The strange dynamic between Unai Emery and Mesut Ozil remains intriguing, as Arsenal’s manager has been talking about Ozil’s absence from his recent squads.
Ozil, 30, wasn’t selected in Arsenal’s 18-man squad for their defeat at West Ham last weekend and after that game Emery said it was because others “deserved” to play ahead of the German playmaker.
But with the highest-paid player in Arsenal history now fit after a few injuries, Emery believes he could be in contention to play against Chelsea this Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) at the Emirates Stadium.
Is he ready to play in a massive London derby?
“Now? He’s training consistently with his work over the past two weeks and I think he can be,” Emery said. “I like to create the same spirit for all, and that spirit is every players gets and gives consistent work and moments with their performances but it’s not easy. Sometimes you are better and sometimes you are worse. I’m working with every player in the same way. The most important thing for me is how he can help us and how every player can help us with their consistency.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement as to how important Ozil is for Arsenal as they aim to push Chelsea and others all the way to finish in the top four.
Asked if Ozil could leave the Gunners in January due to his lack of game time and the obvious fact that he just doesn’t suit Emery’s high-pressing style of play, the Spanish coach was a little coy.
“I’m not thinking about that [Ozil leaving in January]. I’m thinking about how he can help us this year with good performances,” Emery added. “He’s had injuries and not been okay to play matches, but now after these two weeks maybe this Saturday will be okay for him.”
Ozil’s future at Arsenal seems anything but certain, but if he was to play against Chelsea on Saturday, how would Emery slot him into this team?
He could perhaps play as one of two attacking midfielders just off Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as Emery has used a narrow 3-4-2-1 formation at times this season.
Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette could play underneath Aubameyang, but that would be a little harsh on Alex Iwobi who has played well on the left in recent months and it could also upset the balance of Arsenal’s side as one of Ozil or Lacazette would be expected to track back defensively.
It’s easy to see why Emery is having a tough time slotting Ozil into the lineup but given the lack of creativity the Gunners showed in the final third against West Ham, the German could be handed an olive branch by his manager for this huge clash. It is up to Ozil to now take it, and if he doesn’t his time at Arsenal could be all but over.