Arsenal yesterday laboured to a 1-0 defeat away at Everton in a defeat that places a dent in their top four hopes. The Gunners had a chance to once again leapfrog arch-rivals Tottenham and move into 3rd place in the process. In fairly typical Arsenal fashion, however, they were unable to build on recent momentum that saw them undefeated in six Premier League games.
The game was perhaps summed up best by Mesut Özil, who threw his coat in the direction of Everton manager Marco Silva after a subdued performance led to his substitution after just 70 minutes. Özil, who has received widespread criticism throughout the season, was given the captain’s armband by Unai Emery – a move which backfired.
Arsenal’s lack of leadership has been highlighted time and time again since the days of Patrick Viera, but arguably it’s now as prevalent as ever.
Upon arriving at Arsenal, boss Unai Emery stated his desire for ‘five captains’ to lead the team. Laurent Koscielny, currently club captain, has managed only 12 appearances this season in the Premier League. Jack Wilshire was swiftly moved on by Emery, while Aaron Ramsey will be playing his football in Italy next season. Additionally, right back Hector Bellerin has been out since January after undergoing knee surgery.
Mesut Özil found himself with the armband in a critical game. With the battle for the top four so hotly contested, nothing short of a victory was acceptable. Yes, an off night is acceptable. And yes, you can’t pin the loss solely on the German. However, in a time where leaders are sparse, he needed to stand up.
Özil’s behaviour off the field showed the clear frustration he currently feels. But it’s not the behaviour of a captain. Özil has emerged as more of a problem than a solution this season. He perhaps now divides the fans more than anyone. His talent is clear, but where does he fit in the team?
Emery gave the midfielder the armband in what seemed a bold move. But is it more the point that there simply wasn’t anyone else?
Where Emery wanted to build a team full of leaders, departures and injuries have left him short. While improvements have been seen under the Spaniard, further investment is most certainly needed.
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