Ozil’s Fenerbahce struggles prove Arteta was right
Arsenal went into this year’s November international break flying high in 5th place, unbeaten in 10 games and within touching distance of a place in the top four.
No one can begrudge the Gunners feeling a sense of joy and relief, especially in the context of where the team were at this point last season. They are completely unrecognisable from the team they were then. In fact, the Gunners are unrecognisable from the team that lost their first three games of this season.
At that time Mikel Arteta’s sacking was predicted to be imminent by oddschecker, but reading their football tips these days, “Next Arsenal manager odds” is unlikely to be there. As well as the many changes in personnel, there have been notable shifts in the atmosphere around the club, the transfer strategy and most importantly, team harmony. The Gunners appear to be a lot more unified than they were at times last season and are now reaping the rewards on the pitch with the team looking compact in defence and determined in attack. While there’s still a long way to go before they can be spoken about as Premier League title contenders, most observers agree that Arsenal are once again heading in the right direction.
If we cast our minds back to mid-November 2020, we’ll remember an Arsenal team on a wretched run of form. They went into the international break in 11th place after a 3-0 home defeat to Aston Villa that had fans questioning where the club was heading. The biggest issue at this point was the lack of creativity, which most observers understandably attributed to Mesut Ozil’s absence from the squad. It was around this time that the German world cup winner’s PR machine went into overdrive.
Having already made the headlines with his offer to pay the full wages of the employee behind Gunnersaurus, Arsenal’s mascot of 27 years who had been made redundant in a pandemic-induced cost cutting attempt,
Ozil was once again in the news two days after the Villa loss, this time expressing his delight at the club’s decision to reinstate Gunnersaurus after huge backlash from fans. These strategic moves had some fans clamouring for his reintegration based not only on his creativity, but also his apparent love for the club. These fans were left disappointed as he left the following January, but despite Arteta repeatedly stating otherwise, many of them still believed that the reasons he had been left out of the squad and then released from his contract 6 months early were unrelated to his performances and attitude in training.
Even after leaving, the creative midfielder still seemingly had many fans under his spell, with many of them referencing him whenever Arsenal lost and/or struggled to make chances. He famously played on this after the Gunners’ 5-0 defeat to Manchester City in August this year, their third consecutive loss in the league, tweeting “Trust the process”. While his devoted fans felt that this tweet was posted in support of the club and manager, the fact that he hasn’t tweeted about Arsenal since their upturn in form, not even after beating local rivals Spurs, exposes his thinly veiled dig for what it was.
At his club meanwhile, Ozil is once again struggling for game time and clashing with his employers. He has lost his place in the starting 11, with Fenerbahçe’s fans still waiting for his first league goal. During a recent interview with the club’s official channel, Ali Koc, the club’s president said “Ozil wants to play more. From now on he needs to focus on his game and keep his commercial interest out of it. He needs to think about contributing to Fenerbahce”.
These comments echo some of those made by Arteta during Özil’s final days at the club and should serve as vindication for him for sticking to his guns and trusting his judgement. While it was true that the team needed a creative midfielder at that time Özil wasn’t the answer, and we may have never seen what Emile Smith-Rowe could do had the German been reinstated. Above all though, the seriousness and strength of character the team are now displaying are virtues that Arteta has been trying to instil since his arrival, which was made more difficult by certain characters who have now left the club.
So, we should indeed “trust the process”, as the biggest call the manager has made so far has been proven right.