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Ozil v Emery: Why latest snub should cut Arsenal's No10 deep

COMMENT: Full house. Floodlights. A rolled pitch. And a footballing opposition. This is what drives the elite of the game. Arsenal at Manchester City. An event designed for the game's very best. Yet an occasion deemed just too much for Mesut Ozil...

What must the German be thinking today? If ever a stage was set for a player of Ozil's ilk, this was it. No great bruisers in the opposition line-up. A pitch as smooth as any across the country. If not now for Ozil... If not this game to show us doubters what he can still do... Then when?

And what really should be concerning for the player is the lack of reaction to his snub. Ozil's omission certainly wasn't a shock. And it certainly didn't spark any great backlash against the manager. Unai Emery's choice was generally accepted. The World Cup winner. Once of Real Madrid. Now barely a footnote at the bottom of a match report.

Good enough for Cardiff City last week. Indeed, good enough for the captain's armband on the night. Ozil spent Sunday watching from the away dugout. It's clear to all - and should also be to him - Ozil simply can't be trusted by his manager.

It's been obvious for weeks. Emery sees Ozil as a hometown luxury. But this wasn't Burnley at Turf Moor. This was City. Pep Guardiola's City. If ever Ozil was going to play in an away game for Emery, then surely this would be it.

But the Basque couldn't risk it. And it's no fault of his. This is down to Ozil. This isn't personal. How can it be? Not when he's been handed a start and the armband just days previous. If Emery didn't want Ozil involved, he'd freeze him out. No matter how popular he is amongst the dressing room. Just ask Lucas Moura, the Tottenham winger, about his drama with Emery at PSG.

So the door is ajar. Emery is willing to work with Ozil. And as he showed earlier this season. He will set up an attacking structure around Ozil to bring out his best. The problem is the player just can't - or won't - do that consistently. The Cardiff selection was a prompt. A shake. An aggressive arm around the shoulder: 'c'mon son show us all what you can do'.

But you just wonder at 30 years of age. Now retired from international football. And sitting on wages of £350,000-a-week right through to June 2021. Is it all now too much for Ozil? Is the jaded, listless player we see on the pitch simply reflective of the man Emery is struggling to shake at training every day?

If his career with Germany was the victim of politics, Ozil was certainly the beneficiary of football's version when it came to last season's contract negotiations. £350,000-a-week looks ridiculous now. And back then, so the story goes, even Arsene Wenger lobbied against handing over such terms. Yes, the former Gunners manager wanted to keep his playmaker. Yes, he rejected the opinion of trusted confidants to let Ozil go. But when the player's camp came back with their counter proposal, even the Frenchman was having second thoughts.

But having allowed Alexis Sanchez to leave for Manchester United in a swap for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Arsenal's top brass just couldn't countenance the backlash of losing another of their very best players for next to nowt. Ozil's camp had them over a barrel - and Ivan Gazidis, now running the show at AC Milan, was forced to oblige.

Ozil now stands among the game's highest paid players. Better paid than last year's Ballon d'Or, Luka Modric. Better paid than last season's Premier League Golden Boot, Mohamed Salah. Yet deemed not good enough for an away game by his manager.

And that should cut Ozil. It should cut him deep. A player can handle omission due to ability. Form. Team balance. But the message Emery is sending his midfielder is: You can't be relied upon. You're not one to share a trench with. Better yet, stay back and hold the coats while the rest of us get stuck in.

This should shake Ozil to the core. His pride. His self-worth. It may not have been spelt out directly to him, but surely it's twigged.

Post Arsenal. Post 30. For this player. There's no step up. This is it for Ozil. It's Emery or bust.

Question is: does he still have the desire to convince his manager he can be relied upon when an occasion like Sunday rolls around again?

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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