Unai Emery’s pre-Chelsea press conference was fascinating for a host of reasons, chief among them the hint that he may have finally cracked Mesut Ozil.
The testy relationship between the pair is widely known, despite the best efforts of both men not to allude to the elephant in the room, and Emery has made it abundantly clear that he will not indulge Ozil’s desire for an easy life.
If there’s one thing that has been consistent about Unai Emery this season, it’s his love of consistency and Ozil doesn’t fit that bill. He can be variously brilliant and abject, dynamic and drab, and that just doesn’t sit with the new boss in the way that it was tolerated by Arsene Wenger.
After a reasonably successful first few months, the relationship between the duo has soured steadily, to the point that the German has been omitted entirely for a series of match day squads, with protestations that the decision was simply ‘tactical’ masking a deep unhappiness between them.
There seemed no way back for the pair and no future for Ozil at Arsenal. That was, until Emery was asked about the situation on Thursday.
Speaking to the press, Emery said:
“I’ve also spoke to him because I want consistency. He’s had some injuries and these injuries mean that sometimes he is okay and sometimes he isn’t okay. I want every player to give the same work everyday to be okay for every match. With Mesut it’s the same. He didn’t play the last matches but to me he’s just like any other player. This Saturday he can be with us if he’s okay.”
“He’s training consistently with his work over the past two weeks and I think he can be [ready to play].
“I like to create the same spirit for all, and that spirit is every players gets and gives consistent work and moments with their performances but it’s not easy. Sometimes you are better and sometimes you are worse. I’m working with every player in the same way. The most important thing for me is how he can help us and how every player can help us with their consistency.”
What’s most interesting about all of this? His repeated use of the word ‘consistency’ and the not-so-subtle hint that the problem with Ozil has been bereft of the very thing Emery covets most. Clearly, the Spaniard demands a high level of performance and shirkers will not be tolerated in his regime.
Add to this the leaking of Ozil’s ‘redoubled efforts’ in the gym and on the training pitch to the media, together with his own tweets from the club fitness centre and endless ‘strong arm’ emojis and you have yourself a interesting little narrative.
Are both men simply playing games with each other? Are they sending out subliminal messages to fans and media alike, simultaneously making accusations and rebuffing them?
Or is this a carefully co-ordinated way of announcing that, in this battle of wills, Emery has emerged with the spoils. He has his man and he has his way.
We will only really find out for certain on Saturday when the Arsenal team to face Chelsea is announced. While his inclusion in the starting XI or in the squad won’t necessarily equate to the cessation of hostilities, his exclusion from proceedings will almost certainly spell the end of his career at Arsenal.
Personally, I would rather it were the former of those options. I would rather Ozil have woken up and smelled the coffee, dusted himself down, set aside his ego and focussed all his spare energy on getting himself into the sort of shape that Emery clearly wants him in.
Signing off on the issue, Emery said:
“He’s had injuries and not been okay to play matches, but now after these two weeks maybe this Saturday will be okay for him.”
For the sake of our top four bid, let’s hope the German has worked his arse off.