Mesut Ozil is widely hailed as an exceptional player. However, what is exceptional now about Ozil is his absence from the Arsenal first-team and his high wages. This is a counterintuitive situation. Normally, the less a player plays, the less important they are to the team and the less they earn. So, how do the 31-year-old’s exceptionally high wages connect with his exceptional lack of playing time on the pitch? The answer is they don’t. They are a product of Mesut Ozil’s exceptionalism.
Mesut Ozil’s Exceptionalism at Arsenal
Ozil is the antithesis of what the Arsenal teams of the 1980s and 1990s represented. He is as far away from Tony Adams, in terms of philosophy, as it is possible to be. His high wages and low level of contribution are textbook examples of how the sport has changed generally. In short, his antics are indicative of the power shift from manager to player we see taking place in football.
Players and agents are now dictating who has authority, not just at the negotiating table but in the dressing room. The internal politics of football teams are not simply the product of managerial authority nowadays. They are shaped by the moods and whims of a given side’s moneyed starlets and brand-sponsored stars. This is the context and environment in which the phenomenon of the German needs to be evaluated.
A Lack of Commitment?
The only question remaining is whether Ozil is exceptionally devoid of professional pride.
The German is exceptional in that he is Arsenal’s highest-paid player, yet he does not play. How many other professional footballers would possibly be content with such a dynamic? When will a sense of duty to the Arsenal fans be activated in Ozil? Surely, some winning mentality and determination will, eventually, compel him to start putting in the effort that Mikel Arteta demands. Arteta is a manager charting a new direction for Arsenal and he does not tolerate laziness. He is a manager who expects his players to be selfless and dedicated. However, the Gunners attacking midfielder continues to demonstrate an unwillingness to change his ways. Despite this, Ozil maintains his position at the top of the pay scale. Perhaps, therein lies his true exceptionalism.
Maybe, it lies in the fact that he does not possess the instinct to justify his lavish lifestyle and give something back to the devoted fans who pay for a large chunk of it. Could it be that Ozil is simply growing disinterested in his day job? It seems unlikely that anyone with a mere ounce of passion for what they are paid to do would languish at home on matchday instead of playing the game they, ostensibly, love.
Clearly, the Ozil conundrum presents a painful headache for newly appointed head coach Mikel Arteta as he seeks to lead the club out of the mire and into a prosperous new era. What remains unclear, on the other hand, is whether it is in Arteta’s power to decide what Ozil’s fate at the club will ultimately be.
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