Crystal Palace arrive at the Emirates, six months on from their season-ending win in April. That’s our season they ended, by the way.
It also ended Shkodran Mustafi’s Premier League career although the German looks like a man reborn in the ‘second string’. Natural level or just out of the firing line? Whichever it is, the sympathetic side of my nature thinks its a good thing for him.
He may be able to offer Mesut Özil some advice on his predicament. Not included in midweek nor (unsurprisingly) at Sheffield United, there is little chance of him being in the matchday squad.
His fall from grace is spectacular if nothing else. Indulged by Arsène, Emery holds no truck with the German’s lack of effort. What previously was described as ‘laconic’ is seen by the coach as perezoso.
Yesterday saw claims that LA Galaxy reportedly think replacing the crotch-grabbing Zlatan with Özil is a good idea. Knock yourself out, gentlemen.
What fee we’d get is a moot point; I wonder if we’re giving Özil enough rope to walk away on a free, citing sporting grounds to terminate his deal. Is it going to come to that?
Reading between the lines of Unai’s words, there is a concerted effort to force Özil out of the club. After a week when the Spaniard refused to talk about why the German isn’t selected -“I think it is not the moment to speak about him” – he said:
Here, we have one agreed strategy as a club and as a team. Because the most important thing is the club, the team and finding a performance. Previously we were all speaking between us to take that decision.Unai holds the exit door open for Mesut
That’s fairly definitive in pointing to a club-wide decision.
One Man Banned
Why it has come to this is the question. Emery included Özil in pre-season and he did quite well. It wasn’t until the incident with Kolasinac that things went awry. The Bosnian recovered quickly and returned to the XI.
Özil returned to training, became ill, trained but was told it wasn’t hard enough. Others wanted it more, to paraphrase Emery. That coded message of ‘try harder’ was surely conveyed on the training pitches at Colney? Coach and player speak often enough to offer ample opportunity to see those words told to him in more expansive terms.
But those words aren’t getting through. Or if they are, they are being ignored. There’s speculation that he’s biding his time, waiting to outlast Emery. My guess is that unless things go completely off the rails on the pitch, that won’t happen before next summer and only then if we miserably fail to reach the top four.
Özil is within his rights to stay and see out his contract. However, he does so to the detriment of his carefully cultivated brand. Whatever else he may be, Özil is too astute to let damage occur to ‘MÖ8’.
From the club’s perspective, it’s throwing good money at bad. Moving Özil on is the top priority of the next two transfer windows. If he doesn’t get the message by Christmas, it’s time to be brutal and deliver the news he is finished at the club. This is a dark cloud hanging over a club where the acrimony of the previous manager’s departure still lingers.
It’s often said that fans are entitled for no good reason. When it affects the playing side of the club so obviously, that’s a good enough reason for us to be entitled to an explanation.
There is a match today and one we need to win. Monday night’s defeat is compounded by others’ results; a win today keeps us fifth with a two-point gap to fourth at best. It shows how quickly one bad defeat can impact your season.
We need to show a reaction to Bramall Line and preferably one which doesn’t bring us out in hives.
Three points is a must but equally as important is a good performance. Given the past few games, that is a tall order. I don’t expect many changes to enable that.
Given the back four which started on Thursday, an unchanged one from Sheffield is likely to start. In all honesty, Hector looks short of match fitness while only Kieran Tierney really has a chance of playing today. Emery isn’t going to drop Sideshow Bob or Sokratis.
That said, one change I do expect is Ceballos in for Willock. Every young player has spells in their learning phase where they plateau, where things don’t work. A rest today, a match on Wednesday takes him out of the spotlight and just to work things through.
Lacazette with Pepe and Aubameyang is tough on Saka but a couple of good performances from the former and the latter’s goalscoring record make them undroppable.
Which leaves the line-up:
Leno; Chambers, Luiz, Sokratis, Kolasinac; Xhaka, Guendouzi, Ceballos; Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang
In three weeks time, we could be sitting third, into the last eight of the Carabao Cup and knockout phase of the Europa League. However, we could equally be crying into our beer.
The least we can do is give ourselves a fighting chance of that happening by winning today.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.