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We’ve transcribed the full hour-long interview, just for you.
Grab yourself a coffee and get comfortable, here comes 6,400 words on Arsenal’s January transfer window dealings, Sven Mislintat, the impact of Ivan Gazidis departure, our search for a Technical Director, the structure of the club’s new hierarchy, the Kroenkes’ vision and the Mesut Ozil situation.
Let’s start with Arsenal’s window. For me, it was underwhelming, we had defensive issues, were linked with any number of attacking midfielders and in the end, we got Denis Suarez from Barcelona on loan until the end of the season with no obligation to buy. Perhaps a signing that indicates the lack of firepower at Arsenal’s disposal in the window?
DO: That’s totally right. It’s quite difficult to explain the full context of this because the truth is we don’t know it all. The budget, for instance, it was made very clear to me from a very early stage that it was meagre to say the least. There was barely a budget, it was pretty much nothing. I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. Even though we know there was heavy investment in the previous two windows, I was being told they had nothing to work with, just a very, very small pot that would cover permanent signings, which would, therefore, be unlikely, for loan signings and the associated salaries and agent fees on both fronts. That was always going to be incredibly difficult to work with especially in the January window when Arsenal and many other clubs have said, it’s a time they don’t want to do business. Player values are overinflated, it’s always a stop-gap solution and a bit of an emergency. You can get good deals, as we’ve seen in the past, but it was not a deal that Arsenal were targeting when things had been looking good earlier. The fact they were forced into action on such a small budget was far from ideal. Denis Suarez was clearly a target for Unai Emery and Raul Sanllehi in particular. I don’t think it was a signing that was universally supported across the Arsenal hierarchy and those who are influential on the recruitment side. But, Sanllehi is calling the shots now as the head of football and Unai Emery has a heavy influence and knew him from his time managing in Spain. That one was clear and well documented. Many people said that Arsenal should go for a defender. That was never really mentioned to me. I did ask about it on a number of occasions to a number of people. The only name that really cropped up was Calum Chambers. Arsenal had vaguely explored the possibility of recalling him from his loan at Fulham. However, that would have incurred a fee because he’d played a certain number of games that would have triggered a recall fee. That was quickly shelved given the priority with the small amount of money was to bring in some reinforcements that could really help them in an attacking sense.
Before we move onto other targets, one of the things Unai Emery said after the injury to Rob Holding was that he might look for a central defender but he mentioned that Dinos Mavropanos was coming back and that he might be able to step up. What’s the feeling inside the club about his quality and readiness? Arsenal fans have looked at certain defenders in this team who’ve underperformed and with the fixtures coming up, people feel it might be the time to give him a runout and see what people can do. He was Sven Mislintat’s first signing.
He was extremely highly thought of. The idea coming into the season, from a number of people I’ve spoken to, was that he would challenge for a starting berth at centre half. I’m not sure anybody quite knew the extent of his injury, it’s quite remarkable how long he’s been out for. At that point in time, you had Mavropanos coming into the picture, two defenders recruited in the shape of Sokratis, who’d come off the back of a strong season and has vast experience at club and international football for Dortmund and Greece. And Lichtsteiner, who despite ageing, had vast top-level club and international experience with Juventus and Switzerland. Arsenal felt pretty well stocked, not perfect, but as we know they framed it as a work in progress that would take a number of years and transfer windows. I’ve asked about Mavropanos and it seems there was some concern about his calmness and whether he was a little bit nervous and anxious when he went on the pitch and prone to error. There were some reservations. I don’t think that the level of regard so far is quite at the level it was when he was emerging at the end of last season and into the summer. Of course, Arsene Wenger had scoffed at his signing at the start and taken umbrage at a player who he might not have known about. But even he came round to the idea as early as the first training session and the idea of sending him on loan was quickly shelved. That will be really interesting. Somebody I spoke to thinks he should be thrown in now from the Huddersfield game onwards regardless. That will be interesting. There was no talk of defensive recruitment and I think that’s mainly based on numbers, rather than quality. Arsenal aren’t stupid, they know there are defensive issues, but they also have a vast number of players, some of whom will be returning from injury. It was seen that a January signing would leave them with a difficult problem in the summer having to shift a number of players. You could say that should be done and they need to take those tough decisions. They do believe they have some quality so perhaps this is one they are looking to sort out in the summer. A department they will focus on then.
