Arsenal left out their highest-paid player and superstar Mesut Ozil for the win at Bournemouth on Sunday and manager Unai Emery has explained why.
Ozil, 30, was left on the bench and didn’t come on as Arsenal won 2-1 in a tight, tense clash down on the South Coast.
Asked if leaving Ozil out of the team was a tactical decision, Emery explained that he was looking for more physicality and intensity from the Gunners.
“We thought about how we could be better with a very demanding match with physicality and intensity and we decided [to not play him],” Emery said. “Also, today we played with three centre-backs, like some moments in the season we will work like this and it’s another possibility for improvement, to find our best performance in the squad.”
Emery appeared to also suggest, when pressed further by reporters for an answer, that he may have a lack of trust in Ozil.
“In the beginning of the season we were speaking every day, saying ‘we need to be competitive, we need to be organised and we need individual quality to better our performance’, it is the same today,” Emery added.
Does this decision make sense? Arsenal won at Bournemouth, who had been flying high, to stretch their unbeaten run to 17 games in all competitions, so you can’t argue with Emery leaving Ozil out. Arsenal seemed better balanced than they have been in a recent run of three-straight draws in the PL against Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Wolves.
But it does suggest that the German playmaker is not valued as highly by Emery as he was by the club when he was handed a new $450,000 per week contract back in January. Ozil didn’t warm up during the game and the likes of Aaron Ramsey (who will be free to leave the club in the summer) and youngsters Mateo Guendouzi and Eddie Nketiah came on instead of Ozil.
Emery has hooked Ozil off early in games so far this season and despite his status as one of the biggest superstars in Europe, the playmaker isn’t an automatic selection for Arsenal, especially in this more defensive 3-4-3 system.
That is refreshing from Emery and sends out a clear message to the rest of the squad: pull your weight or you aren’t playing.