In the match day programme for Arsenal v Spurs Mesut Ozil was pictured alongside a quote reading, ‘The games you really get excited for’.
Only for the second time in a week, when the squad for the match was announced, Ozil was nowhere to be seen.
The club said he had a backache, but after Unai Emery claiming the Bournemouth game was ‘too demanding’ for the German there are some big question marks over his place in the squad.
Yesterday’s game was the ultimate example of the blood and thunder that makes the Premier League, and this derby in particular, one of the best in the world.
From the moment it started the pace was ferocious, tackles were flying in everywhere and it spilled over into a brawl after Eric Dier threw shade all over the Emirates.
It just wasn’t an arena that you could imagine Ozil taking control of the game.
Arsenal’s full backs flew forward at every chance to provide for Alex Iwobi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang while Lucas Torreira was at his mad dog best in the middle, to borrow a phrase from Jose Mourinho.
The truth of the matter is that without Ozil, Arsenal had the speed a directness that eventually saw them slice through their bitter rivals and secure one of the greatest derby victories in living memory.
Ozil has found himself on the outside looking in.
Last season, under Arsene Wenger, no matter how Ozil performed he was an automatic selection.
Only, now under Emery it appears he is becoming surplus to requirements.
Arsenal have won just half of the 10 games Ozil has made an appearance in this season but without him their record is 100%.
Emery’s dedication to high intensity, high pressure football – that has seen them go on a 19-game unbeaten run – appears to be leaving the once-hallowed playmaker behind.
The Spaniard’s comments before the Bournemouth game, that it would be too demanding for Ozil’s style, were damning for the highest paid player at the club.
It turns out that the celebrations that surrounded tying him down to a new mega-contract may have been premature.
There’s no doubt Ozil is a brilliant player, his vision to create chances are second to none, but in Emery’s bristling counter attacking system there’s no room for a luxury midfield conductor.
However, the money that the club are paying him is proving to be counterproductive in this new era.
Ozil’s huge salary, along with the emergence of Emile Smith Rowe, is part of the reason Aaron Ramsey is being allowed to leave on a free.
For years Ozil has divided opinion about whether his languid style is suitable for the Premier League.
He seems to attract all the available attention at the club and even in the post match press conference after the derby Emery had to fend questions about his whereabouts.
And as true as night following day rumours have surfaced that several clubs are prepared to offer Ozil an ‘escape’ after missing the Spurs match.
With their highest paid player unavailable for the biggest game of the season and seemingly untrusted for for a place in the squad, Arsenal probably wish they could get a refund on the bumper contract they gave Ozil in February.
Last season he scored just one goal after signing and so far this year he has managed three in the league and one assist.
It is not just his productivity that is being questioned however, it is beginning to look more and more like Emery does not trust Ozil for crunch games.
He has gone from an automatic selection under Arsene Wenger to having to fight for his place on the bench.
It’s an expensive mistake that the Gunners need to resolve, and fast.
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