Arsenal news: Unai Emery must solve Mesut Ozil puzzle claims club legend | Football | Sport
But former Gunners striker Alan Smith believes that if new manager Unai Emery can find the key to that conundrum, it could be the trigger for a very good debut season in charge for the Spaniard.
Smith, who scored 115 goals in 347 games for the club – including the opener in that famous win at Liverpool to secure the league title on the final day of the season in 1989 – believes that if Emery can harness the wayward, enigmatic Ozil, the Gunners could be on the way back to the glory days.
It has been an unusual summer for Arsenal. For the first time since 1996 there is no Arsene Wenger at the helm for one thing, and a new era is unfolding under Emery.
Five new players have arrived this summer, as Arsenal planned early to avoid the panicky late rush seen at other clubs this week. But really it is all about Emery and how Arsenal’s players adapt to his methods this season.
According to Smith, one the key players is 29-year-old Ozil.
After a deeply disappointing season last term came a difficult summer.
He rowed with the German FA over pictures of him with Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan then retired from international football following Germany’s disastrous tournament.
The midfielder needs to refocus and rebuild, certainly in the eyes of some Gunners fans, starting tomorrow against Manchester City.
“For me, this is a relationship that could go one of two ways – whether Ozil responds to Emery or whether he doesn’t,” says Smith.
“There have been times in recent years when Ozil seems to have switched off and lost the ball, and the team have lost the ball and the team have suffered.
“It’s going to be fascinating how Emery deals with that. Ozil is a player who signed for fortunes and he is expected to play.
“That is going to be one of the most interesting things to watch. How is Ozil going to fit in with the new regime?
“He has had a turbulent summer with all that went on, then the World Cup, which was a disaster for Germany.
“He needs to settle down now. I’m sure he will be desperate to do well. And Arsenal need him. He is one of the key creative players. On his day, there are not many like him in the Premier League.
“Emery has to get hold of Ozil, try to get the best out of him, get him on board.”
Ozil started only 24 games league games for the Gunners last season but still was their joint leader in assists. “It was obvious that there needed to be change this summer at Arsenal,” says Smith. “The place had grown stale. Now the fans are going into the new season with optimism and that is a difference this year. Everyone is intrigued about how it is going to go.
“To an extent, Emery came out of nowhere. He was not on the original shortlist. His track record at Sevilla though was very good and he had far more experience than Mikel Arteta.
“Emery is a Basque and they are a tough people. He will be a taskmaster. Chalk and cheese really to Wenger. The pre-season training will have been hard for the players. They will have found that out by now.”
But Smith adds: “I think Arsenal will be more organised this year, tougher at the back. But it will take time to get used to what Emery wants.
“Arsenal will score goals – they have the players for that. But the key is in defence. There was a lack of accountability in the team last season and the same players kept getting picked. It drove everybody mad. They have to be more difficult to break down this season, more solid.”