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Mesut Ozil still struggling to earn Unai Emery’s trust at Arsenal?
Arsenal drew 1-1 with Brighton on Boxing Day
Last Updated: 27/12/18 7:21pm
Arsenal boss Unai Emery substituted Mesut Ozil at half-time at Brighton but was he too hasty on this occasion?
No Premier League manager has made more half-time substitutions than Unai Emery this season and there was another to add to the list in the 1-1 draw against Brighton on Boxing Day. The Arsenal boss hooked Mesut Ozil with the scores level at the interval.
It is understandable why Emery should have been so willing to make changes given Arsenal's miserable record so far this season in the opening 45 minutes. The last home game against Burnley was the first that they had led at the halfway stage.
Brighton fight back to hold Arsenal
Brighton ended a three-game losing run as they fought back to claim a 1-1 draw with Arsenal at the Amex Stadium.
But while Emery has had plenty of praise for changing games from the bench, it is only fair to point out when his tweaks do not work and that was certainly the case at Brighton.
Arsenal were not great in the first half but they did score and had three further shots on target with Mat Ryan being forced into one fine save from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. After the break, the Gunners did not muster a shot off target let alone one on target.
In fact, Emery's team struggled to create anything at all after Ozil's removal.
There is already a feeling that the German has become an easy target for his critics when things do not go his way. And while he was not at his most creative on the south coast, the team did enough to suggest they could go on to get a winner when he was on the pitch.
It was a different game after he departed. Solly March might even have won it for Brighton had he not made a mess of it when chipping Bernd Leno.
Emery's decision to take off Alexandre Lacazette also robbed Arsenal of creativity in the final third. It was the striker whose hard work had set up Aubameyang for the early goal and his frustration at the coach's decision was obvious for the second game in a row.
But it is the treatment of Ozil that is the biggest source of debate given the speculation about his future. One newspaper report recently suggested that he is the only Arsenal player not to buy into Emery's ideas. The scrutiny is not going to go away.
Perhaps it was the tracking back for Jurgen Locadia's equaliser that sparked Emery's decision. Ozil had been within touching distance of the Brighton goalscorer before allowing him to run half the field unmarked. He was not the only one responsible though.
"You can't ever blame one player," former Arsenal defender Alex Scott told Sky Sports afterwards. "There were a number of factors."
Many Arsenal fans still see the qualities of the man who has entertained them for so long at the Emirates. Even over the past season and a half, despite having his time on the field restricted by injury and selection, his numbers stand up. Only Eden Hazard, Christian Eriksen and Kevin De Bruyne have created more Premier League chances in that time.
There was hope that his previous display against Burnley, his first Premier League start for six weeks, would be the catalyst for a reappraisal. It featured a delightful pass to Sead Kolasinac in the build-up to Aubameyang's opener and clever work to set up Alex Iwobi's goal late on.
On this evidence, trust has not been restored just yet. If Ozil cannot get more than 45 minutes against Brighton, it would be a surprise if he is given another opportunity next time out against Liverpool in a game where intensity is likely to be a priority.
Emery is no nearer to solving his Ozil conundrum.