Unai Emery has suggested that he left Mesut Ozil out of the Arsenal squad to face West Ham due to tactical reasons, claiming that he has trained normally all week.
The suggestion had been that the German playmaker was still suffering with a knee injury and thus had not been risked for Saturday’s game against Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
But Emery did not mention any injury issue when asked to explain why Ozil was left out. He told reporters: “I decided the players who are the best for this match. We win with him and lose with him. Not one player is for sale.
“He’s working this week normally. Like I said we win with him and lose with him. Today the decision is to come with these players.”
The Gunners would come unstuck at the London Stadium, with Declan Rice’s goal early on in the second half proving the difference between the two sides.
It is the first time Arsenal have been beaten away from home by the Hammers since 2006, when Marlon Harewood’s 89th-minute strike claimed all three points for the hosts at Upton Park.
The decision to leave out Ozil will again raise eyebrows, with it not being the first time Emery has decided that he is better off without the German in his matchday squad.
Indeed, Ozil was not part of the 18-man squad for Arsenal’s north London derby defeat to Tottenham in the Carabao Cup back in December, with Emery having insisted on that occasion that it was due to “tactical reasons”.
Full week of team training done ✔💪🏼♥ #M1Ö #YaGunnersYa #COYG @Arsenal pic.twitter.com/fYrJiSq9dR
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) January 11, 2019
The 30-year-old had missed the Gunners’ last three matches due to a knee injury, but confirmed himself that he had had a full week of training and seemingly expected to be welcomed back into the squad.
But Emery instead opted to play Granit Xhaka alongside Matteo Guendouzi in the central midfield area, with Alex Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazette playing in support of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The result means Manchester United could move level with the Gunners in the Premier League table, should they collect all three points against Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday.
As for Ozil’s future, it remains to be seen how he will react to being left out again by the Spaniard, with fans undoubtedly uneasy at the situation given it appears almost certain that Aaron Ramsey is on the way out.
The Welshman, who started on the bench against the Hammers, is all set to join Juventus on a free transfer in the summer, with the Serie A giants having offered him a €7 million (£6m/$8m) per year contract.