Arsenal beat Bournemouth - but is this the end for Mesut Ozil?
Gunners make it 17 matches without defeat, as German midfielder is left on the bench
Bournemouth 1 Arsenal 2
Resurgent Arsenal moved to within a point of the top four after stretching their unbeaten run to 17 matches in all competitions with a 2-1 win away at Bournemouth.
The result means the Gunners are on 27 points, one behind Chelsea, and five more than sixth-place Everton.
Significantly, the victory was achieved without Mesut Ozil, and after the win Arsenal manager Unai Emery dropped the strongest hint yet that the German midfielder may be leaving the Emirates sooner than he thinks.
Earlier this month Ozil wistfully contemplated staying in north London for several more years, but the question the Arsenal board have to address is how long they can employ a player deemed physically fragile by his own manager.
Not long, predicted Alan Smith, the former Arsenal striker turned Sky Sports analyst. “In this formation it’s harder to find a place for Özil,” he told the broadcaster. “This is effectively 3-4-3 and if he was to play he’d be on one of the flanks. It’s the new regime with a manager who thinks differently to his predecessor [Arsene Wenger].”
Ozil sat out the game against the Cherries despite the fact he had enjoyed a fortnight’s rest because of the international fixtures last week. Having retired from playing for Germany after the summer World Cup, Ozil should be able to devote himself fully to his club but Emery decided the bench was the best place for him against abrasive Bournemouth. “We thought how we can do better in the match, a very demanding match with physicality and intensity,” said the Spaniard, when asked why he had favoured Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan over Ozil.
The Guardian says the comments from Emery have “fuelled suggestions that he maintains a difficult relationship with Mesut Ozil”, and the paper noted that the German wasn’t even required to warm up in the second-half, an indication that Emery at no point considered throwing him into the fray. The Guardian found his omission “odd to say the least”, and the manager didn’t seem that eager to defend Ozil when asked if that signalled a lack of trust. “In the beginning of the season we were speaking every day about the need to be competitive,” he said. “We need to be organised, we need the individual quality to improve our performance. It is the same today.”
Spurs or bust
Jefferson Lerma scored a spectacular own goal to give Arsenal the lead on the half-hour mark, and although Joshua King levelled just before the break for the hosts, the winning goal came from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on 67 minutes, his eighth of the season. “We are happy and before the match we knew it would be a difficult match,” said Emery. “We’ve not lost for 17 matches but we’ve drawn some and that is not enough for us.”
Next up for Arsenal is a Europa League visit to Vorskla Poltava on Thursday, followed by Sunday’s north London derby at home to Tottenham. Ozil would expect to play in a match of such importance - particularly in the light of Spurs’ impressive 3-1 defeat of Chelsea on Saturday - but were he not to make the starting XI it would suggest he should start looking for alternative employment next season.