Ozil urges youngsters Willock and Nelson to keep believing at Arsenal

Mesut Ozil has told Arsenal’s rising stars Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson to keep believing in their own ability as Unai Emery’s squad look to maintain an impressive start to the new campaign.

Emery on Ozil and Kolasinac, plus early Burnley team news

Unai Emery Freddie Ljungberg

Happy Friday everyone. It feels like it’s been a long week, but the weekend is almost here and with it our first home Premier League game of the new season.

The big question for Unai Emery at his press conference was whether or not Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac would be available, and the answer appears to be yes. Sort of. Both players have been training with the squad this week, but Ozil has been a little bit ill so a final decision won’t be made on him until after training today. That aside though, it looks like they’re at our disposal again, and that’s good news. First and foremost from a human point of view, it must mean that there’s been some positive developments regarding their security troubles, and that’s obviously a good thing.

I’m not sure it means it’s all gone away, but they must feel safer – perhaps it’s related to the two arrests that were made last week. After that, their availability for us means our squad is deeper and more rounded. Worries about their readiness to play were shot down by Emery who was asked if they were mentally fit to get out on the pitch again. He said:

100 per cent. We think their mentality is good and their focus is with us. My focus is to be positive and I want to help them to live with normality. They came back to train with us on Tuesday. We had it off but they came back to start training. Mesut didn’t train yesterday with illness but he trained today.

They are both good options, I will take the decision if they can be with us on Saturday, we will wait for tomorrow.

The club will continue to work with them regarding the security issues, but anything that brings normality back to their lives and routines is to be welcomed. Emery also played down the idea that Ozil might leave, after the player’s agent met with officials of DC United this week:

Really, when we are playing our second match and our first match at home against Burnley, can you think I am thinking and losing my time if the player can leave from here? My focus and direction with the players is here with us and everybody. Each player on Saturday will be ready for Saturday.

For a relatively quiet guy, a lot of stuff seems to happen around Ozil. There’s always a story, always something going on. Hopefully this season the stories revolve more and more around what he does on the pitch. His pre-season was pretty solid, and compared to last summer it was an oasis of calm and peace, but obviously what happened in the last couple of weeks has thrown everything off-kilter.

Meanwhile, Emery has got plenty of thinking to do about his team selection for Burnley. With the likes of Nicolas Pepe, Lucas Torreira and Dani Ceballos another week down the line in terms of their fitness, Alexandre Lacazette more ready than he was last week, and David Luiz now more fully integrated, he’s got plenty to choose from and only 11 places in his team. It is the best kind of problem a manager can have though. Trying to figure out which of these many good players to choose is far preferable than trying to fit square pegs in round holes to fill gaps. He says:

We can decide and choose different options for each position in the squad. We need to be competitive and we need different options to decide who is better for each match

What kind of a team he picks tomorrow will be informative to an extent. I realise that it’s still very early in the season, but you want to set down a marker in your first home game. Not just with the result, but how you try and play the game. I know I’m banging this drum a bit, but I feel like the acquisition of Pepe – the kind of player Emery made very clear he really wanted during this transfer window – suggests a more expansive approach. Not necessarily all out attack, but a team far more focused on that side of the game than looking first to shore up a leaky backline.

It’s going to be a little while before we see our best possible team, I think. The idea of two flying full backs in Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney, augmenting that tantalising front three of Aubameyang, Lacazette and Pepe, is really exciting. There’s an interesting scrap for places in midfield too, our central defensive pairing is not set in stone either, so we could look very different a few weeks down the line. But our approach, and how we look to take teams on this season, doesn’t have to wait for those guys to be ready. They could slot into something that’s already in development. We’ll wait and see but I’m hopeful that our need to finish in the top four means greater emphasis on our strengths.

For more on that front three, check out Tim’s column this week in which he looks at how they might work together. While over on Arseblog News, we have an in-depth look at Reiss Nelson and what he might bring to the team.

For now though, I’ll leave you with a brand new Arsecast chatting with Amy Lawrence about our summer business, Raul swimming the murky waters of the transfer window and emerging as the apex predator, Edu’s arrival and his potential impact, and lots more. We’ve had a record breaking month with downloads/listens, so as always our thanks for being with us. All the links you need to listen/subscribe are below. Have a good one.


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DC United interested in Ozil

According to Washington Post, DC United are interested in signing Mesut Ozil from Arsenal. Though extremely influential for the Gunners when on form, the attacking midfielder has often been criticized for a lack of consistency throughout his time at the Emirates. He joined the club in 2013 from Real Madrid, and he has so far […]

The post DC United interested in Ozil appeared first on Soccer News.

The post DC United interested in Ozil appeared first on Soccer News.

