Unai Emery is ready to use Mesut Ozil sparingly in Arsenal’s away fixtures — a move that further undermines the German’s role at the club.
Ozil was a shock omission from the side that beat Bournemouth 2-1 on Sunday, with Emery expressing his concern that the 30-year-old midfielder would struggle to cope with the physical demands of what proved an intense clash.
And the Arsenal manager is planning to drop Ozil to the bench for other away matches should he feel his side need more physicality and work-rate. So the player who earns £350,000 per week is no longer a guaranteed starter — something that would have been unthinkable during Arsene Wenger’s reign.
Emery is believed to have been disappointed by Ozil’s performance in the 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace earlier this month. Ozil was substituted at Selhurst Park, after which he threw a mini-tantrum.
His performance that day has confirmed Emery’s in his belief that his star midfielder is not cut out for certain away trips.
Emery still views Ozil as an integral member of his squad. Equally, given his status as the club’s best-paid player, the manager is aware of the impact not starting Ozil carries.
But Emery has already demonstrated since his arrival in north London in the summer that he will make decisions in order to get results on a match-by-match basis, paying more attention to the strengths of the opposition than the previous regime.
It remains to be seen whether Ozil returns for Sunday’s derby against Tottenham — Emery’s first as manager — or even against Vorskla Poltava in the Europa League on Thursday.
Despite having already qualified for the knockout phase, Emery is keen on taking a full-strength squad to Ukraine.
Arsenal are liaising with UEFA, Vorskla Poltava and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office about the current political situation in the country.
Around 500 Arsenal fans are expected to travel at a time when growing tensions with Russia led to talk of the Ukrainian government declaring martial law.
Plummeting temperatures in Poltava, which are set to drop way below freezing, are also a concern for the club.
On Monday the Butovsky Vorskla Stadium was covered in snow and ice and the club drafted in volunteers to help clear it from the stands. Staff also covered the pitch to limit its exposure to the freezing elements.