The perceived standoff between head coach Unai Emery and playmaker Mesut Özil has certainly been one of the biggest talking points of Arsenal’s current campaign. Özil, the club’s highest-paid player by quite some margin, has managed just 14 Premier League starts so far this season. Though the former World Cup winner has endured a few minor injuries throughout the season, Emery has also left him out of the squad due to “tactical” reasons.
These tactical reasons and lack of trust in Özil seemingly stem from effort/intensity concerns with the player. The former Real Madrid star has faced criticism for his playing style for years. Though his visually relaxed approach on the pitch is not everyone’s cup of tea, no one can deny Özil’s ability to create goal-scoring chances for his teammates. Few Premier League players, if any, do it better.
Regardless of his demeanor, Özil is an important piece to the Arsenal puzzle. The Gunners are clearly a more dynamic team with the German in the starting XI. Despite only making 14 league starts, Özil still leads his team in key passes (30). Arsenal as a team is also averaging just above two goals per league game when the German is in the starting lineup. And it’s not just scoring goals either, the north London outfit has not lost a match in all competitions with Özil in the starting XI in over six months (14 total matches).
With his style even more under the microscope as of late, Özil has stepped it up. The creative connoisseur has not only racked up seven key passes in his last three Premier League games, but he also has eight attempted tackles as well (193 total minutes). The eight tackle attempts are double what he previously accumulated in his previous six league matches. Though he did not become the highest-paid player in the team by making tackles, a more active role on the pitch should make Emery happy.
Following Arsenal’s 5-1 dismantling of Bournemouth on Wednesday, a game in which Özil had a goal & an assist, Emery praised his playmaker. When asked about Özil’s performance during his post-match interview, the head coach replied with “Good.” The Spaniard went on to say, “I think he’s happier with us. I am now also very proud of players and the same with Mesut. He helped us with his quality and his work also to organize and play in different systems.”
With both Emery and Özil apparently happy at the moment, it will be interesting to see if the head coach trusts his star player for the upcoming massive match away to bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur. The German has proved his worth as of late; however, Emery has not given him an away start since Boxing Day.