September 2, 2013 is a day that will remain one of the biggest in Arsenal’s history.
It had been a long, long summer for Arsenal fans. After weeks of speculation and being linked to every big name player available in the market, it looked like Arsene Wenger was yet again going to go another transfer window without signing anyone.
The atmosphere amongst the fans was hostile, but following a north London derby victory on the penultimate day of the transfer window, Wenger delivered one of the most surprising deadline day moves of the Premier League era - the signing of Mesut Ozil.
A change in the wind
At the time, the dynamic #10 for Real Madrid was regarded as one of the best, if not the best, advanced playmaker in world football. Ozil was often praised by Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo for his creative abilities and was regarded as one of the best German players internationally. And he had signed for Arsenal.
Before the days of the north London club spending £35 million on the likes of Shkodran Mustafi, Arsenal was a team strapped for cash. The construction of the Emirates Stadium severely limited what Wenger could spend on new players, so when the Frenchman decided to spend a whopping £42 million on one of the best players in football, it was seen as a turning point for the club.
And life for Ozil in his first season at Arsenal was successful. The German international guided the Gunners to their first piece of silverware in nine years in the form of the FA Cup, and in 26 league games the then 25-year-old scored five goals and registered 10 assists.
Season two in north London, though, was one to forget. Knee injuries reduced the 2014 World Cup winner to only 22 Premier League appearances, and a woeful tally of four goals and six assists during that time despite the introduction of Alexis Sanchez in the summer, who lit up the Premier League for Arsenal with 16 goals and eight assists for the campaign.
The golden six months
2015/16 was to be the season Ozil finally proved his £42 million price tag, and he did… for half a season at least.
Arsenal found themselves top of the table going into the New Year, and Ozil had a large role to play in that achievement as the German tallied an incredible 13 assists in the opening 19 games of the season.
Watching Ozil during this period of his Arsenal career was joyous, to say the least. The kid who fell in love with the beautiful game on the working-class streets of Gelsenkirchen was emulating that kind of love and youthful bliss on the pitches of England.
Ozil was on track to break the Premier League assist record, held by former Gunners legend Thierry Henry with 20. But then January came, and as do many things at Arsenal Football Club, it all went pear-shaped from there.
Arsenal finished that season second, losing out to the fairytale story of Leicester City by 10 points, and from the start of the year to the end of the campaign Ozil could only muster up three more assists in what was ultimately a disappointing season for the Gunners.
A divisive player in a divisive time
Since those six incredible months, Ozil has been a divisive figure in not just the Arsenal community, but the football community at large due to his inconstancy.
On his day, Ozil is a creative powerhouse and can unlock any defence in the game. However, these occasions are rare for the Arsenal No 10.
For every Man of the Match performance he produces, there are 10-15 other games where the former Los Blancos man barely makes an impact or even worse disappears entirely. And under new Arsenal manager Unai Emery, this is simply unacceptable.
For a player with as high a reputation as Ozil has - not to mention the £350,000-a-week contract he signed at the start of 2018 - you can understand why Emery wants more from his star man. So what should happen?
Looking to the future
As much as it would hurt the majority of Arsenal fans, the future and Emery’s vision for the club is better off without Ozil.
With the possibility of no Champions League football again next season, the club is down to the bare bones when it comes to funds for new players to fit this new Arsenal under Emery and the board have envisioned that cutting out a player who doesn’t fit the new system and takes up a large portion of the wage bill seems like a sensible solution.
It might not be what the fans want, but it’s time for the Arsenal community to realise that the future is better off without Ozil, the player who kicked off a new era for the club, and should leave to start another.