A few names that were touted around in January included Yannick Carrasco, Ivan Perisic and Christopher Nkunku, who I’m assuming is a player Unai Emery knows and recommended based on his time at PSG…
I was told throughout the window that Arsenal were looking for a box-to-box midfielder and a wide player as their two priorities. It was clear that one of the options, albeit not clear which position, was Denis Suarez. At that point I didn’t know about Carrasco, Perisic or Nkunku, they emerged as the window went on. With a week to go in the window, Arsenal made their approach to the representatives of Perisic and subsequently Inter. They were outwardly calm at this point about the possibility of signing one player, two players or no players, my understanding is they went extremely hard for Perisic. You don’t get a player handing in a transfer request, who stops training and risks his relationship with a club the size of Inter Milan, because he doesn’t think he’s coming. He definitely thought he was coming to Arsenal and a deal would be done.
There was an interesting comment when the window closed from Inter coach Spalletti who said Perisic had been conned by Arsenal.
I think Arsenal were in direct contact with Perisic and they were communicating that they would do everything to make a deal happen. However, one thing that was clear, and it applied to all targets, was that they could only be taken on loan with an option to buy and not an obligation. Although they tried to be creative, I know with Perisic they even offered a penalty fee if the option to buy didn’t become an obligation. In the case of Inter, they were just not interested in that. Inter wanted guaranteed money. Arsenal, therefore, reignited interest in Carrasco that had started at the end of December and beginning of January. It was proposed, he was keen and I think he’d have been happy to take a wage cut, although he’d still have been on a handsome salary. The loan fee that Arsenal suggested to his Chinese club at the start of the window was nowhere near a figure they would have considered in a market where fees get extraordinarily high these days. Arsenal did end up offering a high fee for Perisic, the fee for Carrasco was really low. They then went quiet as they pursued other targets and had their own internal issues with the news that Mislintat would be leaving. By the time it was looking like Perisic would happen, they reignited the conversation with Carrasco, but the offer did not change. It was never likely to be accepted by the Chinese club. That was quite strange when they were offering so much for Perisic. In and amongst all that was Nkunku who was a target that unified the Arsenal hierarchy, they all wanted him. Again on loan with an option to buy. he was seen as a high potential player who was seen as a possible successor to Aaron Ramsey as a box-to-box midfielder. It wouldn’t surprise me, although I don’t know this for a fact…if they reignited that interest in the summer. That one was fascinating in its own right. Arsenal did think that was doable because they were pursuing it right until the end of the transfer window. However, there were some other issues at play. PSG needed a midfielder, the player from the MLS – Acosta – which didn’t go through, and with that in mind, Thomas Tuchel expressed a desire to keep Nkunku as part of his squad. There were also suspicions that politics were at play. As we know, Tuchel and Mislintat’s relationship from their time together at Dortmund ended in a very sour way. Was it that Tuchel was determined not to help Mislintat before he signed off at Arsenal? Perhaps, we’ll never know. That was the extent of Arsenal’s transfer window.
Are there other players at PSG that he might be looking at?
I’m told Unai Emery likes experienced players, he likes to go with players he knows and trusts. That certainly explains the Nkunku interest, who he played far more than Thomas Tuchel has this season. It explains the pursuit of Denis Suarez, who I know a number of people in the game have reservations about, not just at Arsenal. And also [it explains] the reported interest, once again, in Adrien Rabiot who Arsenal were keen on during Arsene Wenger’s time with his links to PSG and the French game. It seemed he’d be signing for Barcelona [on a free] but they’ve signed a player for that midfield position, Frenkie de Jong. There are credible reports that Arsenal will come back in for Rabiot. There are people within Arsenal who are very keen that they sign Rabiot, or at least make a concerted effort. He’s very highly admired. There are some complications, around him, particularly around the people you have to deal with and his salary demands. But that’s certainly one to keep an eye on. Around certain players that have been mentioned in the past, including Guendouzi, who I think Unai Emery was hugely on board with. When the Guendouzi signing was being discussed, I think Emery would also have liked, if Guendouzi couldn’t get done or even as a player for the here and now, was Steven N’Zonzi. That goes to indicate that he likes players he trusts, players he’s worked with at former clubs. And who have experience and can do a job immediately.
