Unai Emery left Mesut Ozil out of Arsenal’s League Cup squad against Tottenham on Wednesday. Leaving a star player out of a League Cup squad may not sound like a big deal, but when Emery was asked why he left the German out he stated it was a “tactical decision.”
He further elaborated saying, “I thought the players that were with us today the best choices for this match.” Considering Emery played a full strength team, this seems to be him saying he has dropped Ozil. Since then, multiple news outlets, including the Times and the Independent, have reported that Emery is open to selling his number 10 in January, only six months after taking over and saying the German would be a big part of his plans.
Emery dropping and attempting to sell the team’s best player only a year after they extended his contract for massive money is a bold move. Now that he has publicly declared he has dropped him, there may be no going back for the Spaniard. He’s putting his Arsenal career at risk with this decision
This is now the second long-term Arsenal player Emery has fallen out with. The Spaniard declared he would build his team around Aaron Ramsey this summer, but had dropped him by October and the BBC’s David Ornstein has reported that the club took any contract offer for the Welshman off the table.
Ramsey is a popular player, scoring the winning goal in two FA Cup finals, but a decision on his contract was coming. For better or for worse, Emery decided that it was best not to re-sign him. When you take into account the fact that he has a long injury history, he’s about to turn 28 and he can be hard to fit into a team, it’s a fair decision.
Ozil’s situation is very different from Ramsey’s. He had already signed a new contract that made him the club’s top earner when Emery came in. When he was interviewed for the job, it is likely that getting the most out of his best was one of Emery’s objectives. After six months, he seems to have given up on his best and his highest-paid player.
Ultimately, Emery’s main objective is to get Arsenal back into the Champions League. If he does not see Ozil as part of that plan that is his decision to make. But deciding not to use one of the team’s best players raises the stakes of this season for the Spaniard.
Arsenal currently sit in fifth place and on pace for 76 points. While that’s not where they want to be, if the Arsenal fans and board were told before the season they would finish the season with 76 points, they would probably have taken that. If Emery used all the players at his disposal well and the club just misses out on the Champions League places with a respectable point tally, it’s likely that it would be seen as a good, if unlucky season.
Emery willingly not using his best players changes things. If Arsenal finish fifth and fail to win the Europa League after consistently playing the likes of Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan over Ozil, the fans and Emery’s bosses may be less forgiving.
Freezing out your team’s best player is a risky thing for a manager to do. If they do that and don’t achieve the club’s desired results it can put them in hot water, as we just saw with Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Paul Pogba at Manchester United.
If Emery wants to end Ozil’s Arsenal tenure, it’s his decision to do that. But he better get the results he was hired to get, or else he is risking his own Arsenal career.