Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw by Brighton on Wednesday evening, with Unai Emery taking the decision to bench Mesut Ozil at half-time.
The Gunners had taken the lead through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang early on, but Jurgen Locadia drew the hosts level before Emery’s side toiled in the second half and were unable to find a second breakthrough.
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Nevertheless, the decision to replace Ozil at half-time undoubtedly raised eyebrows and question marks over whether or not the playmaker had perhaps irked Emery, but the Spanish tactician has insisted that his decision was merely tactical as he believed that it would help his side secure victory.
Unfortunately for him and Arsenal, it didn’t result in the desired outcome, as they remain in fifth place while falling two points adrift of Chelsea in fourth spot.
“It’s only tactical — we’ve changed the idea at half-time in other matches, with other players,” he is quoted as saying by ESPN.
“Today I thought to do it with Mesut, but it’s only tactical — not another problem. Tactically, some matches I did that [made early changes] and I wanted to control it better with the positioning on the pitch. But in the second half we couldn’t do our ideas on the pitch for imposing ourselves. … We created less chances in the second half and not clear [chances].”
Ozil will undoubtedly have been left disappointed not to come out for the second half, while it isn’t the first time that he’s failed to fit into Emery’s tactical plans this season as he has been left out of the line-up in certain fixtures.
In turn, it will raise concern that the Arsenal boss felt it necessary to replace him at half time, as it arguably raises doubts over his importance to the side moving forward and whether or not he will play a fundamental role when the Gunners need to dig deep and grind out a win.
Arsenal face Liverpool in a crunch clash at Anfield on Saturday, and so time will tell if Ozil is given the nod by his manager for that one as the visitors will surely need maximum defensive effort and a certain tactical shape from everyone to shut out the Premier League leaders.