How much do you think Sven Mislintat’s decision to leave the club has impacted what Arsenal did in January? It had been rumoured for a little while that things were not quite as coherent in the background as we’d have liked them to be. In the aftermath of Ivan Gazidis’ departure, the Vinai Venkatesham, Raul Sanllehi and Sven Mislintat trio were supposed to be in sync but as ever, when there’s a power vacuum at a club, things don’t always go the way you’d like them to go. Gazidis left to go to Milan, I’m curious to know your thoughts on how quickly he made that decision having overseen the changes. Anyway, Mislintat is going and it feels like there’s a bit of a problem as he’s identified and brought in good players and now it feels like a step backwards. Can you talk about that situation in general and how it might have impacted Arsenal’s business in January?
It’s not been an ideal time for Arsenal behind the scenes, although it hasn’t looked so ugly to the public, it has been quite messy in the background. Let’s be fair to the club, when the new structure was put in place by Ivan Gazidis, none of them had really worked together before and it was a shock to the system to everybody at the club that Gazidis was then walking away from that new structure. I think his feeling was that he had done what he was there to do, he’d been there for a decade and put the new structure in the place. If he’d have stayed for a year he would have been doing so, relatively speaking, with his feet up and collecting his salary and not particularly influencing things because the people he’d brought in would be doing that. Others will take real exception to that idea and think it was his duty to smooth over the transition period and lead it forward before moving away. I’ve seen some compare it to David Cameron, in that sense. A little bit harsh perhaps. None of these guys knew each other and suddenly Raul Sanllehi is promoted to Head of Football and I think it’s understandable that he’d potentially want his own person in [as Technical Director]. I don’t think that’s exceptional in any walk of life, especially for someone running the show. From the moment that Venai Venkatesham and Raul Sanllehi were promoted and Sven Mislintat was not the writing was on the wall. That was around September time when the Gazidis announcement came. We know that Mislintat was wanting to become the Technical Director position which is a position we believe they are looking to create.
I believe it was a position he was promised when Gazidis put this trident in place. Towards the end of last year, there were stories in certain newspapers saying that appointment was going to happen, but it was never officially confirmed.
I don’t know if he was promised it. I don’t doubt your information, but I don’t know it personally. What I do know is that he expressed clearly, his desire to take that role. He already assumed many of the roles of a technical director and he told Gazidis he’d have liked that position. He would have seen it as a huge blow [not to get the job]. As I understand it, there was no recommendation as Gazidis left for Mislintat to take that position. The writing was then well on the wall. One person I spoke to in the game felt that if Arsenal appointed a Spaniard as their head coach, even though Mislintat was closely involved – he was on what they said was a three-man panel, but was actually a four-man panel due to the involvement of Jaeson Rosenfeld [from Stat DNA] – that it would spell the end for Mislintat because a Spanish nucleus would form at the club and not include him. Mislintat was in favour of Emery’s appointment, so he was thinking in Arsenal’s best interests on that front. The other candidate was Mikel Arteta so either way a Spaniard would have had the job. Anyway, as we approached winter things were getting messy. Mislintat likes to plan for transfer windows well in advance, he’s done it his entire career, immersing himself in the players his clubs are targeting, doing his due diligence and turning the trust of these players, many of whom are young. I was told one story where Mislintat immersed himself so much in the community of one player that he went an prayed with him and his family. That was one of the more bizarre stories I heard, but it highlights the lengths he goes to. A year into his position at Arsenal he sought assurances from Sanllehi that he was part of the future so he could continue planning for January and the summer. I think he’d have spoken to Josh Kroenke too. Those assurances didn’t come. It was terrible timing really because Arsenal needed to do some business and Mislintat was the guy who led the Carrasco approach and the Perisic approach. Sanllehi ended up taking over many of these negotiations. That’s no way to run a successful transfer window, although they came out in reasonable shape. They dodged a bullet in the money they’d have been committing to a 30-year-old in Perisic. The jury was out on Carrasco. Denis Saurez, we’ll make up our minds up on him in time.
