Wenger: £350k-a-week Ozil 'cheapest option'
It is indicative of where English football finds itself in 2018 that Arsene Wenger, the single biggest bulwark against the game's 21st-century financial explosion, should declare Mesut Ozil's new £350,000-per-week contract Arsenal's "cheapest option" in regards to a playmaker.
These are different times at Arsenal, or at least the latest attempt at change, following a month in which they have twice broken through the top end of their pay structure while selling their three leading goalscorers from last season, all to clubs within the top eight of the Premier League.
At the club where nothing ever seemed to change, January 2018 felt like a radical departure for Arsenal, and surely the first signs of the new hierarchy exerting its control. They face Everton at the Emirates today - an early return for Theo Walcott after his move to Goodison Park, where the Gunners' club record new signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is unlikely to feature because of illness.
There was no introductory press conference for the new £56m man because Arsenal no longer do that.
Given their recent record in the transfer market, one can see why the responsibility has been handed over to Sven Mislintat, the new chief scout, and also, starting this month, the new director of football Raul Sanllehi.
The re-signing of Ozil has been presented by the club as something that Arsenal fans should feel thoroughly grateful about, a strange assumption to make given that he is being paid twice as much to do so as any player in their history. Of course, Ozil even at 29, is a player whom Arsenal would rather not have lost but, having found themselves thoroughly outmanoeuvred by his stubbornness and Alexis Sanchez's departure, ended up paying far too much to stay.
Asked whether it might mean that a few of his other big names could review their own financial situation, Wenger tried to explain the thinking behind the new decision.
"When you let a player go you have to buy somebody of the same calibre and if you add the wages needed it will be similar," he said.
"On top of that we have to pay a transfer. So overall I think Mesut for us was the cheapest option.
"On the other side all of our players are Very well paid. To feel sorry for them - I'm not sure that it's the most objective assessment."
He called upon Ozil to be "the technical leader" of the new post-Sanchez Arsenal team, which is the least one could expect under the terms of his new contract.
As for the arrival of Aubameyang, Wenger could offer no consolation to last summer's record signing Alexandre Lacazette. He said that Aubameyang was a player whom he had admired for some time and was not worried about his reputation for poor discipline.
"I don't think that is a problem," Wenger said. "He (Aubameyang) spent four years in Germany and had some problems in the last year linked with the fact that maybe his transfer did not work in the summer and he did not have the same commitment as he had before.
"I know him from France - he played for Saint-Etienne and Bastia - and usually his behaviour was never a problem. He is a professional guy."
It was intriguing to hear that the Arsenal manager acquiesced to Olivier Giroud joining Chelsea, a rival for one of the top-four places and eight points better off, because the player and his wife Jennifer have just had a third child and wanted to stay in London.
It was a decision, Wenger admitted, that owed more to the club's admiration for the player and they will be well aware that it could come back to haunt them.
As for the defender who never arrived, Wenger simply said that situation would be improved by scoring more goals.
They have eight fewer than they did at this stage of last season, and eight fewer points. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
- Arsenal v Everton, Live, BT Sport 1, 5.0
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