Mesut Ozil ruffled feathers this summer after hitting back at criticism of his performance for Germany at the World Cup in Russia that took on racist undertones, but now that he’s back at Arsenal, he’s embroiled in a far more familiar controversy.
Since he joined the Gunners in 2013, he’s been one of the most polarising figures at the club, oscillating from being the embodiment of what the Gunners can be at their best to being emblematic of everything wrong with the team at their worst. And though one of the other main figures in that controversy, Arsene Wenger – whose faith in Ozil could infuriate fans and pundits alike – has left the club, there’s no sense that the debate surrounding his role in the side has changed.
The latest flare-up came after Ozil delivered two lacklustre performances in new manager Unai Emery’s first two games in charge, losses against Manchester City and Chelsea – bringing back the familiar refrain that the German does not perform against top opposition.
After being withdrawn while Arsenal were chasing a winner against Chelsea, he was left out of the squad for the most recent fixture against West Ham – either after a disagreement with Emery, according to reports, or due to illness, the official story from the manager.
Mesut Ozil gets ill a lot— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) August 25, 2018
But it’s difficult to believe the official story when Ozil and Emery are such an obvious clash. The Spaniard’s playing style involves high-intensity, high-energy pressing and movement, an anathema to his playmaker’s more casual, languid manner. Though Ozil has often, to the surprise of many, topped the distance covered charts among Arsenal attackers, or at least outdone players expected to be above him, that level of laser-focused commitment is usually beyond him.
During the summer, there were reports that Ozil was impressed by what he heard from his team-mates about Emery’s training methods, enough to come back a little earlier from a holiday in order to link up with the squad. But two weeks in, it seems clear that feeling has faded.
Which begs the question if there’s any place at all for Ozil in his new manager’s side, or if he’s an indulgence Emery cannot afford.
At his best, Ozil is one of the best in the world at what he does. Since he arrived in England, he’s had the most assists, 50, and most chances created – a whopping 525 – in the Premier League. His vision and passing ability mark him out as one of the premier playmakers in Europe. Any manager would love to be able to get the best out of such a player, because he’s guaranteed to make everyone around him better.
But his lack of defensive work-rate has been a recurring issue. It was a hindrance under Wenger, who largely chose to ignore it because of what the 29-year-old brings at the other end, but Jose Mourinho wouldn’t tolerate it at Real Madrid, and indeed got Ozil to buy into his system during their three years together, with plenty of growing pains. There’s an argument to be made that no manager has gotten more out of the German than Mourinho in those years.
"What you want from the group is the group to take strength from the fact that the manager will not tolerate something like that, if that is the case."@IanWright0 has his say on the Ozil/Emery bust up.— BBC 5 Live Sport (@5liveSport) August 27, 2018
📲⚽: https://t.co/F9EX6UCOuL#MUNTOT#bbcfootball pic.twitter.com/5n8JjpnYcN
Emery, whose philosophy is similar to Mourinho’s in terms of defensive effort, is having no such joy so far. In theory it should be too early to make a call, but if the rumours regarding a disagreement between player and manager are true, then Ozil could be in his last days as an Arsenal player. A new manager needs to stamp his authority on a team as quickly as possible, and any dust-up with Ozil will prevent Emery from doing that.
While the bumper new contract Arsenal offered their star playmaker in January complicates matters, ultimately, it’s still more likely that the club will back Emery if push comes to shove. And Emery is not going to pamper Ozil the way Wenger was accused of doing, and the way he himself was forced to do at PSG with Neymar.
Which means, bluntly put, that the German needs to get with the programme. If he can’t adapt to fit his new manager’s style, he’s going to be the one to suffer, and likely, he’ll be the one to leave.
The Spurs captain was stopped by police in west London on Friday morning and spent hours in a jail cell.
“I think he’s a man out of character,” Pochettino said. “We are going to, of course, support him, but knowing that we cannot justify, of course.”
See Pochettino’s full comments on Lloris in the video below.
After a summer of discontent, United have lost two of their first three matches of a Premier League campaign for the first time since 1992-93.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men went on to win the title that season, but there are few signs that under-fire Jose Mourinho can lead the team to league glory this term.
As if the woeful 3-2 defeat at Brighton was not enough, the Portuguese tasted the heaviest home defeat of his managerial career as Tottenham ran out 3-0 victors at Old Trafford on Monday.
United were ruthlessly carved open after failing to take their chances in an impressive start to a match that left midfielder Pogba shell-shocked.
“Even we don’t understand what happened,” the World Cup winner said. “We started the game really well, we conceded two goals in the second half.
“The first goal was a real blow, we didn’t understand why, because we had the game in hand. One goal, two…we kept pushing, we had chances, and we conceded the third.
“The fans kept pushing us, they were really behind us. We feel really sorry for them, very disappointed, we wanted to do better.
“I think it was an undeserved defeat for us, in our desire, in everything we put into it. But football can be cruel. We just have to bounce back.”
United desperately need to return to winning ways at Burnley this Sunday to ease the pressure heading into the international break.
Last season’s runners-up already find themselves six points off the summit, but Pogba is keeping calm and focused amid the storm.
“It won’t be easy, but it’s just the start of the season,” he said. “I prefer to start badly and end well than start well and finish badly.
“It’s bizarre. (Against Tottenham) we were determined, we started well, and in the end we lost 3-0. It’s a shock.”
Pogba’s commitment to the United cause is a welcome boost in an uncomfortable period when his happiness is one of a variety of matters hanging over the club.
Some disgruntled fans have intended to fly a plane over the ground against Burnley calling for the exit of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, while the odds on Mourinho leaving continue to tumble.
The Portuguese has struck an unhappy figure since returning for pre-season, venting his spleen on matters varying from player fitness to professionalism and the need for reinforcements, particularly in defence.
The pressure appears to be making its impact on Mourinho, who stormed out of his post-match press conference on Monday demanding respect.
But the United boss has not yet lost the fans, with the United boss showing his appreciation by applauding the Stretford End for several minutes after the game.
“I went inside the pitch because normally I am the first person to leave the pitch when my team wins,” Mourinho told MUTV.
“But my team lost and the players deserved that they are in the middle of the pitch with me, so I went in the middle of the pitch for my players but then the fans had such an amazing reaction to the boys.
“I had to thank them on behalf of everyone.”