When a new manager enters the dugout it can often result in contrasting fortunes for the players involved. In some cases, a man once overlooked by the previous regime is handed an opportunity to reignite their career. In other cases, a player once heralded as one of the most naturally gifted among the squad is cast aside like an upcoming starlet. Mesut Ozil’s current situation at Arsenal falls undeniably into the latter category and Unai Emery is the man who can offer him the final chance at this moment.
This kind of treatment is not something players and fans alike are new to. Take Jose Mourinho’s dealing with Juan Mata, for example. Winning Chelsea’s player of the season two years running did little to affect Mourinho’s thinking, as he opted to play Oscar in the number ten role when he returned to Stamford Bridge to retake the reins.
The reasons behind the Portuguese’s decision stemmed from a perceived lack defensive work rate from the Spaniard. Ultimately, his final season at Stamford Bridge went out with a whimper, and he departed for Old Trafford. Switch your gaze to the Northern end of the capital and what is taking place at the Emirates is a situation that bears a striking resemblance.
Emery’s first season at the club saw the German’s playing time dwindle rapidly as he made just 24 league outings -often in home clashes against the so-called ‘lesser’ teams – as his starring role in the creative slot faded at an alarming rate. Ozil could only manage a total of 1742 minutes last season, compared to 2164 minutes the previous season and 2848 minutes in the 2016/17 season (Whoscored).
With only five goals and two assists to show for last season, rumours were circulating throughout the summer that Emery was trying desperately to ship the £350k-per-week play-maker off to whichever bidder was willing to stump up (some of) his wages.
However, no suitors were forthcoming and instead Ozil was left to remain with the club he had no intention of leaving anyway. So, back to basics, right?
Firstly, the dreadful and terrifying incident involving Ozil and Sead Kolasinac where they were subject of an attempted robbery occurred. Fortunately, they both emerged physically unscathed but the mental scars understandably took time to heal and they saw some time off the pitch as they needed a bit to regain their composure.
Following the culmination of those events, Kolasinac found himself back in the side while Ozil was nowhere to be seen. He made the bench for the Tottenham match before his only league start of the season against an out of sorts Watford side – on paper.
Cruising in a first-half in which Ozil was on par with his teammates, the second-half collapse was laughable. And somehow, the bottom side in the league managed to set all sorts of record in 45 minutes as they took a remarkable 31 shots against the Gunners – the most Arsenal have amassed in a single game for a good number of 16 years.
31 – Arsenal faced 31 shots in their 2-2 draw against Watford, the most they have ever faced in a @premierleague fixture since Opta began collecting such data in the division in 2003-04. Barrage. pic.twitter.com/v6HET8uuEx
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 15, 2019
Yet, to point the finger at Ozil for the shambles on show is a damning assessment of a squad where the two most culpable players – David Luiz and Sokratis – were awarded with starting berths in the following league match.
Since then, Ozil has been shunned, frozen out and cast aside if you prefer to call it.
Mesut Ozil in Arsenal’s last eight games:
◾ Not in squad vs. Liverpool
◾ Unused sub vs. Spurs
◾ 71 minutes vs. Watford
◾ Not in squad vs. Frankfurt
◾ Unused sub vs. Villa
◾ 71 minutes vs. Forest
◾ Not in squad vs. United
◾ Not in squad vs. Standard Liege pic.twitter.com/ogXz3oXogq
— B/R Football (@brfootball) October 3, 2019
Arsenal currently sit third in the Premier League table – somehow just one point shy of Man City – without playing anywhere near the levels fans are expecting.
However, the defensive frailties remain (not Ozil’s fault) and the bizarrely defensive midfield trio Unai Emery is adamant on selecting are failing to excite in the final third, which once again is not the German’s fault.
It’s agreed that every manager has their own philosophy, their way of playing and certain traits in certain stars that appeal to them enough to choose them over other players. That’s fine and totally understandable as it’s their team after all.
But when you look at the Manchester United game where the Gunners were crying out for a player in the final third who could have provided the killer ball, or even just one moment of brilliance, Ozil was nowhere to be seen. Not even on the bench.
Not to say that the German is some kind of Messiah, far from it. But Emery’s insistence of not giving him a chance to prove his worth from the bench is a disrespectful ploy and an opportunity gone begging when matches have come round this season that have been screaming for that added dash of creativity in the final third.
Ironically, this same player who isn’t deemed good enough created the most chances for the Gunners last season despite seeing only minimal game time. That alone tells a story and that shows the obvious fact that with more game time, the German’s importance will become crystal clear.
Mesut Özil has created more chances (36) in the Premier League this season than any other Arsenal player.
He's played 1,352 out of the 2,790 available minutes. 〽️ pic.twitter.com/ZNdO7sKu1J
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 1, 2019
Emery recently spoke of his decision to omit him from the squad to face Standard Liege, saying:
“When I decided he shouldn’t be in the squad it’s because I think other players deserved it more.”
That in itself answers the question rather comprehensively. The likes of Bukayo Saka are more deserving of a place in the side than Ozil at present. Furthermore, if you ask the Arsenal fans who they’d rather having playing the ten role, you’ll find few who would put the 30-year-old in above either Dani Ceballos or Joe Willock.
And yes, in fairness to Emery, we don’t know whether he’s giving only 50% in training and looks rustier than old steel. But how will anyone know? How will he be able to prove that unless he’s given a fair roll of the dice. And no, that doesn’t include a 70-minute run out against Nottingham Forest.
When you’ve got a highly rated attacking midfielder who has created more chances for teammates at the club during Unai Emery’s tenure than any other player, it begs the question, why not let him prove himself in the league?
To cap it all off, he was named as one of five Arsenal captains ahead of the trip to Manchester United, so there is some confusion among the fan-base as to what message Unai Emery is trying to send out. Why name a player as one of your captains if he’s not even worthy of making the match-day squad? Rather strange.
Above all else, many fans would like to know just what the future holds for Ozil. Well, all the signs are pointing towards the Gunners trying to offload the 30-year-old in the new year. A report by the Guardian has now claimed Arsenal are open to letting him out of his misery and her open to selling him in January, with Turkish side Fernabache the likely destination at the moment. While the German’s wages makes any move for him difficult, it would be in his best interest to take a pay-cut and move somewhere else where he can be valued more and get proper playing time.