Mesut Ozil’s departure from Emirates could serve as a catalyst for exciting things to come for Arsenal in the coming years.
After months of speculations and controversies, Mesut Ozil has finally called an end to his career at Arsenal. The highly sought-after playmaker, following a disastrous spell under Mikel Arteta, has opted to leave the Emirates, in favour of a move to Fenerbahce, with the player recently confirming his move on social media.
Although Arsenal are yet to publish an official statement regarding Ozil’s departure, it is believed that the German has agreed to terminate his existing contract, putting an end to a rather humiliating treatment over the past 24 months. His move to Fenerbahce has sent shockwaves across the footballing world – but perhaps one many were already prepared for.
Nevertheless, the apparent departure of Ozil could bring forth a host of changes at Arsenal as the club heads one step closer towards a complete transition under Arteta. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at how the playmaker’s departure from the Emirates could usher in the new events at the club.
End of an Era
A lot of talented attackers have donned the Arsenal kit since Mesut Ozil’s initial move to Emirates back in 2013. Players like Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski have all left the ship at some point after making an impression in north London. It is partly a reason why Ozil always seemed like a misfit when Mikel Arteta was appointed as the head coach for Arsenal.
The German, whose breakthrough in professional football dates back to more than a decade ago, had even played with Arteta before the midfielder retired in 2016. But, with the Spaniard now at the helm, becoming a part of a growing contingent of young managers in the Premier League that includes the likes of Scott Parker and Frank Lampard, there has been a noticeable shift in the club’s agenda.
During his short ongoing spell in north London, Arteta hasn’t particularly objected to the presence of ageing, experienced player in the team. However, there has been a significant emphasis on youth development. It was prevalent even under Unai Emery, as players like Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah broke through from the academy.
But, it is Arteta who deserves credit for incorporating those youngsters into his first-team plans. In fact, one such academy star in Emile Smith Rowe seems to have already played a vital role in further diminishing Ozil’s importance at the club by making a rapid breakthrough this season.
The playmaker’s departure from Emirates, as a result, marks the end of an era at Arsenal.
Project Emile Smith Rowe
With Ozil gone and Arsenal well and truly in their transition phase, the focus should shift on the development of Emile Smith Rowe. Following the footsteps of Bukayo Saka, the youngster has become latest academy sensation to make his mark in the Arsenal first-team this season, having now established himself as a regular.
Prior to his rapid rise to prominence, Smith Rowe had made only three appearances in the UEFA Europa League, with his one goal and two assists appearing to be fairly insignificant. But, in the Premier League, the 20-year-old’s contributions, including three assists, have propelled Arsenal’s brilliant recovery that saw them secure four wins in last five league matches.
What has made Smith Rowe such an appealing component in the Arsenal setup is his ability to occupy the spaces – something Arsenal have missed ever since the decline of Ozil. The youngster has notably averaged two key passes per game in the past five matches.
During this period, he has also attained 0.29 expected assist tally, which is higher than any other player in the team by quite some margin except Cedric, who has featured in only two matches. In addition, Smith Rowe’s tally of 3.41 progressive passes per 90 is higher than any other attacker, thus reflecting his ability to not create chances but instigate the build-up play and counter-attacks.
These are still early days, as far as the youngster’s development is concerned. The player still needs to improve on his positioning in the final third as well as his physique. But early signs suggest that he could indeed become an asset for Arsenal in this post-Ozil era.
Stat courtesy: FBRef
Can Ozil’s Departure Open The Gates For Arsenal’s Market Activity?
Arsenal have appeared quite determined to offload their fringe players in this January transfer window. They have already shipped Sead Kolasinac back to FC Schalke on loan while the likes of Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis and even Alexandre Lacazette have all been linked with a move away from the Emirates.
It could be a promising sign for Arsenal fans, as far as the club’s market activity is concerned. As far as an Ozil replacement is concerned, the Gunners have been linked with a move for Norwich City’s creative gem Emiliano Buendia as well as German playmaking duo of Julian Draxler and Julian Brandt.
Draxler seems like the most gettable target as his contract at Paris Saint-Germain expires at the end of the season. Arteta could thus secure his services for a cut-price as the former Schalke prodigy looks to revive his career at Emirates. Another interesting option could be Real Madrid outcast Isco, who is also looking for an opportunity to redeem himself following his disappointment under Zinedine Zidane.
All of these aforementioned players have been linked with a move to north London at some point over the past six months as well and it won’t be surprising to see one of them ending up moving to Emirates in the near future, especially with the club now relieving itself of its obligation to pay Ozil’s hefty £350k-a-week wages.
These are certainly exciting times to be an Arsenal fan.