Mesut Özil has been ruled out of Arsenal’s game against Liverpool on Saturday with injury, but some supporters don’t believe the reports are genuine.
This week so far, in the build-up to the match, there was little mention of an issue with Özil’s fitness. Unai Emery said that the German been withdrawn against Brighton for tactical reasons, and there had been no further updates in press conferences or the Arsenal website.
Then, as the squad travelled to Liverpool, it became apparent that Özil wasn’t with them. A number of mainstream media outlets started to report that the 30-year-old was out of the clash, and then David Ornstein released the following update:
Ozil’s knee injury was sustained at Brighton on Boxing Day and despite the best efforts from all for him to be fit to face Liverpool tomorrow, the problem persisted – he was not ready play or be in the squad #AFC
— David Ornstein (@bbcsport_david) December 28, 2018
However, Arsenal fans on social media weren’t convinced. One wrote on Reddit: “Odd that this injury wasn’t mentioned in today’s report of team medical news.” Another added: “Surely there would also have been some mention of it after the Brighton game too?”
More than a few supporters pointed to Emery’s quotes claiming the substitution against Brighton was ‘tactical’ and Özil’s presence in training on Friday, with one saying: “It was tactical against Brighton, then he trains today, and now he’s suddenly got a knee injury. Doesn’t add up at all.”
Is there a reasonable explanation?
Conspiracy theories are everywhere, but in Arsenal’s defence, all of the above is pretty easy to explain. For a start, the fact that the injury wasn’t mentioned previously could have been a deliberate ploy to keep Liverpool guessing. Why inform your opponents that one of your star players won’t start until the last possible moment?
Additionally, Özil wasn’t the only ‘injured’ player to miss out on the latest injury report. Mavropanos, Holding and Welbeck also weren’t on it. Emile Smith Rowe wasn’t on there for at least 11 days after suffering his latest injury, then the injury leaked to the media and he’s been on every report since then (he was injured pre-Spurs on December 2nd, the news broke on December 13th).
Perhaps Arsenal just like to keep injuries quiet until they have no other choice, particularly if they’re unsure about the extent of the injury. If they were trying to get Özil fit for this one, as Ornstein says, clearly they aren’t certain how long he’ll be out for.
The point about Özil’s presence in training has even less weight to it. If Arsenal really were trying to get him fit, it makes sense he’d be in training. He’s not going to have any chance of being ready for the game by just staying home and wishing really hard.
Additionally, Emery has had no problem talking about leaving Özil out for tactical reasons before, why would he suddenly start pretending it’s an injury issue now?
The fact is, none of us knows the truth of the matter. Maybe Arsenal really are lying as an excuse to leave Özil out, or maybe a player who has suffered with a number of minor injury problems before and after Emery’s arrival is still suffering from injury problems. Either way, he won’t play on Saturday.