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Mesut Ozil vs the world? Why there's no excuses at today's Arsenal

COMMENT: On first flush. Taking 'em all at their word. Even Mesut Ozil's most ardent critics should have some sympathy for the German today.

A head cold and absence from Friday's training session - on permission from Unai Emery - was transformed into a blazing meltdown between Ozil and his manager just moments before kickoff.

The story goes Ozil skipped training on Friday after learning he wouldn't be starting against West Ham. The Gunners' No10 was furious - and he let Emery know upon learning of the manager's decision.

But post-match on Saturday, Emery explained away Ozil's absence, insisting it was a head cold that was cause for his omission. And to be fair, the manager's version of events appears to check out. If there was tension. If Ozil had walked out of training in a strop. Then it was some climbdown given he was in the home dressing room prior to kickoff. Indeed, we hear Ozil made it to the game in a show of support to his teammates - this despite Emery making clear it'd be acceptable if he skipped attending if he was still unwell.

He's just not going to get a break, is Mesut Ozil. They're still taking aim at him from inside German football. Uli Hoeness, the Bayern Munich chairman, was at it again this week. And now a little piece of gossip on social media has the player in a screaming match with his manager.

The funny thing is, Emery foresaw all this earlier in the week when discussing Hoeness' latest jibe. Indeed, the manager put into words everything that was to be played out 48 hours later on Saturday.

“We are his family and [the club] is his home," said Emery. "In our careers, as coaches and players, we are going to receive criticism.

"But we are professional. We need to live with this. Here [at Arsenal] we need and we want to help him."

Yes, Ozil is going to be criticised. And yes, he's going to have to live with it. That's what you get when you're the highest paid player in the club's history - and you have the coveted No10 on your back. But as Emery showed on Saturday night, Ozil can also count on his manager to "help him". No matter the exchange between the pair. No matter what Emery had told Ozil during the week. The Basque did not hang his player out to dry. If there was a row, Emery wasn't letting on. It was a head cold. That's it. Move on.

And that's what Emery wants Ozil to do. Move. There may have been no final word on team selection, but Emery did speak with the midfielder during the week about his workrate. He wants more from the German. And has made that clear.

But Ozil isn't being singled out. As his players acknowledged after victory over West Ham, the demands of the new manager have hit them like never before. The buzz word coming from London Colney during preseason was "intensity". A lifetime with Arsene Wenger had the players unprepared for what Emery wanted in their first month together.

And as 'intense' as the preparation was, this spilled over into the new season. 'Secret' friendlies are being organised to up match fitness. Closer monitoring of dietary habits are being staged with Emery convinced the squad - almost to a man - are carrying excess weight.

After back-to-back defeats, a win, no matter how achieved, is welcome. As much as it was about Emery's methods, Saturday was also about confidence. Belief. No matter who you are. No team. Not even Pep Guardiola's Manchester City. No team are going to sweep aside the opposition after two consecutive defeats.

Taking three points off this West Ham team is a good result. And after the start they've had, Arsenal were in need of a good result. Yes, it wasn't five star. But there is context to consider. Emery is effectively still working his players in preseason mode. There's been no let up. And for those used to Wenger's ways, bounce games against Crawley and Crystal Palace - inbetween London derbies - are something completely new.

Emery is dissatisfied. Not with the results. Not even with the way his team is playing. But he is unhappy, convinced his players aren't operating at full capacity. And that begins - but doesn't end - with Ozil.

Whether it's from social media. Ex-teammates. Or even past World Cup winners. There's an easy way for Ozil to silence all those that have been pulling him apart since Russia: Play well.

No-one's working against him at Arsenal. He has his record contract. His No10 shirt. And a manager who didn't give him the Jack Wilshere treatment. But it's significant the first win under Emery came without the team's German luxury.

We'll learn more about the relationship in the coming days. The sniffles don't last a week. And a trip to Cardiff presents a new challenge for Emery - and a physical one.

The question is: does the manager trust Ozil enough to change a winning team in Wales on Sunday?

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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