Ozil, Kolasinac, guard dogs and lack of outrage

It’s Thursday, so we can start looking ahead to the weekend and our game against Burnley. Questions about who might start, who might be fitter and more ready than last weekend, and who might or might not be available.

We consider the likes of Nicolas Pepe, Lucas Torreira, Dani Cebellos and Alexandre Lacazette when it comes to fitness. You can easily see how two or three being ready for selection could have a marked impact on the kind of team Unai Emery could select, and how it could inform the way we set out to play. The manager will answer those questions when he meets the press ahead of the game.

There is an elephant in the room though. The situation involving Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac is one which remains a potential problem. Amy has written a really interesting piece for The Athletic about it, talking to a sports psychologist and a former player about the effect all this might be having on the players. In the Standard, James Olley has written an article entitled: “Arsenal footballers feel unsafe to turn up for work – there should be outrage.”

He wonders why there isn’t the same spotlight on this problem as on Henrikh Mkhitaryan when he was unable to play in the Europa League final. The answer, at least to my mind, is that we knew exactly who to point the finger of blame at there. UEFA decided to hold the final in a location which, if a team with an Armenian player qualified for the game, would almost certainly render that player unavailable. The political tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia meant his safety was at risk, and there was no other option.

UEFA were fully aware of this potential eventuality, so we knew who was to blame. Particularly when they tried to play it down as Mkhitaryan’s personal decision – as if any player would choose to miss a European final on a whim. With Ozil and Kolasinac it’s far more vague.

We don’t know exactly who the baddies are. Criminals? Knife-wielding thugs? A gang? Two rival gangs? Street thugs? All of the above?! And what is their motivation? It started out as robbery, but what is it now? Is it about revenge of some kind? Protecting their reputation? Do they really, really want Ozil’s car or watch? It feels as if it’s about more than possessions though. Nobody likes to be stolen from, but ultimately they’re just things. The welfare and safety of the players is paramount, and that has been Arsenal’s first consideration. Rightly so.

The fact that it’s so nebulous, crossed with the unprecedented nature of the situation, means we don’t have enough to really fuel ‘outrage’. On a very basic level we can all understand it’s a frightening situation for the players and their families, and a difficult one for Arsenal because two first team squad members are absent due to something external and completely out of their control. Beyond that though, because there’s so much that’s unknown, we’re waiting to see what on earth is going to transpire.

There’s this idea that just because the players can afford round the clock security and minders, they should get their heads down and get on with it. Man up, almost. The other side of that is that if the situation remains threatening and frightening, even with minders and bodyguards and dogs patrolling outside their houses while idiot newspapers continue to publish pictures of their properties, it’s more serious than we know.

Ultimately we have no real frame of reference for something like this. At least not in my many years of supporting this football club, so it’s very difficult to be definitive – beyond that basic understanding that this is a horrible, complicated thing that we have to look at from a human level rather than a sporting one. Kolasinac’s wife and dogs have gone back to Germany. How long can he stick it out without them? Ozil, even with minders, doesn’t feel safe enough to stay at his own house. And on top of that, finding a resolution is not simple. It’s not as if somebody can click their fingers and make all this go away. Even if it dies down, the underlying threat is never too far away. Can you spend your days looking over your shoulder and wondering if every bloke on a moped is a potential threat?

There’s been further confirmation of the stories from last week about Mesut Ozil’s agent meeting with officials of DC United. That happened this week. This isn’t just about coffee shops, by the way, the MLS side are serious about bringing him in, albeit conscious of how difficult it would be to do a deal. In normal circumstances you might say it was almost impossible, for various reasons, but right now the circumstances of Ozil’s life in London are far from normal.

For fans, the absence of players from the team is always a frustration. Usually it’s an injury, something that almost always has a definitive timeline. There’s nothing like that with what’s going on here. I hope both are available to us at the weekend, because first and foremost what it will mean is that the threat which caused them to miss the Newcastle game has diminished. That would be a positive development, so fingers crossed that’s the case.

If not though, it’s important that any frustration is aimed in the right direction. It’s not the players being weak, and it’s not the club giving into gangs or thugs or however you want to describe them. It’s down to criminal behaviour over which two men have already been arrested. We don’t know precisely who they are or what they want, but when it comes right down to it, they’re the ones to blame.

Till tomorrow.

The post Ozil, Kolasinac, guard dogs and lack of outrage appeared first on Arseblog … an Arsenal blog.

Ozil and Kolasinac security fears, Mustafi could go, a suggestion for captain

Morning, let’s round up the news ahead of our Premier League opener against Newcastle tomorrow. We can leave team news till tomorrow when we preview the game, but the big story is that both Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac will miss the game after what Arsenal called ‘security incidents’ took place over recent days.

