Arsenal great Thierry Henry has praised Gunners coach Mikel Arteta for his successful start to life at the Emirates Stadium, but urged him to prioritize resolving the ongoing uncertainty around Mesut Ozil’s status at the club.
The Germany playmaker hasn’t featured for the North London heavyweights since March, and having not been registered for either their Premier League or Europa League squads, won’t be turning out for the FA Cup holders any time soon.
Despite being given the opportunity to impress during the early days of Arteta’s tenure, the rookie Spanish head coach has opted to sideline the 32-year-old, whose eye-watering £350,000-per-week ($460,000) contract makes him the club’s best paid player.
“I see with Mikel that the passion is back, the happiness is back, obviously he gave them a good solidity,” Arsenal legend Henry told CBS Sports podcast Que Golazo, as per Metro. “Now he needs to deal with what he needs to deal with: the Ozil case and other cases.
“When you inherit a team from someone, you need to make sure you can clear some stuff, because it just doesn’t happen overnight.”
The relationship between Ozil and Arsenal has soured in recent months, with the former Real Madrid man accusing the Londoners of a lack of loyalty as they continue to allow him to rot with the club’s reserve side despite offering him a new multi-year contract in January 2018.
While Henry insists that Arteta cannot take the blame for Arsenal’s move to tie Ozil down to a longer deal, he is wary that the club’s decision to offer him a new contract in 2018 may slow down the club’s renaissance under the ex-Manchester City assistant coach.
“And then people are like ‘Oh, oh, oh, he didn’t give all those contracts to some of those players’,” Henry continued. “So he needs to make sure he needs to bring the players that he needs to adapt to his system, and that takes time.
“On top of everything, in this league it takes even more time because the competition is crazy.”
For Henry, Arteta can take inspiration from the example of Jurgen Klopp, who required several transfer windows of intensive surgery on the Liverpool squad he inherited in order to forge a side that could not only compete for the title but go on to clinch silverware both domestically and in Europe.
Liverpool were languishing in 10th place in the Premier League in October 2015, when the Reds turned to Klopp to replace Brendan Rodgers, but finally ended their three-decade wait for the Premier League title earlier this year.
“To build a team it doesn’t happen just like that overnight,” the 43-year-old added. “I always use Klopp as an example. I remember when he first arrived, he couldn’t hold a lead.
“They would be 3-0 up, 3-3. They score, they concede four, [it] took him two and a half to three years to have a completed team.
“Now everybody respects what he does – and rightly so by the way because he’s a hell of a manager – but then from them understanding what he wanted he went and bought pieces that were missing: [Virgil] Van Dijk, Alisson, Fabinho, and some others now, but at the beginning it took him two and a half years or so for them to understand his philosophy, because it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Under Arteta, Arsenal have struggled for consistency so far this term, winning four and losing three of their seven Premier League matches. They continue their campaign away against Aston Villa on Sunday evening, having dispatched Molde with ease in the Europa League on Thursday.