Unai Emery confirmed that Mesut Özil was available to feature against Sheffield United, he just didn’t, and the head coach didn’t explain why.
Once again, Mesut Özil was absent from Arsenal’s Premier League squad on Monday, sitting at home whilst Unai Emery’s first-choice players lost to Sheffield United.
When asked whether Özil was fit and available for the match, Emery told BBC Sport: “He can help us, yes.”
The Arsenal head coach didn’t elaborate on why the player wasn’t picked, so we’re left to our imaginations on that one.
Emery gave four midfielders an opportunity against Sheffield: Granit Xhaka, Matteo Guendouzi, Joe Willock and Dani Ceballos. Not one of them created a single chance.
Bukayo Saka was also moved centrally after Xhaka was taken off, and after that point in the match, he didn’t make any chances either.
Whilst that does suggest the problem is the system, rather than the individuals in it, it also highlights what Arsenal are missing thanks to Emery’s refusal to play Özil.
The team aren’t getting good results, at best scraping past sides like Bournemouth or Aston Villa and at worst losing to Sheffield United. They aren’t playing well, they aren’t keeping many clean sheets (two in nine this season).
So what is the benefit of leaving Özil out? What’s improved? Certainly not his market value, if the plan is to move him on. Not the wage bill. Not the performances. Not the results. Not morale.
At this point, things couldn’t be worse if Emery picks him. The worst-case scenario would be Arsenal continuing to play badly. Other than injury problems, which by Emery’s admission don’t exist, there’s no argument to leave him out anymore.