‘Late night’ threats have been been reported, and the club took the extraordinary step of releasing a statement about it yesterday afternoon. It reads:

Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac will not be part of the squad for our opening match against Newcastle United following further security incidents which are being investigated by the police.

The welfare of our players and their families is always a top priority and we have taken this decision following discussion with the players and their representatives. We are liaising with the police and are providing the players and their families with ongoing support.

We look forward to welcoming the players back to the squad as soon as possible. We will not be making any further comment on the matter.

Of course everyone will remember the attempted carjacking a couple of weeks ago when the Bosnian saw off a couple of knife-wielding thugs, and it seems clear that what’s going on is connected with that in some way. The first thing to say is that while it’s disturbing that outside influences can impact on our team selection in such a way, the club’s first responsibility is for the welfare of its employees.

Secondly, it has to be very serious and frightening for the players and their families to be going through this. This isn’t something to joke about regarding Ozil not playing away from home. There must be some credible threat to him and Kolasinac which has prevented them from travelling with the squad. If these people know where they live, and they also know that for 48 hours the players are going to be in Newcastle, then it leaves their wives/properties vulnerable.

The other thing to point out is that they can obviously afford security, minders, bodyguards, whatever you want to call them, but even with that there’s something so serious going on they can’t play. I guess it probably wasn’t helpful after the initial incident that sections of the media made it fairly obvious where they lived, with Sky even turning up outside Ozil’s house to make sure everyone could see what it looked like. Good work fellas.

Whatever the nuts and bolts of this, let’s hope there’s a resolution quickly, but I don’t quite know how that happens. It’s not like you can broker peace with people like that, so this could well rumble on for a while. For the players safety and peace of mind, however, it’s important that some solution is found, and afterwards we need to have our full squad available to us at all times. It’s a really strange situation though, I can’t ever remember anything like this before, so it’s not one we have a frame of reference when finding an answer.

Meanwhile, Unai Emery says he’s told Shkodran Mustafi he can leave the club this summer. More than once, it seems:

I spoke with him when we finished last season, I spoke with him when we started pre-season and I spoke with him also two weeks ago saying maybe there was the possibility he can leave.

He goes on to say that if needed he’d have no problems playing the German because he’s a ‘good player’, but Emery’s words must surely be something like the final nail in his Arsenal coffin now. Everyone is aware that the club are trying to move him on, he’s lost confidence and many people have lost faith in him as a player, and at this point it would be in everyone’s best interest if there was a parting of the ways.

We have until the transfer windows close across Europe to sort out a transfer. It’s August 18th for Italy, September 2nd for France, Spain and Germany. Maybe Emery making it public weakens our hand in negotiations, but it’s not a particularly strong one anyway. It’s common knowledge we’d like to sell, his performances are such that he’s not the kind of player anyone’s going to overpay for like we did when we brought him in from Valencia, and if we can find a suitor we’re probably going to take a serious hit on that £35m fee we paid in 2016. Sometimes though, you just have to take what you can get and move on.

Emery also spoke about other potential departures, saying:

In the next 20-25 days some players will leave. It’s the reason, I want to close our squad clearly.

This is also having an impact on our captaincy, with the Spaniard saying he’s going to wait until his squad is finalised before making a final decision on that and his five captains:

At the moment we have three captains: Xhaka, Mesut and Nacho, and I want to take two more because my opinion is the same as it was in the pre-season with five. Now in the next 25 days we could lose some players.

You know, I get the criticism of the five captains thing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a leadership group per se, but it would be far preferable to have one captain, a vice captain, and leave it at that. This is where I have some sympathy with Emery though. Who is that player in this squad right now? The most obvious candidate is Granit Xhaka, who does have the kind of personality for the role, but by handing him the armband do you wed yourself to him as a first choice pick?

Left field suggestion: what about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? I know he’s not the archetypal captain, but he’s popular in the squad, experienced, and is basically going to start most of our Premier League games. I can understand why Emery is finding it difficult though, there are issues with Xhaka that might see him fall by the wayside as a player throughout the season, while Monreal could go, Ozil is not any kind of captain – it’s just not in his nature, and it’s not like in the past where there was an obvious, outstanding candidate.

Five captains allows the manager to rotate without the ‘OMG HE’S DROPPED THE CAPTAIN’ kinda drama going on. It’s not ideal but in the absence of that one true leader, it’s not the end of the world either. Anyway, it’s a can we’re going to kick down the road a bit, so we’ll find out in due course.

For some extra reading this morning:

The Arseblog Season preview in which Tim Stillman, Andrew Allen and I assess the squad and its readiness for the new campaign.

The Tactics Column – Lewis takes a look at how the new signings will fit in, and what impact they’ll have on the way the team plays.

Right, that’s your lot. I’ll leave you with the brand new Arsecast, looking forward to the new season and lots more. Listen/subscribe below.