Football News

Unai Emery explains Mesut Ozil’s problem at Arsenal

By Ollie Thomas

Published: 20:25, 21 December 2019 | Updated: 0:13, 21 September 2022

Former Arsenal boss Unai Emery has lifted the lid on his troubled relationship with Mesut Ozil, blaming his ability to work in a pressing system.

Emery’s tenure ended with a huge rally of support behind the German playmaker, who had been frozen out by his manager. However, Emery has now offered an explanation as to why Ozil was left out so often.

Ozil and Emery: Five things to know…

  • Before 2018, Mesut Ozil was widely regarded as one of Arsenal’s most important players…
  • …but the end of Arsene Wenger’s tenure and at the start of Emery’s saw his influence fade.
  • Seven goal contributions in 2018/19 was his worst return in an Arsenal shirt.
  • Ozil has only played in eight of Arsenal’s opening 18 league games this season.
  • He was left out of the squad which drew 0-0 to Everton on Saturday.

The relationship between Ozil and Emery became more and more problematic as time went on at the Emirates and was the source of a lot of the Arsenal fans dislike of their Spanish manager. Besides, Ozil has been mightily successful in an Arsenal shirt (despite what some may say).

Clearly, Emery recognised his ability, but there were some underlying problems with his style.

He told BBC Sport: “He’s a very important player for the team. There are games in which you see Mesut’s brilliance, linking with the attack. But also I had to find players around him so he felt comfortable.

“He has talent that allows other players to be better, but when you want a bit more aggressive pressure he does not have the best qualities for that.”

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“I wanted Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut to work”

Many Arsenal fans were left exasperated by how little Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ozil played together. On paper, the trio could have been the first names on the teamsheet but they rarely started league games together.

Emery, however, has said that he was keen for the front three to work.

He said: “Also the team needed to feel solid. And when you, little by little, have to build a team that is aggressive, intense, as well as structured for good pressure, we also had to find a space for Mesut as he gives us an important part of the game, which is his brilliant talent.

“To do so I had to find the right connections between players, the right tactics. I was very motivated to try to find that. I wanted Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut to work together, each one of them with their own characteristics.

“But there were times when I had to leave one of them out of the XI. Ozil is a very important player if you can find a way to make it work with other players.”