Gun­ners fir­ing on all cylin­ders pose ques­tions over Me­sut Ozil’s fu­ture

Even if Ozil is given green light to re­turn there are no guar­an­tees that Emery will pick the Ger­man

Gulf Times Sport - - FOOTBALL -

Me­sut Ozil has missed Arse­nal’s last four matches and may be ab­sent again when the Gun­ners host Hud­der­s­field Town to­day. The 30-year-old play­maker is be­ing treated for a back prob­lem and man­ager Unai Emery has hinted that he could be passed fit if he comes through yesterday’s ses­sions with the club’s phys­io­ther­a­pist un­scathed.

The Ger­man had been on the train­ing ground on Thurs­day “run­ning and touch­ing the ball”, Emery told a press con­fer­ence. But even if Ozil is given the green light to re­turn there are no guar­an­tees that Emery will pick the club’s high­est earner, even for the bench. That de­spite be­ing a World Cup win­ner in 2014, and a player with skills few oth­ers on the planet can re­pro­duce, es­pe­cially when it comes to set­ting up col­leagues to score. Emery, it seems, had al­ready de­cided he could do with­out the for­mer Ger­many in­ter­na­tional in his com­pre­hen­sive over­haul of a squad that had for­got­ten how to win tro­phies un­der pre­vi­ous man­ager Arsene Wenger.

It was the French­man who had sanc­tioned a salary-dou­bling, £350,000-a-week, three-year con­tract ex­ten­sion for Ozil just three months be­fore step­ping down as man­ager. Ozil’s omis­sion from the start­ing line-up at Bournemouth on Novem­ber 25 was the big re­veal to a world that could not fail to no­tice.

Emery’s ex­pla­na­tion could hardly be mis­in­ter­preted ei­ther: Ozil was named on the bench — and left there for the en­tire game — at Bournemouth be­cause his man­ager felt he could not deal with the “phys­i­cal­ity and in­ten­sity” of the Gun­ners’ op­po­nents.

Few failed to no­tice at the time that the rea­son for his omis­sion car­ried lit­tle weight as Bournemouth are one of the least ag­gres­sive in the Premier League. His ab­sence mat­tered lit­tle as the Gun­ners’ un­beaten run sim­ply car­ried on with­out him. The Gun­ners can take that to 21 matches against the Ter­ri­ers with Ozil’s re­turn to the side likely to be de­layed till they play Qarabag in the Europa League next week. Wenger, in his fi­nal sea­son, used the com­pe­ti­tion to keep fresh fringe men he had de­cided not to em­ploy in the Premier League even though three of them — Eng­land duo Theo Wal­cott and Jack Wil­shere plus Olivier Giroud of France — were in­ter­na­tion­als of ex­pe­ri­ence and rep­u­ta­tion.

Ozil is not the only world class player to sud­denly find them­selves un­able to get into the start­ing elevens, Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and ex-Gun­ner Alexis Sanchez fall­ing foul of the volatile Jose Mour­inho at Manch­ester United. Emery wants his play­ers to work hard off the ball and at­tack with in­ten­sity with it and Ozil, for all his at­tributes, seems to tick nei­ther of those boxes. Ozil’s post-World Cup fall out with Ger­many can­not have helped ei­ther, com­ing at a time when ev­ery Arse­nal player knew he had to im­press the new man af­ter years of in­er­tia un­der Wenger.

The player felt he was the vic­tim of both racism and dis­re­spect be­cause of his Turk­ish roots, claim­ing “I am Ger­man when we win, but I am an im­mi­grant when we lose”. Such sen­ti­ments were no doubt gen­uine and de­serv­ing of sym­pa­thy but Emery ap­pears to care about one is­sue only: whether a player can thrive un­der his sys­tem. The an­swer to that, at the mo­ment at least, ap­pears to be no for Me­sut Ozil.

ARSE­NAL PLAY­ERS FILMED US­ING ‘HIPPY CRACK’

Mean­while, Arse­nal said yesterday they will “re­mind play­ers of their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties” af­ter a video emerged that ap­pears to show a num­ber of stars in­hal­ing ni­trous ox­ide. Play­ers in­clud­ing Me­sut Ozil, Pierre-Em­er­ick Aubameyang, Alexan­dre La­cazette and Mat­teo Guen­douzi fea­ture in the footage, which ap­pears to come from CCTV footage and was pub­lished by the Sun news­pa­per.

In a state­ment Arse­nal said: “The play­ers will be spo­ken to about this and re­minded of their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as representatives of the club.”

Ni­trous ox­ide, also known as laugh­ing gas or “hippy crack”, is freely avail­able al­though it is tech­ni­cally il­le­gal to sell it for recre­ational pur­poses. In the video, which re­port­edly comes from a Lon­don venue shortly be­fore the start of the cur­rent sea­son, other Gun­ners play­ers in­clud­ing Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan can be seen re­ject­ing the of­fer to use the gas.

The footage is the lat­est to show top play­ers be­ing linked with ni­trous ox­ide. Ra­heem Ster­ling was warned by his then club Liver­pool af­ter footage emerged of him us­ing the sub­stance in 2015. In the same year, Jack Gre­al­ish was warned by the then As­ton Villa man­ager, Tim Sher­wood, af­ter pic­tures emerged of him ap­pear­ing to in­hale the gas, and Saido Ber­ahino was rep­ri­manded by West Brom for a sim­i­lar in­ci­dent in 2014.

When an im­age was posted of then Tot­ten­ham player Kyle Walker in 2013, apol­o­gised on Twit­ter.

Me­sut Ozil is be­ing treated for a back prob­lem and man­ager Unai Emery has hinted that he could be passed fit if he came through yesterday’s ses­sions un­scathed.

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