Arsenal: Let the Mesut Ozil controversy play out

Arsenal, Mesut Ozil (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)
Arsenal, Mesut Ozil (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images) /

It was reported on Monday that Mesut Ozil was one of three Arsenal players who refused the agreed 12.5% pay cut due to COVID-19. Before jumping to conclusions, however, we should let the controversy play out.

The COVID-19 global pandemic will have an untold financial impact on the world. And despite being so often managed within a bubble separate from the usual troubles of society, football will not go unaffected. In fact, football, like many other industries, will be hit hard. Clubs will likely die and not return amid the present postponement of play.

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Arsenal are fortunate. They have a wealthy owner who has said that he will be willing to keep the club afloat during these revenue-less times, if it is indeed necessary. Much smaller clubs will be facing far larger and pressing financial difficulties.

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Nevertheless, the Gunners agreed to a 12.5% pay cut with their playing and coaching staff. There was some hesitance from portions of the squad, but Mikel Arteta and Hector Bellerin were said to be influential in smoothing out the negotiations and coming to an agreement. It resulted in Arsenal being the first Premier League to agree to a pay cut amid the current crisis.

There were, however, three players who refused the pay cut — the agreement was voluntary, so they were well within their rights to reject the proposal. It was later reported on Monday that one of these players is Mesut Ozil, the £350,000-per-week midfielder who is not exactly renowned for his work-rate and commitment to the club.

Predictably, Ozil has been slated. The headlines were harsh, fans turned on the highest-earner at the club by some distance, and the likes of Gary Neville have slammed his individuality, stating that he should have sided with the majority of the squad. It also does not help that Ozil’s agent, Dr Erkut Sogut, said that wage cuts should not be considered at the current time.

There is reason to heavily criticise Ozil’s decision here. As Neville states, he does not show great teamwork or commitment to the club and teammates. Rejecting a proposal that everyone else has agreed to is a hugely problematic look, and then there is the fact that he is already vastly overpaid after leeching the club for everything it was worth during contract negotiations to secure a bumper new deal.

However, while Ozil’s decision is highly controversial and should be examined harshly in the coming days and weeks, it should also be allowed to play out before drawing any conclusions. While Ozil has rejected the initial pay cut, James Olley of ESPN reports that he is willing to accept the proposal, and even take a larger pay cut than his teammates given the greater wage he earns, but he wants reassurances regarding how the money will be used.

Ozil is also extremely charitable. His work in Turkey, the poor and vulnerable in society, and his generosity to those in need is well known. When he got married in June 2019, he and his partner paid for 1,000 children to get life-changing surgery that they would otherwise not be able to afford. Ozil is a generous man. So why reject the pay cut? At this stage, too much is unknown.

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I have been a critic of Ozil’s in the past. I have questioned his work-rate, his commitment, and his greed. But in this instance, let’s let the situation play out before jumping to any conclusions. Because, with the information known at present, something does not sit quite right.