Gary Neville has stated that Unai Emery handed Mesut Ozil the captaincy to invoke a response from the German. The Arsenal manager must still be waiting.
It is always fascinating to watch Sky Sports’ excellent Monday Night Football, during which pundits Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher discuss some of the biggest topics of the footballing world in great detail. Both are must-listen analysts and provide some astute and riveting insight that can often be overlooked or not previously considered.
On this week’s programme, the pair discusses the role of the captaincy, how having the captain’s armband does not carry the same significance as it used to, and questioned whether there were still the same characters and leaders in the game as in previous generations.
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"“Managers are having to make decisions to make people captain to not pacify but force the issue. Paul Pogba was given the captaincy at the start of the season after a public spat. Same with Ozil at Arsenal. Emery left him out for a couple of games. It is almost like they are giving them the captaincy to get more of a performance out of them.”"
Neville is talking about the use of the captaincy in the modern game and is not directly questioning Unai Emery’s recent decision to make Ozil the Gunners’ captain. But his point about Emery’s motivations still stands: Emery wanted a response from Ozil.
Ozil has been the captain on two occasions now, a 3-1 win against Leicester City and then Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace. Emery certainly got the response he would have been wanting in the first match. Ozil was phenomenal, particularly in the second-half, dissecting the Leicester defence with a goal, a splendid pre-assist and an assist to play a key part in all three goals Arsenal scored.
But that brief brilliance was not to be replicated. Ozil was anonymous away from home again versus Palace, and Emery, clearly unhappy with his captain’s performance and influence, hauled the German off midway through the second half. Ozil was visibly upset, throwing his gloves to the ground and ignoring his manager’s attention as he thundered towards the substitutes’ bench.
This has been the problem for Ozil throughout his time in north London: he could be wonderful one match and then indistinguishable the next. The response that Neville talks about, the response that I am sure Emery would have been looking for is one of consistency, reliability, leadership and production. Ozil failed to deliver.
That is not to say that he can’t deliver. He obviously has the talent. And his response to being substituted suggests he also has the desire. But he hasn’t yet. Emery will wait. That much is certain. But the question is for how long.