The long-term strategising on the transfer front is going to take a different direction under Raul Sanllehi. He is the Head of Football, he’s going to appoint a new Head of Scouting. I don’t know if you’ve heard anything about the candidates there. We’ve heard Francis Cagigao, a long-term Arsenal scout in Spain, has been mentioned and he was behind Cesc Fabregas, Hector Bellerin, Santi Cazorla, Alexis and Nacho Monreal. There’s a lot riding on Sanllehi now. If he is the man with whom responsibility rests, he probably didn’t want to do any stop-gap business now but rather wait until the summer to make the right signings.
That’s one way of looking at it. If we go back a step, Mislintat’s plan was to step back and assess what he was inheriting in his first year in charge. He wanted to let the scouting operation function as it was, so he could then make decisions. After a year in the job, he’d restructure it and exert his influence. He was starting to do that and then it was too late. There was some unrest behind the scenes at his hands-off approach. By his own admission, he’d probably do things slightly differently if he had his time again. I’m not sure how his relationship was with Cagigao. Those I speak to have a feeling that Cagigao will be promoted to the Head of Recruitment role or Chief Scout position. He’s been there a long time and has a good working relationship with Raul Sanllehi. A number of names have been mentioned for the Technical Director role. Two of the criteria in place for that include, the person must be known and trusted by Emery or have a strong connection with Arsenal. Somebody who doesn’t tick either of those boxes is not going to be an ideal candidate. Of course, there are many other factors, I’m speaking broadly. That’s why Edu was mentioned, but I think he’s staying in Brazil where his family are based, even though he’s in Rio and they are in Sao Paulo, and he’s settled in his job with the national team. A few years ago I was told that because of the distance between Rio and Sao Paulo he was unsettled and looking for a new project that would reunite his family in the same place. There were people during the Wenger reign that would have liked him to come in then. Marc Overmars, for the same reason, has an Arsenal connection. On the flip side, a person with a link to Emery is Monchi [the AS Roma Technical Director]. I don’t know this for a fact but I have been told that he’s Sanllehi’s first choice and Emery’s first choice. There’s the Sevilla connection and things aren’t going particularly well at Roma, but he’s extremely highly regarded within the game. One person actually told me that it’s a done deal. I don’t know that for a fact and it’s not strong enough information for me to report it outright. That could be one that develops in the coming weeks. Arsenal really needs to get moving for the summer transfer window because other clubs are already holding their negotiations and doing their groundwork now. It’s difficult for Arsenal because they don’t know what money they are going to be playing with. There are some suggestions it’s around the £40 million mark depending on what European competition Arsenal are involved in. I’ve been told it could be nearer £100 million to spend. That would factor in salaries as well although it will depend on the competition they get in. There needs to be intelligent recruitment. It’s all well and good having £100 million to spend but it’s how intelligently they spend that will be key. It won’t be the level of money that some clubs will have.
What’s your sense of how Raul Sanllehi views and understands the job that he has now? At Barcelona where he was Director of Football for many years, he was at a gigantic institution with a lot more money than Arsenal and more ability to soak up bad transfers. There were many of those. You can think of the handfuls of players who arrived for big money and didn’t work out – a number who came from Arsenal, on his watch. Financially, we’re not going to be on the same level as some of the other clubs in the Premier League, the idea was that we’d do business better and smarter to keep up. Sanllehi can’t operate as he did at Barcelona, could that explain the links with Monchi who at Sevilla was responsible for bringing in players for low fees and selling them for high fees. Is that part of why he might be brought in? Not just a link with Emery but the chance to create a recyclable transfer system. One where young players are developed, and if they stay, great, but if we sell for a big profit, then also ‘great’, because we can then reinvest the money into the team. Is this how Arsenal are going to fund themselves via the Kroenke/KSE self-sustaining model?
