The standoff between Unai Emery and Mesut Özil was the contretemps that threatened to define Unai Emery’s Arsenal reign until Granit Xhaka’s ‘are you not entertained?!’ skit on the Emirates turf on Sunday afternoon. In the off-pitch spin war, conducted on social media and in the sports pages, Emery is just not armed to take on one of contemporary football’s slickest PR operations. Emery is not a gifted communicator and is not renowned for his man-management skills either.

Emery has been criticised for his “hokey cokey” approach to Mesut Özil’s inclusion in the team. In fairness, the line seems to be that if the player works hard in training, he will be included in the squad and if he doesn’t, he won’t. That can be a moveable feast according to the player’s efforts at London Colney. A consistent line isn’t always met with consistent results.

That said, there does also seem to be inconsistency in the way Emery treats his players. He has tolerated his captain’s flaws and transgressions with far greater patience than he has his highest paid player. Nevertheless, while Arsenal fail to offer convincing performances, Özil’s PR war is being fought for him. There is no better footballer on earth than the one who is not playing while the team suffers.

How much of a panacea would the German be for the Gunners’ ills on the pitch, away from the digital space where the debate rages? He certainly made a convincing case at Anfield on Wednesday. The gorgeous assist for Maitland-Niles apart, he had a significant hand in both of Martinelli’s goals and in Lucas Torreira’s, providing a significant pass in the moves that led to both goals.

安菲尔德看到厄齐尔在他最好的,在空间中穿梭like a figure skater, finding nooks and crannies and pushing the ball along the turf like a hockey puck. His play was full of those suggestive, almost flirty nudges and flicks that always seem to find their target. He has a sixth sense for making the right decision in the final third. This is Good Özil and if we saw this in near enough every game, there would be no issue.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the greater freedom and the more balanced partnerships in the “cup team”, who have meted out far more fluent, entertaining football than their senior counterparts this season. During a barmy 5-5 draw where both teams consigned defending and structure to the dustbin, Özil was majestic. The question now is whether he can revive the ailing fortunes of “the first team” against opponents who won’t treat the fixture as an afterthought.



Mesut may be considered something of a relic now- a luxury playmaker in a league drunk on the charms of the high press- but he is still, almost certainly, the most talented player in the squad, even if his performances have been inconsistent for some time now. As recently as August, his status as an unused substitute in the North London derby was scarcely questioned because his stock had fallen so far. As the team has suffered and his fallout with Emery has grown uglier, his cache has grown again.

兵工厂struggle to create a high volume of shots on the opponents’ goal, especially away from home. Last Monday at Sheffield United, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang chased shadows and didn’t manage to touch the ball in the Blades area despite the fact that Arsenal were chasing the game for over an hour. He touched the ball in the penalty area only twice against Crystal Palace on Sunday, where the Gunners created only through set pieces.






If Emery considers his full-backs as a significant part of his team’s creative arsenal, there are few players better equipped to find them than the German. He had also created more chances than any of his teammates in the 5-0 thrashing of Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup before he was unceremoniously substituted, in what felt like a pointed, punitive gesture from the coach. Özil has played in three games this season now and he has performed well in each of them.

His assist data might never reach the heady heights of 2015-16, but if Emery wants to get his wide players to the by-line and into the avenue of opportunity, there are few better at finding those players. If anything, Mesut can play a valuable “pre-assist” role, but he has to take the responsibility to make that happen and make it happen regularly too, because there is space for him in an Unai Emery team. He might not represent the future, but at the moment, he doesn’t need to.

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