Arsenal star Mesut Ozil has been omitted from Mikel Arteta’s Europa League squad in a decision that suggests his days in north London are numbered.
The former Real Madrid star has been frozen out of Arteta’s plans since the beginning of the 2020/21 season and is yet to earn selection to a matchday squad this term.
UEFA rules state that each club must include at least eight homegrown players in their 25-man squads.
Thomas Partey’s arrival on transfer deadline day left Arsenal with 19 non-homegrown players, forcing Arteta’s hand as he omitted Ozil and Sokratis from the 25-man European squad.
The Spanish manager looked to have revived the mercurial playmaker’s stuttering career prior to the coronavirus enforced hiatus, but Ozil has faded onto the periphery since project restart.
The 31-year-old provided the assist for Alexandre Lacazette’s winner against West Ham United in the final fixture before football went behind closed doors, taking his tally to 77 in 254 appearances for the Gunners.
However, in much the same way Pep Guardiola often ruthlessly discards of players after they pass the peak of their careers – Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna and Aleksandar Kolarov all fell victim to this at Man City – Arteta appears to be carving the future of the club around a new, younger generation of talent.
With a talented bunch of exciting academy players – including Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock and Ainsley Maitland-Niles – coming through the ranks at Arsenal there is seemingly no room for the veteran playmaker.
That the omission from the squad arrives in a season that will put players under greater physical strain, with fixtures being sandwiched into a shorter period of time to ensure all competitions are completed prior to Euro 2021, is a particularly ominous sign.
Attention will now turn towards Ozil’s future and how quickly the club can get a £350,000-per-week salary off their books.
It would be an unadulterated financial disaster to part with £18.2m this season to keep a backup player with no potential to contribute in Europe, and the supporters certainly won’t take too kindly to such expenditure given the controversy surrounding the club’s cost-cutting measures in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Given the Europa League omission, Ozil’s offer to pay the wages of Jerry Quy, the man donning the famous Gunnersaurus mascot costume, may represent his final meaningful contribution at the club.
We may have already seen the last of the aesthetically delightful playmaker in England’s top flight.