Yes, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. It’s all going to be about intelligent recruitment. Sanllehi is an intelligent guy, he’s very impressive, he’s experienced but it will be interesting to see the types of players that come in, whether it’s based on his relationship-based approach or whether we see some signings that can be traced back to certain agents. I know that Sanllehi moves in different circles to some people. Arsenal, in the past, were very reluctant to do business with the likes of Jorge Mendes, Mino Raiola, Kia Joorabchian. Sanllehi has decent relationships with people like these. We could see that becoming an interesting facet of Arsenal’s recruitment. I’m curious to see the background of the players in the coming windows. Monchi brought in Justin Kluivert to Roma – that’s a Mino Raiola player. That’s going to be a really interesting dynamic because we know Sanllehi’s approach is more relationship based than analytics and real long-term groundwork like Mislintat favoured. That was part of the reason why there was a difference in philosophies between those two. I don’t think there was an acrimonious fallout or anything, they just weren’t ideally suited for each other. The self-sustaining model is here to stay. The money is not going to be sufficient to compete with the biggest clubs. That said, I am told that Arsenal is extremely well set up from an analytics and data point of view with Stat DNA. Jaeson Rosenfeld is very highly regarded. Huss Fahmy is very influential, he’s not just the contract man, he has day-to-day contact with the players and is said to be a shining light at Arsenal that they’re fortunate to have. He gets involved in day-to-day meetings with the real power brokers within the club. I’m told Freddie Ljungberg has impressed and that some would like to see him integrated into the first team setup. Per Mertesacker is doing really good work and is highly regarded. Unai Emery’s coaching sessions are said to be very intense. His number two is a really highly regarded coach. I think things are set up pretty well for Arsenal but everything will come down to Sanllehi and how he can drive the football club forward. I’m told he has complete authority. Vinai Venkatesham and Sanllehi support each other and I think the Kroenkes are happy to leave these guys to it. It’s going to be a fascinating period in Arsenal’s history. Connections will be key in Arsenal’s recruitment policy from now on. Let’s watch this space.
The self-sustainable model and the way the Kroenkes are running the club is not a surprise to anybody. They have 100% control, but as a fan, it’s very difficult to hear the ambitions they have for the club at the same time looking at what they are doing. Before the Super Bowl, there was an interview where Josh Kroenke talked about getting back into the Champions League final. It seems very detached from the reality of where Arsenal are right now. We’re in a fight to get into the top four. The Champions League final at this point is something of a pipe dream. In terms of how they are setting the tone and ambition of the club, is it in any way founded in reality? Or do these sound bites have very little substance to them? It’s hard to marry Premier League and Champions League success without the owners providing some kind of a push to make that happen. Or do they think they can generate that through the new structure with more time?
I think it’s a double-edged sword from an ownership perspective. The Kroenkes are quite hands off. That means that they allow the people who are running the club the autonomy to make decisions and drive things forward. Many people would say that’s a good thing. On the flip side, they are ultimately holding the purse strings and making the final decisions. That presents a pretty problematic dilemma at times, particularly when it comes to what budgets are available. I’m taking nothing away from Jeremey Wilson, a brilliant journalist (who ran the Superbowl interview) who has built a relationship with the Kroenkes, but we don’t often hear from them on some of the subjects that the supporters and public really want to hear from them on, such as the direction of the club. I don’t see a really clear vision of where Arsenal are going. If they have it, we’re probably not hearing it articulated well enough or precisely enough because, as you say, at the moment it sounds a bit fanciful and not in touch with reality. I don’t know if those on the ground are fully aware of what that plan and project is and whether it’s being carried out to the Americans’ satisfaction. I spend a lot of time around other clubs, not just Arsenal, and you see the culture, you feel it. I don’t want this to come across as a cheap generalisation, but it’s what I’ve felt and what other people inside Arsenal and in other clubs have told me; some of these clubs, you sense and smell a winning culture, an absolute, unequivocal demand to win. Within Arsenal, various people who’ve worked there over the years, have described London Colney as being like an oasis, like a spa, like a holiday camp. It’s a lovely environment, it’s fantastic for players and staff, but is it somewhere that is conducive to ruthlessly succeeding. Surely that stems from the top? We’ve seen it with Abramovich at Chelsea over the years and the Abu Dhabi Group at Manchester City, just two examples. A side point, one or two people at City were surprised that Arsenal’s decision makers were all at the Superbowl last weekend instead of being at the Etihad. We don’t know what was behind that, whether they were expected by the American owners to be at the Superbowl, but that surprises me. Where are the priorities? Clearly, that was a one-off and Arsenal are being fairly well led. They strike me as impressive individuals and if they get this Technical Director role right, allied with the other positions I’ve mentioned, and I think they are in pretty good shape. I don’t think they are far off.
