Ozil contract offers dilemma for Arsenal: To keep or not to keep?
It's looking increasingly likely that Mesut Ozil will leave Arsenal for free next summer, with Arsene Wenger having conceded that contract talks are on hold with the German star.
The question for Arsenal now is, how hard should they try to keep him?
Losing one of the world's best playmakers for free is undoubtedly a big financial blow, but Arsenal must also ask themselves whether Ozil is really worth the £300,000 a week or so that he's apparently after.
Ozil continues to divide opinions with his habit of mixing virtuoso midfield performances with disappearing acts. In the 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday he was sublime. In the preceding 4-0 loss at Liverpool, he was invisible.
While Alexis Sanchez's exit looks inevitable next summer, Wenger remains hopeful Ozil can be convinced to stay. Arsenal will undoubtedly make a renewed offer before the season is over. But should they really break the bank for the German and allow his demands to shatter the club's wage structure? Or do they stick to their guns and allow him to walk out?
Here is a look at the arguments for both sides ...
Pay him what he wants
Ozil is Arsenal's greatest playmaker since Dennis Bergkamp (sorry, Cesc Fabregas) and one of the best players in the Premier League. Since his arrival at Arsenal in 2013, the German leads the league in both chances created and assists and not even his biggest detractors can argue with those stats.
When Ozil is at his best, his passing displays are worth the price of admission on their own. So keeping him at the Emirates is worth every penny. Not only can he be the difference between a top four spot and missing out on the Champions League, his presence at Arsenal raises the status of the club and makes it easier to attract other top attacking talent. Which striker wouldn't want to play in front of Ozil?
Players like him separate the truly top clubs from the also rans. If Arsenal really want to play at the top, they have to pay top rates.
Spend the money elsewhere
Ozil is a great player. When he wants to be. But is he truly a title winner? In his four seasons at Arsenal, the team haven't managed to sustain one single title challenge into May and that's in part because Ozil can't sustain a consistent run of performances. Much like Arsenal, he has serious dips in form every year that end up hurting the team -- and those dips often tend to come in crucial games against top rivals.
If Arsenal are to build a true title contenders and break out of this stasis, it may be time to build the team around a different star.
And let's look at the numbers for a second. Paying Ozil £300,000-a-week equates to more than £15 million a year. If he signs a four-year deal, the cost of keeping him is more than £60m.
You can get a pretty decent replacement for that money, even in today's crazy market. In addition, Arsenal have to look at the ripple effect of paying mega-money to one star (or two, if Sanchez was to stay). Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck will need to negotiate new deals soon as well, and Ozil's salary will be used as the benchmark by all of their agents. So in that way, the true cost of keeping Ozil actually becomes much higher.
The player who showed up against Bournemouth might be worth that expense. The player who failed to turn up at Anfield isn't.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.