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Why ongoing contract negotiations are set to define Arsenal

Mesut Özil signing a new contract is of paramount importance for Arsenal and not just because of his quality. If reports in the Telegraph are true and the German architect is willing to accept just £200,000 a week, when he could easily push for £250,000, then Özil is putting the Emirates outfit on a pedestal as a club.

While £200,000 is still a lot of money, Özil’s priority seems to be competing for trophies. It seems like it is only a matter of time until a new deal is penned, and while Arsene Wenger would surely pay anything to keep one of the world’s best ‘number 10s’ at the club, it remains to be seen if Arsenal can compete for the league title.

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A new contract for the German magician would also pave the way for forward partner Alexis Sanchez, who, according to reports in the Independent, is less likely to sign a new deal. If Sanchez, Özil and right-back Hector Bellerin (who has recently put pen to paper) were all to sign new deals, then it would highlight the transformation in Arsene Wenger’s side in recent years. They have been a selling club for the past 10 years after making the switch from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium, but the stadium is now paid off and the excuses for Wenger are long gone.

He will have to keep hold of his best players if he wants to remain in the manager’s hot seat, because patience amongst the fans is at an all-time low. Rumours that Özil and Sanchez are holding out on new deals, in order to see if Arsenal can compete amongst the very best and display a genuine desire to win the Premier League title, have hardly helped. Meanwhile, supporters were disappointed, once again, when Wenger failed to use the summer as a window to buy a world class striker. Olivier Giroud offers an excellent aerial threat and fantastic hold up play, and Sanchez has been deployed as the world class striker Arsenal require. However, the lack of depth there is still questionable.

The signings of Mustafi and Xhaka have been pivotal to the Gunners, and they will look to build on that by sealing new deals with their star players, even if it means breaking their previously strict wage budget restrictions. The atmosphere at the Emirates does seem to be at a high, and Wenger claims this his strongest squad ever. While that may be true, the competition among the higher clubs has never been more intense, and with television money being more evenly spread, the Premier League is more competitive than ever.

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A disappointing performance against Manchester United, both for Arsenal and for Özil, has brought into question whether the Gunners have got the bottle to challenge for the title. Despite a standout performance against Chelsea earlier this season, the German’s performances against other big clubs has often come into question. Yet he continues to outshine those around him, even the hard working Chilean Alexis Sanchez, who seems rejuvenated this year.

The way he glides around the pitch and takes players out of the game with a deft touch or a devastating pass is phenomenal, and Özil certainly seems to be fighting to be amongst the “world class” bracket – a bracket which very few Premier League players fall into.

Contract talks can often be an unwanted distraction, so Wenger will do well to be as swift as possible in answering the demands of his key players, especially Özil. The rumour mill is more brutal than ever, and squashing unwanted transfer speculation should be a priority on the French head coach’s list if he wants to keep the solid atmosphere that he has created so far this season.