Unai Emery caused a bit of a debate between Arsenal fans after Mesut Ozil was benched for the game against Bournemouth yesterday afternoon.
The Spaniard opted not to start the German playmaker against the Cherries in what proved to be a physical, hard-fought battle in which the Gunners eventually came out on top thanks to a fortunate (but brilliantly taken) own goal by Jefferson Lerma and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s tap in on the 67th minute.
The win extended Arsenal’s unbeaten run in all competition to 17, but much was made of Ozil’s exclusion from the starting line-up. In fact, Ozil didn’t even manage to come off from the bench, and when Emery was questioned on why he dropped the former Real Madrid star in the post-match interview, the Spaniard said:
“We thought how we can be better in the match, a very demanding match with physicality and intensity.
“But every player is important. We worked today, and it is another possibility to improve or find our best performance in the squad.
“In the beginning of the season we were speaking every day about the need to be competitive. We need to be organised, we need the individual quality to improve our performance.
“It’s the same today. It depends. It depends how the match is going, what the result is. I decided for another option. We knew this is a difficult stadium, a difficult team.
“A lot of matches are coming up – Tottenham, Manchester United. And also we are going to play against teams with the same objectives as us.”
Ozil has started 10 of Arsenal’s 13 Premier League games so far this season and was given the captain’s armband for the four games prior to the Bournemouth one.
The German midfielder has notched up three goals and one assist when he has featured.
But was Emery right to drop Ozil from the starting line-up yesterday?
With the wages Ozil pockets weekly (£350,000) you do expect him to feature regularly. He is arguably Arsenal’s best creative player (despite his stats this season) and when on form, the German is wonderful to watch on the ball. So, you do feel he should be in the starting line-up consistently. However, Ozil’s commitment and work-rate has been and continues to be questioned, more so even after signing a new deal.
Changes to personnel and system are required during the season and dependent on opposition, and I agree that Ozil’s exclusion from the line-up yesterday was justified in the end.
Could it become a recurring theme in upcoming weeks due to Emery’s formation preference?
Perhaps. But I would argue that Ozil is better than Henrikh Mkhitaryan in terms of creating and passing ability, with the Armenian well out of form this season for Arsenal.
Ozil should be starting nearly every game if fit. However, changes do need to be made to not only accommodate other members of the squad, but also to get the best result possible on the day.