Arsenal’s next three Premier League fixtures will tell us a lot as to whether they are worthy of a European place or if it’s a bridge too far for Mikel Arteta’s charges this season.
In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, Arsenal have asked their players to take a 12.5 per cent wage cut.
This would mean a £25 million (A$49 million) reduction of the wage bill, softening the financial blow dealt by COVID-19. This cut would reduce to 7.5 per cent should Arsenal achieve Europa League qualification and be written off entirely if they secure Champions League football.
While the majority of Arsenal players have now agreed to the deal, reports have emerged that four players are yet to agree to the terms. One of these players is Mesut Ozil. According to ESPN, Ozil is waiting to see how Arsenal’s financial situation pans out before taking a 12.5 per cent hit on his £350,000 (A$680,000) weekly wage.
Ozil’s decision has, unsurprisingly, proved controversial. British TV personality Piers Morgan was quick to pounce, railing against Ozil’s decision, declaring “shame on you”. He later tweeted sports journalist John Cross, who described Ozil as “disgraceful”. The Sun ran a story offering readers a peek inside “pay cut rebel Mesut Ozil’s £10 million (A$19 million) London home”.
Discussion regarding the reasons behind Ozil’s reluctance is largely conjecture. However, numerous outlets have reported that he wants to understand exactly how the money will be used. It has also been reported that he only wants to donate his wages if Arsenal genuinely need the funds.
Displaying a degree of rationality and moderation that only confirms the impending apocalypse, Arsenal fans have been largely supportive of Ozil.
If Ozil were to snub the deal, he’d have good reason. Firstly, Arsenal’s owners are multi-billionaires. Unless the club is on edge of bankruptcy, why should Ozil give up a portion of his wages? As a regular charity donor, Ozil might even have the crazy idea that £43,750 (A$85,000) a week could go somewhere other than Stan Kroenke’s pockets. What was that about a global health crisis?
Ozil will also know just how fiscally incapable the club’s management is. Consider Arsenal’s recent history of wheeling and dealing. I present you with Article A, the £30 million (A$58 million) purchase of Shkodran Mustafi. Then Article B, allowing Aaron Ramsey to leave for free. Finally Article C, the steadily declining revenue after what is soon to be a three-year exile from the Champions League.
Ironically, most damning of all is Arsenal’s management of Ozil himself. Since January 2018, Arsenal have paid Ozil £350,000 (A$680,000) a week despite his inability to cement a place in the first team. Perhaps, in a bizarre twist of logic of that only Arsenal would be capable, Ozil sees his own ludicrous wage package as evidence that these men must not be trusted with large amounts of money.
Strangest of all are those Arsenal fans who have come out against Ozil. These people who bemoan Arsenal’s under-investment are now urging Ozil to burn his own cash on the fiery Kroenke altar.
Accusations of greed do not stand up. Ozil donates approximately £2 million (A$3.9 million) a year to charity. He has previously paid for 1000 vital operations for children around the world, fed 100,000 homeless people across 16 refugee camps and is an ambassador for children’s charity, Ray of Sunshine.
If this episode tells us one thing, it’s that despite signs of reintegration into the starting 11, Ozil’s relationship with the club remains rocky. I suspect that had he received more support from the club and perhaps the fans in recent years, he might have accepted the pay cut, if only to avoid the inevitable PR fallout.