Mesut Ozil Not Included in Arsenal's Europa League Squad vs. BATE Borisov

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2019

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03: Mesut Ozil of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on February 3, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Mesut Ozil has not been included in Arsenal's matchday squad for the first leg of the UEFA Europa League last-32 tie against BATE Borisov on Thursday.

Ozil didn't join the travelling party, even though he took part in training this week. The playmaker missed Arsenal's recent 2-1 win away to Huddersfield Town in the Premier League with illness.

The Gunners released their matchday squad for European duty on Wednesday ahead of the trip to Minsk:

Head coach Unai Emery explained his selection, including the decision to leave Ozil out, per Charles Watts of Football.London: "We are here with the players who I think are OK to play. The players not in the squad is because Ramsey has not trained with us, Sokratis has started to train but not enough, Mesut is the same."

The idea Ozil hasn't done enough to be ready is supported by Layth Yousif of the Islington Gazette, who was less than impressed with how the attacking midfielder prepared:

His suggestion Emery can no longer tolerate Ozil fits a growing narrative of a coach and star player at odds. Emery has consistently left Arsenal's highest earner on the outside looking in this season.

He has been particularly reticent about deploying the languid 30-year-old for away fixtures he deemed physically challenging. Ozil missed the 3-1 defeat away to league leaders Manchester City earlier this month, and he hasn't started just one match in all competitions since the Gunners were held to a 1-1 draw by Brighton & Hove Albion on December 26.

That was the 2-1 win at home to Cardiff City on January 29, a game where Ozil lasted 76 minutes before being substituted.

The player's strolling brand of artistry seems to defy the more intense pressing game Emery has tried to employ since replacing Arsene Wenger in the summer.

Even so, freezing out Ozil is a bold and controversial move given the reported £350,000 weekly wage he agreed to last January:

The risk Emery is taking is emphasised by how much Arsenal lack creativity without Ozil in the lineup. Huddersfield, a side bottom of the league, had more possession and shots than the Gunners. Meanwhile, fellow strugglers Cardiff City also outshot Emery's men, despite losing 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium in late-January.

In fairness to Emery, he may believe his creative options are already ample enough even without Ozil. Alex Iwobi is in form, having scored the opener against the Terriers, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan also featured after returning from injury.

Arsenal added to Emery's attacking options when the club signed Denis Suarez on loan during the January transfer window. Suarez won the Europa League with Emery and Sevilla during the 2014/15 campaign.

While he has only come off the bench in two games so far, Suarez could play a bigger role against BATE, per his boss: "I am thinking about the best performance for tomorrow. I think his adaptation is good, but he needs time. He is OK to start, but he can also be on the bench. He needs to earn, little by little. To get minutes."

Barca loanee Suarez could handle the creative load with Ozil absent again.
Barca loanee Suarez could handle the creative load with Ozil absent again.Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images

Utilising Suarez against opponents the Gunners are expected to beat would be a smart way to get him up to speed. Arsenal beat BATE by an aggregate score of 10-2 in two group matches in this competition last season.

While Emery's team isn't quite firing on all cylinders, another comfortable victory over familiar opposition seems likely. However, even a commanding win won't quiet the questions about Ozil and the ongoing saga involving Emery and his seeming unwillingness to trust the one truly marquee player at his disposal.  

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