When Arsenal revealed their Premier League squad for the upcoming season in early October, their entire fanbase, as well as the football fraternity, gasped in shock as the club left out the club's highest-earner Mesut Ozil off it, meaning the German playmaker won’t be available to play in league football.
The club and their star man have been on a collision course for quite some time, which started when Ozil publicly condemned the treatment of Uighur Muslims in China, a stance that Arsenal were quick to distance themselves from. The German then refused to take a pay cut as Arsenal looked to cut costs after struggling to bear the brunt of the financial losses owing to the pandemic.
Ozil's playing time too had significantly diminished under new manager Mikel Arteta, however, the decision to drop the German completely out of the squad definitely came out of left field for the player as well as the fans. And 14 games into the season, the decision continues to look as baffling as it did when the club announced it.
In eight Premier League matches, Arsenal have scored just nine goals -- the sixth-lowest tally in the league -- with the bottom four in that category sitting at the foot of the league table. Only four Arsenal players have registered assists in the league, with Dani Ceballos being the only midfielder managing one so far.
Star forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is in the worst form of his career, scoring just twice in eight league matches, of which one came from the penalty spot against Manchester United. The Gabonese's form isn’t purely down to him, as Arsenal’s wingers and midfielders are struggling to provide Aubameyang with the kind of service that he has been used to over the years at Dortmund and at Arsenal.
The Gunners are averaging just 9.1 shots per game with 3.5 of them hitting the target, which ranks 16th and 13th in the league respectively. A terrible return from an attack and midfield that consists of seasoned veterans and international regulars.
Arsenal's mighty offensive struggles make the decision to bin Ozil even more baffling. Perhaps leaving the German out would have been justified had they added an attacking midfielder to the team, but no such move materialized, which further makes the Ozil situation look worse.
Be it his politics, his wages or simply Arteta not wanting him, Arsenal have handled the Ozil situation terribly and their lack of production on the field warrants no excuse, given that they willingly left out their most prolific playmaker of this decade.
At the end of the day, Arsenal chose to leave Ozil out and the decision, in hindsight, looks as terrible as it did at the time it was made.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Ian Kington