Mikel Arteta has said Mesut Ozil’s wages will “never” have an impact on his team selection as the German playmaker waits to make his first appearance for the club since the restart of the Premier League.
Ozil, who earns £350,000 a week and is by some distance Arsenal’s highest earner, has not featured in any of their four matches since the restart. He was not included for Sunday’s FA Cup trip to Sheffield United because he was suffering from “back soreness”, the club said.
Ahead of Arsenal’s meeting with Norwich City on Wednesday, Arteta said he expects any player who is not in the team to feel “hurt and disappointed”, adding he believes Ozil is “not very happy” because he is not being selected.
Ozil’s non-involvement, and his refusal to join the majority of the squad in taking a pay cut earlier this year, means he has earned almost £2 million from the club without playing a competitive minute since Arsenal returned to group training in May.
His wages represent a significant strain on club finances, which have been further stretched by the coronavirus pandemic, but Arteta insisted the 31-year-old’s salary has no bearing on whether he is chosen to play or not.
“Never,” said Arteta. “That is an agreement that the player and the club were happy to do, to move ahead, and it is never that [which] I question. I think players are paid whatever they deserve because there are two parties here [the player and the club] and that should never be something I have to judge.”
Asked if Ozil is frustrated by his lack of game time since the restart, Arteta said: “I’m expecting a player that is not playing to feel hurt and disappointed. I believe that he is not very happy because he is not playing, but as well he picked up an injury the other day and we have to wait and see how it evolves.”
Meanwhile, Arteta wants the loan deal of teenage defender William Saliba at St-Etienne to be extended so the teenager can play in the French Cup final. Saliba joined Arsenal for £25 million last summer and was immediately loaned back to St-Etienne for the season.
The French league has been cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis, but the Coupe de France final between St-Etienne and Paris St-Germain will be played on July 24.
“I think he needs to stay there,” said Arteta. “We have got an agreement with St-Etienne, he has been over there all year. He has earned the right to play in that final if the manager wants to do that. I think we have to give him the opportunity to do that, to enjoy that and we can have him after that.”
The loan of Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Roma has been extended until the end of this season, with a “preliminary agreement” also reached for the player to return to Italy next season. Mkhitaryan is also one of Arsenal’s highest earners, so the removal of his salary off the wage bill will help relieve some of the pressure on the club’s finances.