Mesut Ozil has not played since the restart. Matteo Guendouzi has not featured since the Brighton defeat. There is, however, just one person to blame for Mikel Arteta’s excluding them from the Arsenal squad.
It has been a strange few weeks for both Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi. Seemingly banished from the Arsenal squad, not included in any of the last seven matchday squads, the pair now face the ominous inevitability of an exit, either this summer or at the end of their contracts. Put simply, at present, Mikel Arteta does not want them.
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For Ozil, he has been named on the bench and not featured whatsoever since the restart. What makes this weirder is that he was a crucial piece of Arteta’s team beforehand. He started every single Premier League matches under Arteta prior to lockdown.
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Guendouzi, meanwhile, responded poorly to the Brighton defeat in which he berated opposing players and put Neal Maupay in a chokehold. He reportedly refused to apologise for his behaviour and has since conducted meetings with Arteta and other management figures at the club that have been unproductive. Even David Luiz, his long-time supporter and champion, has struggled to get through to him.
Arteta, though, has been willing to welcome players back into the fold. Indeed, the redemption of Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos, Luiz himself and others show that if players commit to his methods and work hard to prove themselves, he is willing to reward them.
Following Arsenal’s FA Cup semi-final win in which Xhaka produced his best performance of the season, Arteta, who previously said that Xhaka can be an example to others, was asked whether the Swiss’ ‘willingness and consistency’ should be viewed as inspiration by Guendouzi and Ozil:
“That applies for any player and any member of the staff. All players know this. If you show that, that you decide to do the best not only for yourself but for the team and for the club, I think everyone will welcome you. It’s not just me that needs to give the green light, it’s everybody that has to be supportive. You need to feel that support from everybody because otherwise it’s a very uncomfortable situation.”
From day one, Arteta has made it quite clear. He will reward the players who work hard for the team and commit to the project. He will punish those who do not, quickly looking to offload them as he rebuilds the squad and corrects a previously lapse and undermining culture. For Guendouzi and Ozil, the path back to playing is clear.
While they may feel self-righteous and disrespected, as Arteta’s success on the pitch proves, his approach is yielding results. The players buy into his system, the team is improving, and those on the outside can only be left to wonder what could be. Guendouzi and Ozil have only one person to blame: themselves.
Based on talent, they might expect to be a part of the team. And even Arteta might concede that they are among his best 11 players. But they are not willing to adapt to the new regime. As such, their exile, which is entirely justified, stems from one person’s errors.