Unai Emery’s Mesut Ozil Problem Has One Solution: Play Him

Emery's Mesut Ozil problem
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 30: Mesut Ozil of Arsenal looks on during the Carabao Cup Round of 16 match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on October 30, 2019 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Unai Emery’s Mesut Ozil problem dates back to the Spaniard’s early days in the job. The Arsenal head coach is known to dislike the German’s work rate and even attitude. However, with the Gunners struggling mightily, the midfielder must come back into the fold to save not only the club’s season, but the coach’s job.

Unai Emery’s Mesut Ozil Problem: Only One Solution

Poor Relationship

The relationship between the player and coach is best surmised by the latter’s comments just weeks ago. The former Paris Saint-Germain boss told the media the reason Ozil wasn’t selected more was his work rate in training.

From Mesut Ozil’s performances on the pitch since arriving at Arsenal, this is easy to understand. The German is often derided for looking lackadaisical off the ball and being totally uninterested in pressing defenders.

Plus, there is the fact that Ozil expects special treatment. This is in large part thanks to the privileges he once enjoyed under Arsene Wenger, but to a lesser extent his strong brand image and global fan base.

However, Emery did not seem impressed by these facts ever since early last season. The result? A severe dearth of opportunities for Mesut Ozil.

Poor Results

When the team got the necessary results, this omission was permissible. At the end of the day, supporters want wins, even if they are ugly wins. However, now that the wins are drying up, fans want change.

Once more, the club needs change to get it out of an easily observable tailspin. Arsenal simply aren’t creating the scoring opportunities their strikers need to win them games, and their defence isn’t nearly strong enough to do it alone.

Sheffield United held them goalless before Vitoria Guimaraes nearly stole a win away from home last week. This week, Crystal Palace prevented almost any sort of semblance of a scoring chance from open play on Sunday.

Then, came the goal fiesta at Anfield on Wednesday. While Arsenal did go out after a penalty shootout, the bagged five goals away from home, a respectable haul even against a rotated side.

And key to much of the excellent attacking play was their number ten.

Unai Emery’s Mesut Ozil problem is simple: when he doesn’t play and the team wins, there is no problem, but they aren’t winning. That means a change must come soon.

Emery Must Not Be Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

There could be many reasons for Emery’s reluctance to play Ozil. His work rate and attitude are certainly among them, but part of it ostensibly seems like a power play, or an effort by the coach to stamp his mark on this team.

He clearly doesn’t value what Mesut Ozil does on the pitch. Even so, the player’s skill and even wages would normally dictate some sort of involvement. The German doesn’t like sitting on the bench, so a super-sub role is impossible, but even so he should get more chances than he has.

For example, when going to Sheffield last week the Gunners knew the Blades would sit back and defend. That means a player who could unlock a stubborn defence would serve the club well.

However, thanks to Unai Emery’s Mesut Ozil problem, the German was totally absent. The result? A lacklustre loss to midtable opposition where the only real chances came from set pieces. Not playing him here was simply penny wise and pound foolish from Emery.

With the club four points off of fourth-place Chelsea, the coach must swallow his pride.

The Alternative to Emery’s Mesut Ozil Problem

Should he not, Arsenal will likely only continue to spiral downwards in the table. If that happens, Emery will not continue in his job for very much longer, even if the Gunners are more patient with managers than some other clubs.

Plus, there is the off-field implication to consider. After Granit Xhaka‘s outburst against Palace, the dressing room seems very divided from the outside looking inward. Ozil is a popular figure in the dressing room and if he isn’t happy, likely one or two others aren’t as well.

A club facing adversity is only as strong as its weakest link. Right now, Xhaka seems a weak link as he doesn’t seem committed to the cause enough not to act out publicly. It is very possible that Ozil is nearing that point with Emery.

An Olive Branch?

After the narrow defeat away at Liverpool, Emery spoke to the media about the player:

“Yes he will feature [in future matches]. We have a match on Saturday and we will look at the possibility to use him again alongside other players and this is the way sometimes.”

So it seems that Unai Emery’s Ozil issue will be swallowed in the short term. That will hopefully mean better results for the club and, the coach will hope, possibly save Emery’s job.

Only time will tell whether this is just lip service or if Emery really does mean to involve the player more often. Fans will hope not only for better results but for the latter possibility as well.

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