It’s that push. That extra desire to really achieve things. For a while, it’s felt like Arsenal have been going through the motions and maybe we’re being a bit harsh because it’s still only 9 months since it was announced Arsene Wenger would be leaving the club. Clearly this is a new era and a new structure but it’s long felt to me that the burning ambition that you can get from the top of an organisation, that pushes everybody, not just the manager or the players, but everybody within a club, isn’t there because the Kroenkes are so far away. It feels like they put people in place to do a good enough job rather than the best possible job and they don’t really give them the backing financially to make that happen.
That would appear to be the case. It’s a stark reality that Arsenal are the only Premier League club whose owners have not put a penny of their own money into the club. I need to be careful about this because I don’t know the exact financial situation – the likes of Kieran from Swiss Ramble are far more articulate and informed than me – but I’m not sure whether Arsenal, by taking owner investment, would be getting into dangerous territory with their compliance to the Financial Fair Play rules and the Premier League’s wage increase restrictions. I’m going to pass on that. It’s not fair for me to judge the Kroenkes one way or the other. We’ve seen them invest personal money in America, so it’s a fascinating area. Arsenal, when you speak to them, are very calm. They see this as a project. It’s strange, we were all okay with this at the start, accepting it would take a few years. I was told the start of the 2019/20 season was when they hope to be competitive again. I was told that a year ago. It would take three, four, five transfer windows, they were very realistic. Emery was a long-term appointment. Perhaps that 22-game unbeaten run was a bit of a curse to him. Expectations changed and now people are questioning his suitability. Of course, he’s not immune to questions about things on the pitch, the tactical decisions, some have clearly not been done right as he explores his team’s balance. I think people need to relax a little bit and see how this plays out rather than jumping to conclusions in the immediate term. I’m not a sympathiser with the Kroenkes. I know many people who have a very dim view of them, inside and outside Arsenal and within the game. The proof is going to be in the pudding over the next year or two. I’m not trying to duck an answer. For instance, why was there no money to spend in the January transfer window? We know Arsenal spent heavily in the last two transfer windows and we know they have revenue streams coming through, including the adidas sponsorship deal in the summer. There’s talk of stadium refinancing and possible convernance, stuff I’m not particularly au fait with. The truth is, we don’t know exactly why there was no money to spend. It hasn’t been communicated properly, either in public or private. We don’t know the precise sums [of the summer’s transfer budget], I’ve been told £100 million, we’ve been told that in the past. We don’t want to excite or disappoint people. This is a real time of flux for Arsenal. It seems a shame, a real shame that just when it appeared that Arsenal were building in the right direction this year that they’ve encountered problems behind the scenes with Mislintat and the contractual issues of Ozil and Ramsey. They have to shift some players out of the club in the summer and I think they’ll do that. Sanllehi is quite a ruthless operator, but that aim of being competitive from the start of the 19/20 season seems like it has been derailed somewhat. That said, Emery is an appointment that the club are fully behind. One point of concern I’m hearing from internally is that Emery, like Arsene Wenger, isn’t challenged enough by others around the club. I’m hearing that Sanllehi is a huge supporter of Emery and he doesn’t want to impinge on his areas of authority and some feel that Emery should already be being challenged more. If that’s a cultural problem within Arsenal then that may come from on high and that culture will need to shift. Any shift in culture, as we know, takes time. That’s probably not something people are going to want to hear. Arsenal is not a project that is close to coming to fruition yet. If it does, then it could be pretty exciting. People are going to have to be patient.
