Gunners firing on all cylinders poses questions over Ozil’s future

first_imgHis absence mattered little as the Gunners’ unbeaten run simply carried on without him.– ‘Years of inertia’ –The Gunners can take that to 21 matches against the Terriers with Ozil’s return to the side likely to be delayed till they play Qarabag in the Europa League next week.Wenger, in his final season, used the competition to keep fresh fringe men he had decided not to employ in the Premier League even though three of them — England duo Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere plus Olivier Giroud of France — were internationals of experience and reputation.Ozil is not the only world class player to suddenly find themselves unable to get into the starting elevens, Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and ex-Gunner Alexis Sanchez falling foul of the volatile Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.Emery wants his players to work hard off the ball and attack with intensity with it and Ozil, for all his attributes, seems to tick neither of those boxes.Ozil’s post-World Cup fall out with Germany cannot have helped either, coming at a time when every Arsenal player knew he had to impress the new man after years of inertia under Wenger.The player felt he was the victim of both racism and disrespect because of his Turkish roots, claiming “I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose”.Such sentiments were no doubt genuine and deserving of sympathy but Emery appears to care about one issue only: whether a player can thrive under his system.The answer to that, at the moment at least, appears to be no for Mesut Ozil.Share on: WhatsApp London, United Kingdom | AFP | Mesut Ozil has missed Arsenal’s last four matches and may be absent again when the Gunners host Huddersfield Town on Saturday.The 30-year-old playmaker is being treated for a back problem and manager Unai Emery has hinted that he could be passed fit on Friday if he comes through sessions with the club’s physiotherapist unscathed.The German had been on the training ground on Thursday “running and touching the ball”, Emery told a press conference.But even if Ozil is given the green light to return there are no guarantees that Emery will pick the club’s highest earner, even for the bench.That despite being a World Cup winner in 2014, and a player with skills few others on the planet can reproduce, especially when it comes to setting up colleagues to score.Emery, it seems, had already decided he could do without the former Germany international in his comprehensive overhaul of a squad that had forgotten how to win trophies under previous manager Arsene Wenger.It was the Frenchman who had sanctioned a salary-doubling, £350,000-a-week, three-year contract extension for Ozil just three months before stepping down as manager.Ozil’s omission from the starting line-up at Bournemouth on November 25 was the big reveal to a world that could not fail to notice.Emery’s explanation could hardly be misinterpreted either: Ozil was named on the bench — and left there for the entire game — at Bournemouth because his manager felt he could not deal with the “physicality and intensity” of the Gunners’ opponents.Few failed to notice at the time that the reason for his omission carried little weight as Bournemouth are one of the least aggressive in the Premier League.last_img read more


Spit, sweat and shaking on it: Three sports habits that could change after coronavirus

first_imgRafael Nadal throws a towel to a ballboy at this year’s Australian OpenParis, France | AFP | As the coronavirus brings the international sports calendar to a grinding halt, AFP Sport looks at three long-standing habits which could change forever once competition resumes.Saliva to take shine off swing bowling— It’s been a tried and trusted friend to fast bowlers throughout the history of cricket.But the days of applying saliva to one side of the ball to encourage swing could be over in the aftermath of COVID-19.“As a bowler I think it would be pretty tough going if we couldn’t shine the ball in a Test match,” said Australia quick Pat Cummins.“If it’s at that stage and we’re that worried about the spread, I’m not sure we’d be playing sport.”Towels in tennis – no touching— Tennis players throwing towels, dripping with sweat and blood and probably a tear or two, at ball boys and girls, has often left fans sympathising for the youngsters.Moves by officials to tackle the issue took on greater urgency in March when the coronavirus was taking a global grip.Behind closed doors in Miki, ball boys and girls on duty at the Davis Cup tie between Japan and Ecuador wore gloves.Baskets, meanwhile, were made available for players to deposit their towels.Back in 2018, the ATP introduced towel racks at some events on a trial basis, but not everyone was overjoyed. “I think having the towel whenever you need it, it’s very helpful. It’s one thing less that you have to think about,” said Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas when he was playing at the NextGen Finals in Milan.“I think it’s the job of the ball kids to provide towels and balls for the players.”Let’s not shake on it— Pre-match handshakes were abandoned in top football leagues just before the sports shutdown.Premier League leaders Liverpool also banned the use of mascots while Southampton warned against players signing autographs and stopped them posing for selfies.Away from football, the NBA urged players to opt for the fist bump rather than the long-standing high-five.“I ain’t high-fiving nobody for the rest of my life after this,” NBA superstar LeBron James told the “Road Trippin’ Podcast”.“No more high-fiving. After this corona shit? Wait ’til you see me and my teammates’ handshakes after this shit.”Basketball stars were also told not to take items such as balls or teams shirts to autograph.US women’s football star Megan Rapinoe says edicts to ban handshakes or even high-fives may be counter-productive anyway.“We’re going to be sweating all over each other all game, so it sort of defeats the purpose of not doing a handshake,” she told the New York Times in March.Share on: WhatsApplast_img read more