Emery: Ozil must fight for his place


Arsenal manager Unai Emery wants Mesut Ozil to fight to revive his flagging Gunners career.
The German’s future at the Emirates is under a huge cloud after he was omitted from the last two matches – although Arsenal are adamant Ozil was injured for Sunday’s epic 4-2 win over Tottenham.
Emery is reluctant to draw an indefinite line under Ozil’s Arsenal future but the hard-line manager wants to see a forceful reaction.
It is understood Emery – despite his obvious doubts over Ozil – still believes the ex-Real Madrid star can play a role for the club moving forward.
However the Gunners manager wants to see a change in attitude from Ozil and wants convincing the forward has the appetite to claw his way back into the team.
He is likely to miss Wednesday’s showdown against Manchester United, Emery insisting on Monday that Ozil was training alone in a bid to overcome the back problem that ruled him out of the north London derby.
Despite suspicion over Ozil’s latest injury set-back, it is understood the German is suffering from a back complaint, which is causing a difficulty in terms of mobility.
The extent of the injury is unclear. Indeed, there is a feeling by certain figures at the club’s London Colney HQ that Ozil could have made himself available for the clash against Tottenham. Even if he was available, the likelihood was that he would have started on the bench.
Emery is understood to have held a frank discussion with Ozil towards the end of last month, detailing in no uncertain terms what he expects, particularly in terms of intensity and work-ethic, from his No 10, and the Arsenal manager wants to be sure Ozil has the capacity to carry out his instructions.
It’s not that Ozil is a prima donna. Far from it. He is a popular member of the Arsenal squad; he is described as a quiet man, who isn’t a moments trouble. ‘He doesn’t ever moan, he just gets on with things,’ said one source.
Yet, his influence in the Arsenal dressing room during Arsene Wenger’s reign was unquestionable. The fact he was almost certain to start every game under the Frenchman irked some members of the squad.
Nevertheless, his position as Wenger’s golden boy made him a powerful presence in the dressing room – but in the space of four months, Emery – not necessarily by design – has dismantled that aura.
Figures close to Emery insist the Spaniard was keen to avoid the scenario he encountered at Paris Saint-Germain where Neymar called the shots.
Substituing Ozil in the second game of the season against Chelsea was the first sign of Emery’s refusal to consider dressing room politics when making decisions.
The fact he was omitted from the starting XI for the following game against West Ham underlined Emery’s stance.
Ever since, his influence has waned. Contrastingly, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s emergence as, arguably, Arsenal’s most important player is also worthy of note.
Aubameyang’s likeable persona – and performances on the pitch – have strengthened the Gabon striker’s influence in the dressing room.
Yet, with that said, Emery knows what he has in Ozil: a proven match-winner. The fact Ozil has captained the side under Emery illustrates just how highly the Arsenal manager rates the playmaker.
Yet if Ozil is to revive his career at the Emirates, he will have to do it Emery’s way. If not, then a parting of the ways seems inevitable.
However, the Gunners know finding a buyer for the 30-year-old will be easier said than done. Given his age, it is unlikely another European side would be willing to match Ozil’s current £350,000-per-week wages.
Similarly, Arsenal are reluctant to pay a portion of his £18million-per-year salary just to get him off the wage bill, which severely restricts Ozil’s options.
While Ozil’s influence appears to be waning, Emery’s is soaring. His tough approach has won players, who weren’t convinced by the manager, over.