A generous gesture or yet another move in the great PR battle?

Eufemia Didonato

But it is also hard to avoid the feeling that the Gunnersaurus episode is being simultaneously weaponised by Ozil and his advisors, who are savvy enough to know a PR opportunity when they see one. A day after Arsenal signed Thomas Partey for £45 million, the conservation around the club […]

But it is also hard to avoid the feeling that the Gunnersaurus episode is being simultaneously weaponised by Ozil and his advisors, who are savvy enough to know a PR opportunity when they see one. A day after Arsenal signed Thomas Partey for £45 million, the conservation around the club instead centred on Ozil’s statement. 

It is tempting to wonder whether Ozil had spoken to Quy before publishing his statement, which included the remarkable hashtag #JusticeForGunnersaurus. He certainly does not seem to have spoken to the club. If he had, they would have told him that discussions are ongoing about Quy’s role as the mascot, and that he has been made redundant from his position within the supporter liaison department rather than being sacked as Gunnersaurus.

Such details can be shrugged off when you are a figure as significant as Ozil, whose combined following on Instagram and Twitter is greater than the entire population of Spain. His standing within Arsenal may have dwindled, but he remains a powerful man when it comes to communication and image.

How to square Ozil’s generosity towards Gunnersaurus with his refusal to join the vast majority of his team-mates in taking a pay cut earlier this year? The German is the club’s highest-earner on £350,000-a-week, which works out at around £18 million per year for a player who has not featured in a competitive match since March. Arsenal have made 55 redundancies because of coronavirus-related cost-cutting measures.

When Ozil posts, there is often an undertone to his message. On deadline day he tweeted in support to Matteo Guendouzi, his fellow exile, after the Frenchman had secured a loan move to Hertha Berlin. “Show them that you’re a great football player,” Ozil said to Guendouzi, who has fallen out of Arteta’s plans because of behavioural issues. There was no message of support for Lucas Torreira, who also left on loan this week.

In the summer, Ozil tweeted “I am ready” as Mikel Arteta continued to omit him from the side, which effectively amounted to a claim that his absence had nothing to do with his own efforts or fitness. In October last year, he posted the message “You make me laugh…”, along with a picture of him smiling, after cameras had caught a tense exchange between him and head coach Unai Emery. 

In these episodes, the impression Ozil gives off is one of a man who is playing to his (enormous) fanbase. Support me, he seems to be saying, rather than the club. He made no attempt to repair his relationship with Arsenal in an interview in August, when he told the Athletic that he turned down the pay cut because the club did not give him enough information about where the savings would be going.

Not all of Ozil’s messages are little snipes at the club. He is politically conscious away from football and last year spoke out strongly against China’s persecution of Uighur Muslims in the country. Those messages were clearly nothing to do with his own personal difficulties with Arsenal, and there can be no questioning the sincerity of Ozil’s feelings on the matter. 

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