The Mesut Ozil Loyalty Conundrum – More Questions than Answers

Ozil slump

According to the Telegraph, Ozil has been quoted by Kicker magazine in Germany saying

“I feel very, very good with ­Arsenal and have shown my willingness to extend my contract with the club. The fans want me to stay. Now it’s down to the club. The club know that I’m here above all ­because of Arsène Wenger, who brought me here and whose trust in me I enjoy.  The club also know that I want to have clarity about what the manager is doing.”

This, unsurprisingly, has sparked reactions among the fan base – hardcore AKB gleefully believing it to be a strike on the WOB, the hardcore WOB perhaps slating our German star, others worrying about the future of the club and so on.

One tweet though, from a well known outspoken fan, got me thinking.  He tweeted that a player’s loyalty should be to a club and not a manager.

In an ideal world, that should be the case.

However, is it surprising that a player should be loyal to a manager over a club?

Let’s move away from football for a moment here.  In the corporate world, there’s a well known statement – taken from the title of a chapter from a book on leadership and management – that says

People leave managers, not companies.

Gallup’s, a globally leading market research firm, CEO Jim Clifton once said “The single biggest decision you make in your job—bigger than all the  rest—is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits—nothing.”

I have personally seen plenty of friends leave good jobs at good companies just because they had had enough of their managers.

The reasons have been various – the manager doesn’t invest in developing his/her subordinate, the manager overworks the employee with absolutely no empathy, the manager is incompetent, the manager does not empower the employee, among others.

Interestingly, most people, especially fresh graduates, usually join companies because of the company’s reputation and then comes the manager; but, leave usually because of the manager unless they have a really good offer from elsewhere knocking on their door.

It’s similar in football, players usually join clubs that they believe is an upgrade on their last club.  They may leave because a bigger club comes calling.

However, they may also leave because they’re not getting enough playing time – a decision from the manager.  They may leave because they don’t enjoy the role at their club – a decision from the manager.  They may leave because they feel their manager does not give them the attention they need or is developing them – a decision from the manager or even just poor management skills on part of the manager.

Ozil came from Real Madrid, so Arsenal was not necessarily an upgrade to him.  He, as stated by him, arrived in London because of Wenger.  He is also quoted to have said “whose trust in me I enjoy” – Wenger is well known to be a manager that empowers and Ozil obviously values that more than anything else.  Arsenal Football Club cannot empower Ozil, only his manager can.  Arsenal Football Club cannot keep Mertesacker on the bench, only the manager can.

Wenger empowers him

I have had four different managers in the last five years, before each new manager assumed his role I always had a fear about how much I would be empowered or developed etc.  At the end of the day, one wants to enjoy their work.

So, what about those that have stayed loyal to a club and not a manager?  The ones that fans love the most because those players obviously share the same love as them – the one football club.  It’s something I cannot answer but I do know the questions I would like answered:

  • Did they stay loyal because they felt they could not make it at a bigger club?
  • Did they stay loyal because they wanted to be associated with that particular club, despite less playing time, rather than be a regular at a club perceived as a smaller one?
  • Did they stay loyal because the culture at the club was something they had not experienced before and it suited them?
  • Did they stay loyal because it was their boyhood club so that sense of romance was very strong?
  • Did they stay loyal simply because they felt it was the right thing to do?

These questions are just off the top of my head but the answers to these questions would still reveal motivational drivers that are at a personal level for those players.

It’s easy for us to say that a player should be loyal to a club, like fans are, but we have to understand that supporting a club is not the same as playing for one.

That line above should have been my ending line but having re-read this post before submission, I just wonder if ‘loyalty’ is even the correct term to be used for terming Ozil’s apparent desire for Wenger to stay on longer.  I’ll leave you with this question:

Is it loyalty to Wenger or is it a fear that no other manager will be able to give Ozil what Wenger has been able to?



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9 Responses to The Mesut Ozil Loyalty Conundrum – More Questions than Answers

  1. soban January 9, 2017 at 1:52 pm #

    Situations like these male me question the role of board and the chelsea Roman is close the madrid perez is close to his players on a personal level.does the players at our club do not feel that the board is competent enough to get another WC manager who will make the players grow further or they have a feeling that this whole club is run by a single person and if another manager comes in he won’t have the same power wenger has right now.this is very unhealthy for the club if it is the case.

    • Omar Hasan Khan January 9, 2017 at 7:16 pm #

      I think, firstly, we don’t need to generalize that Ozil’s apparent concern is shared by the rest of the squad because we don’t have a basis to do so – the concern over the competence of the board being able to bring in a great replacement, or even the concern about the power the manager will have.

      Secondly, the examples of Abramovich and a Perez are interesting ones, I don’t know to what extent they are close to players but it cannot be denied that both of them probably interact with players a lot more than board members of other clubs. Does that uplift players? Maybe, maybe not. What’s the nature of those interactions? Who knows. It’s easy to assume that involvement with the players by the top brass of a club is a good thing but there are plenty of reasons why it can be a bad thing as well.

