Unai Emery suggested Mesut Ozil was not up for the fight against Bournemouth as Arsenal stretched their unbeaten run to a 17th game without their German playmaker.
Ozil was an unused substitute as the Gunners won 2-1 to stay a point off the Premier League’s top four and was not seen warming up during the game.
Emery afterwards explained he preferred to use players who could cope physically and hinted he did not trust his best-paid player to do a job at the Vitality Stadium.
‘We thought how we can be better in the match, a very demanding match with physicality and intensity,’ Emery said after being asked about £300,000-a-week Ozil.
‘But every player is important. We worked today and it is another possibility to improve or find our best performance in the squad.
‘In the beginning of the season we were speaking every day about the need to be competitive. We need to be organised, we need the individual quality to improve our performance.
‘It’s the same today. It depends. It depends how the match is going, what the result is. I decided for another option. We knew this is a difficult stadium, a difficult team.
‘Seventeen matches we haven’t lost, but the last three matches we drew. We know that is not enough for us, for our objectives.
‘A lot of matches are coming up – Tottenham, Manchester United. And also we are going to play against teams with the same objectives as us.’
Ozil has started 10 of the Gunners’ 13 league games so far this season and was captain for the four games prior to the Bournemouth victory.
He has scored three goals and notched one assist – as well as a goal in the Europa League – but former Arsenal striker Alan Smith thinks Ozil being left out may be a recurring theme in the coming weeks due to Emery’s preferred formation.
‘In this formation it’s harder to find a place for Ozil,’ Smith told Sky Sports before the game.
‘This is effectively a 3-4-3 and if he was to play he’d be on one of the flanks.
‘It’s the new regime with a manager who thinks differently to his predecessor.’
Arsenal took the lead after an own goal by Jefferson Lerma before Bournemouth equalised through Josh King with the last kick of the first half.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the winner in the 67th minute and Emery continued: ‘We spoke in the dressing room after the first half, when they scored, about the process in our mentality. The result is very important.’
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe felt his side should have taken something out of the game and said: ‘It was the same with Manchester United. We took them to the limit and came away beaten in that match. It was the same today.’