Arsenal legend Nigel Winterburn relieved to see Mesut Ozil depart
- Credit: PA
Arsenal legend Nigel Winterburn spoke with relief as Mesut Ozil finally departed the north London outfit to join Turkish side Fenerbahce.
Winterburn feels an albatross has been lifted from the shoulders of the club which he says will now allow fans, players and staff alike, to move on from the debacle which has overshadowed the club for far too long.
"That’s the end of Mesut Ozil at Arsenal and now when things go wrong – and things will go wrong again – we won’t be debating whether Ozil should be in the squad, we’ll have much fresher subjects to talk about,” he told Bookmakers.co.uk.
“It’s the right thing. You can’t have someone around a club who’s got huge talent but is just not working for you, you have to get them out and move them on.”
Although Winterburn can’t deny the German play maker’s natural ability, he told Bookmakers.co.uk that if a player isn’t prepared to put the work in to earn a place in the Arsenal squad then - as is the case with Ozil - they’ll never convince the manager that they deserve to be at the club long-term.
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“I think he’s got terrific talent, I’ve said that all along. He’s played a key part in some of Arsenal’s success but over the last two or three seasons it’s gone downhill for him.
“It didn’t look like he fitted in to Mikel Arteta’s plans. Whether he didn’t want to do the work that Arteta was demanding from him, I don’t know, but his body language didn’t look quite right.
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“If you don’t fit into a system then you’ve got to individually perform to a level where the manager simply can’t drop you and force him to reconfigure the team around you, but unfortunately for Ozil his performances didn’t convince Arteta that that’s what he should do.”
Ozil’s departure has now ramped up transfer speculation with regards to who Arsenal will bring in to boost creativity in the No.10 position and although Winterburn admits this is an area that needs to be addressed in the long term, he said that Arsenal youngster Emile Smith Rowe should be given a chance to prove himself– at least in the short term – after a highly impressive performance against Newcastle United on Monday Night.
“I would suggest that it’s an area Arsenal are looking at in the transfer market, whether it be now or for next season,” former Gunners defender Nigel Winterburn said.
“Mikel Arteta might want to wait until he gets a few more faces out of the club before addressing it, but Emile Smith Rowe might be making him think that maybe he can hold off until the summer because this young man is progressing.
“If he is to continue to make strides then yes, in the short-term at least, let him fill the role and see where he is at the end of the season and Arteta can reassess his squad.
“We’re all excited at the moment but it’s just a short period of time and the acid test comes at a later stage. If he’s still doing the things he’s doing now in two years’ time then we’re all going to get even more excited.
“I still think they might look at that creative midfield area just to give them another option. But at the moment, he’s given Arteta a massive problem, but a nice problem. He’s performing at a very high level and offers something different.
“The manager will know his player’s temperament, whether he can deal with the added pressure of playing week-in-week out in the Premier League, and those are the judgements that the management staff will know and have to make as the player develops ahead of next season.”
Smith Rowe’s emergence comes as no surprise to Winterburn who told Bookmakers.co.uk that the Arsenal youngster has been on his radar for some time and if he continues on his current upward trajectory then Mikel Arteta will have no option but to play him in his side.
“He’s somebody that I’ve been watching for a little while now,” he said. “People at the club brought him to my attention, saying he was a player for the future.
“Then he got a couple of injuries and [Bukayo] Saka burst on to the scene, so he sort of got forgotten about a little bit, but then he got thrown in when Arsenal had some players missing and rightly so.
“His performances are getting stronger and stronger. He’s a player who offers something slightly different to what Arsenal already have in the team at the moment.
“So I’m just hoping that his confidence is going to keep building and building. Obviously, he’s going to have little dips on the way but if he can keep that level of performance going then eventually that will essentially say to the manager ‘leave me out if you dare’.
“And that’s exactly what he’s done. He has to be selected at the moment, he cannot be left out."
Finally, Winterburn expressed his delight at seeing two of Arsenal’s youth academy graduates thriving in the first team and rejoiced at the prospect of Smith Rowe and Saka being touted as the first names on Mikel Arteta’s team sheet.
“All you can do as a player is put the performances in and give the manager no choice. That’s what Saka has done and that’s what Rowe is now doing.
“They’re almost becoming the first names on the Arsenal team-sheet, which is so exciting.
“If you’re playing well enough, age doesn’t matter. It’s great to see young players coming through after what has been a difficult few years for Arsenal, and particularly on the back of the Christmas period which was a really tough time for Arteta.”
You can read the full Bookmakers.co.uk story on who will replace Mezit Ozil as Arsenal’s No.10 playmaker, featuring the thoughts of Nigel Winterburn, here: https://bookmakers.co.uk/news/is-emile-smith-rowe-the-answer-to-arsenal-s-no-10-problem