It’s not an uncommon theme in today’s game to see world-class stars wind down their contracts at their current club hoping to secure a free transfer away from their predicament.
Amongst a host of elite names, including Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, is Mesut Ozil.
The German has been reluctant to put pen to paper on a new contract at the Emirates Stadium and it’s reaching the point of no return, at which time Arsenal will have to accept the inevitable.
The temptation is to flog him off somewhere abroad, so he doesn’t come back to haunt them at another Premier League club, but sometimes the best deals can be found far closer to home than anyone would realise.
A Jose Mourinho reunion
From Ozil’s perspective, the rumours linking him with a free transfer to Manchester United are entirely understandable.
United are a massive club with a great chance of winning trophies both domestically and in Europe, whilst the German wouldn’t have to compromise on his wages and he’s presented with the chance to stay in England, which avoids another massive upheaval of his now settled life.
Perhaps the major pulling factor is Jose Mourinho and the chance of a reunion with the Portuguese.
Despite Ozil’s revelations that the duo once had a furious dressing bust-up whilst at Real Madrid in which Mourinho called the German “a coward,” the pair are understood to have a good working relationship and Ozil wouldn’t be averse to a reunion.
Ozil arguably played the best football of his career whilst coached by Mourinho at Real Madrid, creating 91 chances, scoring nine goals and assisting 13 in his final season at the Santiago Bernabeu before both departed for Arsenal and Chelsea in 2013.
The Portuguese manager knows how to get the best out of Ozil and whilst his current form would typically entail risk in signing him, the lack of transfer fee negates this issue.
Why Arsenal benefit
How could letting Ozil move to Manchester United on a free transfer benefit Arsenal, I hear you ask?
The key lies in what the Gunners could demand from the Red Devils as a bargaining chip in any potential negotiations.
Also in the last year of his contract, Ander Herrera finds himself the fourth choice central midfielder behind Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini, despite a brilliant season in 2016/17 as one of Mourinho’s most trusted men.
If he remains the fourth choice for the majority of the season, Arsenal should do everything they can to convince the Spaniard to swap Manchester for London.
As I mentioned, many of Europe’s top stars are running down their contracts, but, aside from Lionel Messi, Herrera is probably the most risk-free of them all.
The epitome of consistency, Herrera guarantees you a seven or eight out of ten performance each week and his experience with United means he’s Premier League-ready for Arsenal, with no adjustment period.
At 28, he’s got plenty left in the tank, whilst he’s also a thoroughly professional character and a hard-working team player that carer little for individual acknowledgement. He also has a relatively clean injury record, he’s in top physical condition and he’s highly adaptable.
There’s virtually no risk and a very low chance of failure.
Welcome to the Emirates
If I was Arsene Wenger, forgetting the doubts over his longevity at the Emirates, I’d be thinking ahead for how best to lure Herrera to London.
Since the days of Patrick Vieira, Arsenal’s midfield has been crying out for a consistent, hard-working, tactically disciplined enforcer to patrol the middle third and provide cover for the defence whilst supplying the forwards with ammunition for attack.
Herrera does that and then some.
One reason Mourinho placed so much trust in him last season was that he’s extremely disciplined. He knows when to break and when to hold his position, unlike Arsenal’s current duo of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey.
Herrera is one of few players that pays attention to the state of the game, subtly adapting his role based on what his opponents are doing, rather than blindly following one-dimensional instructions.
He would provide determination, organisation and industry to one of the weakest areas of Arsenal’s teams and sacrifices Ozil, an eventual inevitability which is a price worth paying.
This is why Arsenal benefit from this potential deal and the fact that United are already well-stocked in the final third, with Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan providing similar attributes to Ozil, means the German is unlikely to see the pitch too regularly.
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