When Unai Emery was appointed back in May 2018 the hope amongst the Gunners faithful was that he’d be able to get more out of the current crop. His fresh (in comparison to Arsene’s) methods would take things up a level, increase the teams productivity and see us challenge for a place in the top four. I’ve made no secret of the fact my faith in the Spaniard has somewhat evaporated of late but in fairness we are just a solitary point away from United in 4th and despite the defeat in Borisov we stand a realistic chance of marching on to Europa League glory. “So what are you complaining about?” Well, I’m coming to that!
The on-going feud between Emery and Ozil continues to cast a shadow over our season and with no viable resolution in sight, you can’t help but feel its having a negative impact on the group, its an unwanted distraction and one I believe the manager to be largely responsible for. When Mesut Ozil penned his bumper contract back in January of last year the entire fanbase celebrated, we’d managed to tie down one of our biggest talents/assets for the foreseeable future despite having just watched Alexis Sanchez (in the same position) trade London for Manchester. Add to that, the fact we’d signed Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan during that same window and it felt as though despite the Chileans disappointing departure we were coming out of the window in better shape than when it opened on January 1st.
Along came Unai Emery in the summer of 2018, the ‘standout candidate’ with a dossier of how he planned to get the very best out of each and every squad member. The clubs hierarchy spoke of how he ‘wowed’ them into offering him the position but here’s my question…when he flicked to the page on which Mesut Ozil’s name was printed what did it say? “I will isolate Mesut, showing a total disregard for the £350k the club will be paying him each week” – of course it didn’t. Because if it did, theres no way this money obsessed institution would have hired him. Therefore, whatever has gone on between the two took place during the course of the season.
There have always been questions over Mesut’s body language and attitude but his quality has never been in doubt. On his day, he’s as good as any creative player in the world but it’s fair to say since arriving in North London back in 2013 his form has been ‘patchy’ for wanting of a better term.
So far this season we’ve heard of back injuries, illnesses, tactical emissions from the match day squad and whilst as supporters we can never be absolutely sure of whats gone on it feels as though the manager is trying to make an example of Mesut. If he’s sick, he cant play and the same goes for any injuries the German may be struggling with but if you’re going to leave Mesut out because you’d rather play Iwobi or Mkhitaryan (two players who also struggle with consistency) questions will be asked and rightly so.
Of late, Arsenal have struggled to play with any fluency, the creative spark has dimmed and the results have dipped in comparison to our early season form but I struggle to have sympathy for a manager who chooses to overlook his most talented individual week in, week out. The longer this goes on, the more toxic the entire situation becomes. Emery has a history of falling out with his star players, just ask Thiago Silva and Neymar but whether you agree with the managers stance or not…history tells us the modern day football club will most likely back the player and thats usually because of the level of investment required to make the deals happen (see Mourinho vs Pogba as a recent example).
I’d have expected Unai to come in, put his arm around Ozil, settle on a system that compliments him and give him a fair opportunity to prove himself behind Lacazette and Aubameyang. For years and years we had the creator but lacked top quality strikers, now we have both and we’re choosing to ignore Mesut’s talents. I’d challenge any of you to put forward a sensible case as to why Iwobi or Mkhitaryan are any better…I’ll wait.
If we are indeed restricted by FFP and have to make do with what we’ve already got the manager has to find a way of getting the maximum out of Ozil. When the end of the season comes, Unai will be entering the last year of his contract, if CL qualification isn’t achieved and the performances continue to stutter I fear for the Spaniards future. He’s almost heaping extra pressure on himself by taking this stance and I’m pretty sure that when push comes to shove and all the financials are taken into account its he who will be given his marching orders first.