Arsenal: There is now only one priority

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 03: Mesut Ozil of Arsenal runs with the ball as Cesar Azpilicueta of Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea looks on during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on January 3, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 03: Mesut Ozil of Arsenal runs with the ball as Cesar Azpilicueta of Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea looks on during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on January 3, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images) /
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Now that Alexis Sanchez has departed and Arsenal have secured his replacement in Henrikh Mkhitaryan, there is only one priority: Re-sign Mesut Ozil.

The big move has come: Alexis Sanchez has left Arsenal football club. Given the trajectory of the reports, the atmosphere around the player, and the general feeling at the club, it is not all that surprising. Many, in fact, have been speaking as if Sanchez is already a Manchester United player for some time. Nevertheless, the official announcement came on Monday afternoon. The post-Sanchez era starts now.

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And for Arsene Wenger, there needs only be one priority in the assembly and maintenance of his squad between now and the end of the season to set up the team for future years: Re-sign Mesut Ozil.

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That may seem like a lofty, somewhat ambitious aim. Ozil has just six months remaining on his contract and has seemingly tended towards an exit when his deal expires. But former striker Alan Smith, just a few days ago, revealed that he believes the two parties are not all that far apart when it comes to a potential agreement:

"“My sources tell me he is quite close to signing a new contract. We’ve not heard much on that and it sounds like negotiations have gone on behind the scenes and he will sign. He’s been a different player the last couple of months when he’s been fit. He’s really been putting in a shift, he looks energised, more enthusiasm than he did have and he looks the player that we all think he can be on a consistent basis.”"

Now, I do not have any idea how accurate Smith’s claims are. I have no information, no premonition, and certainly don’t have the contacts that Smith does. But his comments nonetheless point to what Arsenal must have their number one focus in the coming months.

While with Sanchez, the writing was on the wall, and the attention of the club had switched from retention to recruitment, in the case of Ozil, there is still an opportunity that he can be convinced to stay. Given his performances this season, Arsenal would be foolish if they did not try to make the most of that chance.

The German has been marvellous for the Gunners, scoring four goals, assisting six, and averaging 3.4 key passes per game, which is more than any other player in the league by some distance — only Kevin de Bruyne and Cesc Fabregas have three or more per game. Moreover, his 86% pass completion rate is higher than every other player with more than two key passes per game other than David Silva, showing his ability to both control possession and create chances.

Ozil has been at the heart of everything that Arsenal have done. The Gunners have scored 45 goals in the league this season. Ozil has been on the pitch for 37 of them. While he has not necessarily played a direct hand in all of them, his overall presence and influence on this team are undeniable. He is Arsenal’s best player, and it’s not all that close.

Next: Arsenal: Ideal starting XI with Henrikh Mkhitaryan

And so, to the future, the attention turns. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan now at the Emirates, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pending, and the makings of a searing attacking force coming together, re-signing Ozil could set this team up perfectly for a title and trophy challenge next season. He is the number one priority.