Ozil's Arsenal omission could be down to his outspoken political views
Mesut Ozil's Arsenal chapter looks to be heading towards a chaotic closure with the club's highest-paid player being left out of the Europa League and Premier League squads by the manager Mikel Arteta.
It looks odd as one of the most creative players in world football is slowly being frozen out for reasons beyond the imagination of an average football fan.
While the club and the manager maintain that the 32-year old's exclusion is purely down to football reasons yet some sceptics believe a few deep-rooted non-football factors could be the reason Arsenal are having to sideline their highest-paid footballer.
The downward curve of Mesut Ozil's career started in 2018 right after Germany's humiliating exit from the FIFA world cup. While all the German players failed in their respective roles in Russia the German media found an opportunity to make Ozil the scapegoat as the 2014 world cup winning playmaker was embroiled in a photoshoot controversy just before the showpiece tournament.
In May 2018 Ozil and fellow German teammate Ilkay Gundogan(both of Turkish descent) were photographed with the controversial Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan just before Turkey's general elections.
Germany's political elite, in conflict with Turkey's human rights record and perceived Ottoman nationalistic fervour under Erdogan, and the media took offence to the players' public support of a President who was clearly at odds over European values and ethics.
Ilkay Gundogan privately apologized for the photo-op to the German FA and continued his international career with the Die Mannschaft but Ozil was adamant in his views and considered the public criticism to be 'racist' and 'disrespectful'.
In view of the perceived lack of support from his German teammates, the former Real Madrid player announced his international retirement soon after.
While Ozil's political views and philanthropic work became more public, his performances for Arsenal nose-dived. His closeness with President Erdogan was slowly viewed as an act of arrogance and political statement despite being a star player in an important club, which has always upheld itself as a proud apolitical organization.
On the field, the player could not maintain the consistency required at the top level and Ozil looked a shadow of the player who was signed by the legendary Arsene Wenger in 2013 from Real Madrid.
His shoulders dropped on difficult matchdays and the incisive passing that made the former Schalke academy graduate so feared on the field was not to be seen at the Emirates. Unai Emery could not strike a balance to keep the player motivated and involved and Ozil was more often left on the bench by the Spaniard.
Mikel Arteta's appointment in December 2019 brought back hopes that the Gunners' former captain would reignite Ozil's career and when the latter started all the 10 Premier League games prior to the coronavirus lockdown it seemed the stalled career was being resurrected slowly.
Post-Covid lockdown when the Premier League resumed a different story emerged as Arteta fell out of love with Ozil and the German was not considered effective enough for an improving team.
Yet Mesut Ozil remained in the news for non-footballing reasons. In the same month of Arteta's appointment, the German playmaker angered Chinese hearts and minds by publicly criticizing the country for alleged oppression of the ethnic Muslim Uighurs in China's northwest Xinjiang province.
The broadcasting of Arsenal's matches in the football-mad country was disrupted and the club was forced to distance itself from its player's comments.
Not many days back in a social media post Ozil publicly backed the Azerbaijan side in its war with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region and called for an early resolution of the conflict.
It seems the player is always inclined to put his political opinions ahead. The normally soft-spoken midfielder remains active in social media with his political views since his acrimonious exit from the German national team.
Is the public criticism of China- a country that has a huge Premier League following- playing a factor in the Club's treatment of the player?
Many analysts do not believe this being the case and have insisted that Ozil's 'comfort level' under Arsene Wenger is to be blamed for the current situation. The player's lack of aggression on the field and inability to adjust to the robust pressing style of Mikel Arteta has played major roles in the player being kept outside the plans.
One thing that has perplexed many Arsenal and general football fans alike is the fact the player remains one of the most creative midfielders in the world and when the Gunners have lacked the same creativity in breaking down teams, Ozil still remains the only player in the side whose vision and passing could have changed matches in one go.
Arteta and Arsenal never tried Mesut this season even when the team needed creativity against the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City and with the player not being named in the Europa League and Premier League squads, it has to be believed that he has played his last game for the club after seven years and 254 appearances in all competitions.
Football reasons could not be the sole criterion for the player's exclusion. In fact, there are enough footballing reasons to believe that Arsenal could have readily used the player in certain matches to unlock defenses but for some reason, Mikel Arteta remains adamant in this regard.
Only time will reveal whether this exclusion of the club's highest-paid player is down to Mesut Ozil's ineffectiveness on the field or for some non-football reasons that consider the player too much political for the club's comfort of making business in other influential countries.
Picture courtesy of Getty Images and BBC Sport