  2. sharcymt January 9, 2017 at 2:44 pm #

    If you look at the players who have stayed because of ‘the club’ – they typically are the ones who do not offer or perform as well as they should – Theo, Wilshere (until very recently) etc.

    There is something to be said about players feeling safe and secure at their beloved club, but unfortunately the club does not have the power to decide their fates i.e. move them on if not performing, as that overall decison is with the manager – at Arsenal at least. This is where complacency on the player’s side comes into play.

    • Omar Hasan Khan January 9, 2017 at 7:24 pm #


      Thanks for giving this a read and sharing your thoughts.

      I agree with your point in the first para to a certain extent – players may well be staying on because they feel they’re at a good club and may not cut it a bigger one.

      I believe, or it definitely seems like that the end of the day, the manager at any club will tell his board whether he wants certain players to stay or go. Personally I feel that’s how it should be because the manager knows his players better than the board and will know who is of value to him.

      The board is supposed to judge the manager, if then club’s objective is not met then the manager’s judgement on all matters will be questioned anyway.

  3. Tim Hargreaves January 9, 2017 at 5:05 pm #

    I’d like someone to try to tell Tony Adams or Lee Dixon that they were complacent at Arsenal. The same goes for John Terry at Chelsea – as much as I despise him as a person, the loyalty he has to his Club is admirable. Same also for Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gigi Buffon, Paolo Maldini…

    The Club most definitely do have the authority to get rid of an unwanted player – just ask Joey Barton! Clubs can choose to withhold a contract extension if they want rid of a player or manager.

    I think the Board is largely useless but I think Gazidis is quite smart and he will likely be the man tasked with finding Wenger’s replacement. I think he will make a good choice when the time comes.

    • Omar Hasan Khan January 9, 2017 at 7:33 pm #

      Hi Tim,

      Your point about Adams and Dixon is valid and that’s why we can’t generalize the motives behind loyalty.

      The ultimate power is most certainly with the board of a club but surely they take the opinion of the manager before making their decision. Unless of course they are sacking the manager!

      Is the board useless? I don’t know enough about their role to say. I hope you’re right about the replacement they find.

  4. Victor Thompson January 10, 2017 at 10:30 am #

    Hi Omar. Some interesting comments by you and Tim. I have just read an article in The Sun by Mark Irwin and Neil Ashton. It brings many of your concerns into focus. and it highlights a problem with World Class footballers that we have not been used to.

    When Ozil and Sanchez signed for us they were slightly better off financially than they had been with Madrid and Barcelona, but within a short time and with the advent of the flood of money from TV Rights they are suddenly among the elite players who command 300k per week. Arsenal are now in the ring with Billionaire Agents who represent billionaire players. These are sharp operators and their expertise ensures that the best players go to them. What is more, it is obvious that the players share experiences with other players.

    The agents have to keep up to the mark otherwise ( subject to contract ) their client`s move to another agent. In those circumstance, it suits their purpose, as is happening with Ozil and Sanchez, to join forces and make a two pronged attack for improved terms. Gazidis is dealing with a concerted plan from his two best players to accede to their demands or he loses both at the same time. That obviously has huge effects on the club.

    If they leave, it will send the message to other super stars that they should not go to Arsenal because they cannot or will not pay top money. A precedent will also have been set for the rest of the team. If two can do it, so can four or more. so they will see better pay and conditions as their priority rather than improving Arsenal`s position. That is not loyalty.

    I don`t think that Ozil is any more loyal to Wenger than he would be to anyone else. He undoubtedly loved the way he was received when he came to Arsenal. Suddenly he was a big fish in a small pond and the fan worship was something he had not been used to at Madrid. Sanchez has received recognition far beyond anything he had at Madrid. He is living in one of the great capitals in the world and it must have been intoxicating. His style of football and never-say die attitude endears him to the fans so that he is possibly the most popular player we have.

    Both of them are at a pedestal in their careers and their agents are maximising their potential for mutual gain. The rewards are immense, so Arsenal will just have to learn to accommodate the position they are in or capitulate. With the right outcome, Ozil and Sanchez will once more become loyal hard-working pros and in Ozil`s mind at least, Wenger is his best prospect.

    I have no idea how Gazidis and other executives in his position will cope with an “Agent`s Union” where they join forces to maximise their impact. There will have to be reciprocal arrangements by clubs in the form of an agreement for all of them to refuse to deal with cartels of agents, otherwise the fans will be mere onlookers while their beloved clubs are held to ransom. One of the most unpalatable aspects for clubs is that the huge fees these agents charge are a huge addition to the price of the player which is not advertised as part of the deal.

    • Omar Hasan Khan January 11, 2017 at 5:38 am #

      Hi Victor,

      Thanks for your comment, appreciated as always!

      Would it be possible for you to share the link of the article you’re referring to? Would like to read it before I can say anything.

  5. Victor Thompson January 11, 2017 at 12:54 pm #

    Sorry Omar. It was an article in yesterdays Sun under the headline “Ozil vow puts heat on Weng”,

    Authors are said to be Mark Irwin and Neil Ashton.

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