He’s grown quite a reputation for not being available or withdrawing from the squad on matchday and many Arsenal fans might have been worried when they didn’t see Mesut Ozil’s name on the team-sheet for Sunday’s North London Derby against Tottenham Hotspur.
A back spasm was the reason this time as the Gunners went into the important encounter without their highest-paid player. The creativity and vision of a player like Ozil would always be needed in such a big fixture but when the final whistle blew most Arsenal fans had probably forgotten that the former German international wasn’t even on the pitch.
Unai Emery’s men made a massive statement as the blew Spurs off the park in the second-half, scoring three goals to nil to claim a famous 4-2 win over their fiercest rivals.
The manager opted for a back-three again, mainly due to the injury problem at left-back, that saw Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira start in the centre of the midfield with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Iwobi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a front-three.
Ozil could easily have started ahead of Mkhitaryan, but Emery stuck with the Armenian after having a poor performance at Bournemouth last weekend and despite Alexandre Lacazette available but only on the bench.
The manager imposed his faith in the exact same team that struggled against Eddie Howe’s men, which in itself might be one of the key differences of Arsenal this season.
Emery has made it clear that he won’t let his team place emphasises on one specific player to get results, instead, he forced an out of favour back-three system to work in one of the club’s most important matches of the season.
And, all of this against a Spurs team that put Chelsea to the sword at Wembley last weekend.
Going forward, Sunday’s victory will provide Arsenal with heaps of confidence that they don’t always have to rely on Ozil to get them over the line. The midfielder does remain a vital part of the squad but if he falls out with Emery, as it appears he has done, then it won’t spell the end of the road for the Gunners this season.