Finally, I just wanted to ask about a story that came up during the transfer window. You spoke on BBC Radio 5Live about Mesut Ozil and Unai Emery and Mesut Ozil and Arsenal as a whole. It’s a curious one, I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it. The suggestion to Ozil that it might be better for him to leave the club was the story you came out with. On Sunday at the Etihad, when Arsenal were 3-1 down, Emery left Ozil on the bench and put on Suarez; a player who is clearly not quite match fit. It felt to me like Emery was putting another nail in the Ozil coffin he’s been handcrafting all season long. Can you give us any indication as to what might be going on there?
In the build-up to Ozil signing a new contract, there were people at the club who didn’t want him to be given that contract.
Can I ask, did they want him to be given a contract or just not that contract? Is there a distinction there?
I think there are some within the club that he is producing what is required of him and would have preferred for him not to have been given a contract at all. There are some who felt that if you’re going to give him a new contract that it should be for nowhere near the money that Arsenal ended up agreeing to, by which point Ozil had a strong hand in the negotiations. Alexis was on his way out and it would have been tough for Arsenal two lose both star players in the space of a few months. There was very little interest from clubs about buying him at that point, but losing him on a free would have been potentially embarrassing. There were some who were disgruntled that he was awarded a contract, that contract, take it whichever way you like. They were hoping that by handing him the captain’s armband as part of a group of captains, handing him the number 10 shirt and putting an arm around him after what happened with Germany at the World Cup that they’d get a really productive season out of him. Clearly, there have been troubles settling into the new way of playing under Unai Emery. I think you saw by the way he left the pitch during the game at Chelsea [in August] that he didn’t look happy. We know ahead of the Bournemouth game [in November] that Unai Emery made it clear that he didn’t see Ozil being of value in big away games. I’ve been told that Emery had expressed to Ozil that it might be better for him to leave. What we don’t know, which you guys have pointed out in one of the previous Arsecasts, is whether that was the feeling of Emery, the hierarchy or if it was the feeling of both of them. I suspect that it was the feeling of both of them. However, if one party felt it more than the other, I suspect it was the hierarchy. Not using Emery as their puppet but expressing their feelings through him. It’s understood that Emery was quite keen to take Ozil when he was PSG coach and some vague discussions took place about him going as a free agent. I’d be surprised given Emery seems to be the type of coach who takes pleasure from getting the best out of his players if he wasn’t up for the fight. It feels more of a financially motivated decision coming from on high – Ozil being on £350,000 a week and him not producing the level of consistency that they want. Ozil’s view was that he’s not leaving, certainly not in January, and obviously, everybody will see what happens in the summer. I’ve been told that he’s training well and that he’s not a problem in the camp. However, the way he’s being used, or not used, it would appear that Emery is not playing him for the reason he’s trying to encourage him to seek pastures new in the summer.
To make life so uncomfortable for him that for him to play football on a regular basis, he has to consider leaving and to do so on financial terms lower than he’s on right now, thus saving Arsenal lots of money?
Yes, although we’re not privy to the technical decisions here. You can understand Suarez coming on at City because he needs to play. He’s potentially only with the club until the end of the season and he needs minutes under his belt. Ramsey coming on instead of Ozil, well he’s playing better but he’s leaving at the end of the season. I don’t know this for a fact. It’s one possible theory that he’s not being played so that he has no choice in the summer. If he wants to resume his career he has to move and it gets this £350,000 a week problem off Arsenal’s hands. There is also a theory that if he plays he could play well and then the fans demand that he stays and that causes a headache if they’ve made a decision on him. Also, him not playing also reduces his value too. It’s a really confusing situation. There’s no clarity around it at all. It’s deeply dissatisfactory for Arsenal and Ozil and it surely can’t go on.
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