Unai Emery continued to show his disinterest in playing Mesut Ozil on Wednesday night in Arsenal’s 5-5 Carabao Cup draw with Liverpool at Anfield. The Gunners went on to lose the match on penalties after twice leading Liverpool by two goals. Ozil, who has won three FA Cups with Arsenal, started the match against the Reds and starred as the Gunners’ playmaker tallying an assist in the second half.
Ozil exited the match on 65 minutes for Matteo Guendouzi. Emery would then undo the defensive substitution by removing Lucas Torreira and putting on Dani Ceballos. The on-loan Real Madrid midfielder’s saved penalty in the shootout was the difference as the Gunners crashed out of the cup. Emery’s decision to make a defensive substitution with Guendouzi coming on only to follow it up with an attacking move is baffling. The manager has made many confusing moves both tactical and personnel wise in the last 12-months plus to Arsenal fans’ displeasure.
Ozil frozen out
Emery’s disinterest in playing Ozil is one of his biggest mistakes at the Emirates. Ozil has played just three times in all competitions for Arsenal this season. How the German has been good enough to be selected to appear in just one Premier League match is incredible. Even in his one Premier League performance, Emery played Ozil a mere 71 minutes.
That one appearance came against Watford in mid-September and since then, Ozil has made the substitutes bench just once in five league matches for Arsenal. Emery has left the playmaker out of the team in four straight league games. Yet, Ozil’s play against Liverpool on Wednesday begs the question: why doesn’t the manager favour him?
Mesut Ozil by the numbers
Regardless of your stance on Ozil, he performed well against the Premier League leaders tallying a 94% pass success rate. He made two key passes with 34 of 36 passes being accurate. It was Ozil’s smart play that prevented the ball going over the end line and allowing Ainsley Maitland-Niles to score Arsenal’s third goal.
Ozil took 44 touches during his 65 minutes on the pitch. For as few touches as he had, Ozil did well with the ball and was always positive. That doesn’t seem to register with Emery who wants a high-tempo attack. However, Ozil’s play hasn’t slowed down the Gunners and they were far better with him on the pitch than without him on Wednesday night.
Making an impact
Although Ozil only had one assist against Liverpool, the midfielder had a hand in three of Arsenal’s goals. After the fixture, former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher claimed Ozil “has to be a first-team regular at Arsenal”.
Many of Arsenal’s supporters will back Carragher’s statement following the match. As Ozil left the pitch, a chorus of boos were sent from the Arsenal travelling support toward Emery.
After the match, Emery stated the decision to substitute Ozil was made before the match to give him rest after he had worked so hard. Being that Ozil has appeared in just three matches, it seems Emery’s explanation was a bit hollow.
There is a belief that Ozil could play on Saturday against Wolverhampton Wanderers, but with the way Emery has treated the German, Arsenal supporters will have to see him play to believe it. If Arsenal want to improve on the pitch and return to the Champions League, then Ozil needs to play.