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To Ozil or not to Ozil? That’s Emery’s North London derby decision

| 30.11.2018

Arsenal host Tottenham on Sunday

It’s the North London derby this weekend, with Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur duelling it out for local honour.

This will be the 183rd competitive meeting between the teams, but it is Arsenal boss Unai Emery’s first experience of the famous fixture.

The Spaniard is forging his own path at the Gunners, having been chosen as the man to succeed Arsene Wenger last summer.

Emery versus Ozil

And so far Emery hasn’t been afraid to upset the applecart. Mesut Ozil was an unused substitute in Sunday’s win over Bournemouth. It was the third time he had been dropped from the XI this season.

Emery went 3-4-3 versus the Cherries. The system appeared to bring out the best in several Arsenal players, and they looked more fluid in attack, but there doesn’t seem to be room for Ozil in that formation.

The decision may have also been about more than just tactics. When pressed on his dropping of Arsenal’s reported highest earner, Emery pointed to concerns over Bournemouth’s physicality and intensity.

His comments aligned with a general consensus that while Ozil is a wondrously gifted footballer, he lacks the graft and drive of other players. It may not have bothered Wenger, but Emery isn’t prepared to stand for it.

Ozil had skippered the team’s last four league games, but the last three of those saw him struggle to influence games versus Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Wolves.

Tactics for Tottenham

Emery had a fortnight during the international break to mull over those performances. And having seen plenty of positives in the 3-4-3 formation on Sunday, he now has a huge decision to make for Sunday’s derby.

With Ozil in the squad, Arsenal will likely play 4-2-3-1. Without him, the 3-4-3 seems Emery’s preferred method.

Ozil allows Arsenal to better maintain possession and dictate play. The 3-4-3 is more suited to counter-attacking football with pace and wide play.

Against Spurs, who possess an array of wingers and number goal threats, the more balanced 4-2-3-1 may be the wiser choice. That would lend itself to Ozil’s inclusion.

And if the German puts in a match-winning performance, speculation over his future will surely fade away.

But if he find himself benched for Arsenal’s biggest game of the season, then it may be the latest clue that Emery’s future vision for his team does not include their talismanic creator.

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Richard Marsh