no new contract - Mesut Özil's time at Arsenal could be running out. DW asks: what's gone wrong and where could the World Cup winner go from here?

Mesut Özil could be set to leave Arsenal before the end of the season, according to coach Arsène Wenger, who has refused to rule out selling the Germany midfielder in the winter transfer window.

"I always said the fact that we didn’t find an agreement last year doesn’t mean the player will necessarily leave, but we've planned for all eventualities," said Wenger in a press conference ahead of Arsenal's trip to Watford on Saturday. "But it's possible that we'll sell him in January."

Statistically, Özil enjoyed his best season in an Arsenal shirt last season, finding the net 12 times and assisting 14 goals – but it wasn't enough as Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 19 years.

This season, he has failed to contribute a single goal or assist in his first five appearances for the Gunners and has so far declined to put pen to paper on an extension to his contract, which runs out next summer.

'Psychologically, he's already left'

His form has attracted criticism from Arsenal supporters and former players, former defender Martin Keown criticizing his attitude and suggesting Özil has "downed tools" and is already looking to leave.

"I think in some departments he's already left," said Keown. "I think it was Belarus the other week [for Arsenal's Europa League game against BATE Borisov]. He didn't fancy going. He didn't want to go."

"Suddenly he was injured again but he played nine minutes against West Bromwich Albion on the Monday, so how did he get injured there? Psychologically, mentally, he's already left the football club."

Özil felt obliged to address in a Facebook post last month, in which he admitted he struggled to adapt to the intensity of the Premier League after arriving from Real Madrid in 2013 but defended his performances when played in the center as a "number 10," a position where he has excelled for Germany and where he believes he "can control the game and generate chances."

"I’ve had to accept a lot of criticism during my time in London," he wrote. "‘Too expensive, too greedy, bad body language, and lacking fight’ - this is what people have said about me. Some of these comments are made by those who do not know me, some are made by former players - both successful and unsuccessful during their time here at the club.

Although criticism is something that all football players have to deal with, I nevertheless expected legends to behave like legends - my advice to these former Gunners: stop talking and start supporting!"

But his comments didn't go down well with former striker and club legend Ian Wright, who labelled Özil's social media post "laughable" and questioned his commitment to the club.

"“Why haven't you signed yet?" he said, speaking to BBC Radio 5Live. "That's what I would say to you. If you feel that strongly [about the club], why haven't you signed yet?

"A player that is not actually performing on the pitch is coming out, calling people out and he's not signing a contract. It's laughable.”

Where next?

Inter Milan and Besiktas have both expressed in Özil but would be unable to meet his wage demands – said to be over 300,000 euros-a-week. One club who could afford his salary is Manchester United and coach Jose Mourinho, who worked with Özil during his time at Real Madrid.

The Portuguese is a fan of the quiet midfielder and, judging by his comments, believes his qualities are misunderstood.

"If you were expecting Özil to be super aggressive, run through and show enthusiasm and aggressiveness, it is not Mesut," he has said.

"If on the contrary you expect him to make the ball smile every time he touches it, there is Özil . Every time he makes a pass, the ball goes in the right direction, at the right speed and with the right intensity, and that’s Özil .”

Should United not further their interest, former Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool striker Karl-Heinz Riedle believes a return to the Bundesliga would be best for Özil. 

"Özil is a quality player," he said. "If you see his skills, it's just amazing what he can do on the pitch. The best option in my opinion would be to come back to the Bundesliga. But if he is looking only for the money, then it would be very difficult to find the same kind of money."

It's time for Özil to decide what he wants.