Stranger things have happened.
As Arsenal and Mikel Arteta continue their bid for the coming season, a number of behind-closed-doors friendlies have been played. The entire squad were put through their paces so Arteta can gauge his men and see who will be up for the challenge – and who falls by the wayside.
And we have seen that Mesut Ozil has been given his opportunity too.
This new season is a blank slate for all, an opportunity to impress the boss and cement a place in the manager’s reckoning. The likes of Mohamed Elneny is being given a runout, as well as some of the returning youth players from loan spells. It is open to all-comers, and this is Ozil’s chance to go out with a bang.
It is abundantly clear that Ozil will be going nowhere until his contract ends next season. Last season saw the German fall out of favour with the boss as Arteta opted for systems that didn’t require a conventional playmaker – and also it required every player to fight for their territory, rather than have no fixed position. These things don’t play to Ozil’s strengths. Which is why we saw nothing of the German in the second half of this season, aside from in the stands watching the game.
But this is not to say Ozil is lazy. There are a multitude of stats that highlight just how much ground he covers when he plays – and they show he is far from a shirker. The reason Ozil has been out of favour is that his style of play is incongruous with Arteta’s vision for the team.
But these friendlies may see Ozil remind Arteta just what he is capable of on the pitch, which in turn, could see Ozil come back into the fold for this season and play his part. Ainsley Maitland-Niles looked to be heading for the exit door last season and now he has been called up for his international side and is nearing indispensable status in his last few games.
Anything is possible. Watch this space.