Unai Emery and Mesut Ozil’s relationship is under scrutiny again after the Arsenal manager demanded more from the German star at the training ground last week.
Ozil’s place for Saturday’s game against West Ham appeared to be in doubt but the player came into training on Friday reporting that he had a cold with heavy catarrh and felt he was unable to play.
Emery advised him to attend the match only if he felt better, and Ozil was at the 3-1 win over West Ham and was with the team beforehand, but played no part in the match squad.
Emery has already publicly called on Ozil to offer the team more defensively and subbed him on 68 minutes last weekend against Chelsea.
On Thursday, sources close to the Arsenal camp say that Emery again told Ozil that his tactical system would require more from Arsenal’s star player.
At that stage, it was unclear whether Ozil would have started against West Ham but ultimately the decision was made when illness meant he couldn’t play anyway.
However, Emery insisted that there had not been any bust-up or row. The Arsenal manager said: ‘It isn’t true. I don’t know who started telling this information. He was sick yesterday. He spoke to the doctor and to me. We decided not to play today. But he left the training because he was sick.’
Asked whether he would have played if fit, Emery said: ‘He was sick and today he was here. He left to his house [on Friday] and I said: “Come if you feel better.” He feels better and before the match he was with me and the team. There is no problem with the player. Ask the doctor and he can explain better.’
Ozil seems to be the principal issue for Emery to resolve in his system of high pressing and the manager has been placed in a difficult situation given that the board agreed a new £350,000-a-week contract with the player until 2021.
It means Ozil is tied to the club, with no-one likely to match his wages but with doubts remaining as to whether he is suited to the high-energy football Emery will demand.
Emery praised Ozil’s replacement, Aaron Ramsey, who has also been subbed, in the opening game against Manchester City, and then dropped against Chelsea last weekend, but replacing Ozil when he came off.
Ramsey started in the No 10 position and Emery said: ‘He worked 90 minutes, he worked each moment that the team needed and I think his spirit is very, very important for us and also his experience.
‘For other players, he is a player they can give him the ball in difficult moment because he plays with a big personality.’