Having knocked holders Manchester City out of the FA Cup in the semifinals mere days after beating newly crowned champions Liverpool in the Premier League, Arsenal have come within a step of lifting a major trophy – something not many would have expected at most points during the 2019/20 season. Coach Mikel Arteta seems to have instilled a fresh amount of self-belief into the team, as well as found a way to help players lift their individual performances to another level.
But, for two of them, the writing still seems to be on the wall. Practically all the recent triumphs have been achieved without their help. So could there be a way back for Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi?
It’s not very easy to forget the way Ozil caused concern for the club before signing his current £350,000-per-week contract. The pen hit the paper on February 1st, 2018, just after his ‘friend in crime’ Alexis Sanchez left for Manchester United, and while the Chilean’s fortunes at Old Trafford were miserable until he joined Inter Milan on loan last summer, it hasn’t been any better for Ozil here.
Having been out of favour with former boss Unai Emery for most of the first half of the season, the 31-year-old German played in every league game between Boxing Day, which is to say since Arteta’s arrival, and the three-month break caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s 10 matches on the trot, all of them from the start, but the 1-0 triumph over West Ham on March 7th, in which he assisted Alexandre Lacazette for the winning goal, has been his last appearance for the Gunners to date. He has been listed as injured since the start of July.
Guendouzi, on the other hand, hasn’t been seen on the teamsheet since Arsenal suffered an unexpected defeat away to Brighton and Hove Albion on June 20th, during which he had several altercations with Seagulls forward Neal Maupay and was lucky to avoid a red card after the final whistle. The situation doesn’t seem to have improved, and a meeting between him, Arteta and technical director Edu was reportedly held, during which he didn’t give off any impression of regret for his actions.
Arteta was asked about the prospect the two midfielders are facing at the club right now, and he spoke in diplomatic tones, choosing to mention Granit Xhaka as an example of a player who was in similar trouble earlier this season and was stripped of captaincy, but has mastered his temper and turned his fortunes around. The Swiss midfielder is now a very important part of Arteta’s team. The boss simply said all players have the chance of doing that, which some believe means the door is still open to Ozil and Guendouzi.
However, in reality, the situation seems quite different. The young Frenchman, who is reportedly being offered up for sale this summer, is unlikely to wear the Arsenal shirt in a competitive match ever again. The club would probably like to get rid of Ozil too, but his chances of finding a suitor which would agree to match his wages at Arsenal are practically non-existent.
Ozil will probably stay at the Emirates until his contract expires next year, and if he does, Arteta might decide to make use of him occasionally. But it feels pretty safe to assume that he won’t be offered a new deal at any point, so it’ wouldn’t really be a chance for the former Real Madrid man to fight for his Arsenal future. It would, perhaps, be an opportunity to raise his fitness level and try to regain some form before moving on.