First pre-season game today + Emery on Ozil

Good morning, a quick Saturday round-up for you.

Arsenal play their first pre-season game of pre-season today in a pre-season friendly with Boreham Wood in pre-season. As reported earlier in the week, Unai Emery is going to bring a stronger squad than might first have been expected, so in as much as you can, we might be able to glean a bit about the way the new boss is going work.

What formation will he play? Will it be two up front? Will he show passion on the sideline (as this is the true measure of any manager’s capability)? In truth, the fact that things have changed so dramatically this summer is the only reason why the interest in this game is so high. That’s understandable, of course, but there’s often a danger of trying to read too much into things when really it’s just a warm-up game.

If you are into it though, it’s being streamed live on the club’s official website – details here.

The new boss has been talking about Mesut Ozil who, it’s fair to say, has had a sad time of late. Intense criticism for his part in Germany’s World Cup failure has been over the top, and we’ve seen in the past how international disappointment can affect a player when they return to a club. But Emery is ready to work on making him happy again, and ensuring that we get the best out of a very talented player.

He says:

For us Mesut is a very important player. We want to help him to be well, fine with us. The national team didn’t get the results they wanted but today he is on holiday and I want him to relax good and I want, when he comes back with us, to start with a good mentality.

I want to work with him with a new way and with an ambition to continue with this quality and help with this quality, getting better with the team.

The thing that sticks out to me there is saying he wants to work with him ‘in a new way’. I do wonder exactly what he means by that. It could be tactically, physically, or simply demanding more from a player who you sometimes feel has more to give. Part of getting the best out of Ozil is, in my opinion, allowing him the freedom to play in the areas of the pitch in which he can do most damage to the opposition.

I’m sure I’ve written before about how the weaknesses in his game could be offset with better structure or players who can provide the qualities people want from Ozil but which he doesn’t really possess. At the same time though, he was also indulged somewhat by Arsene Wenger who was always ‘arm around the shoulder’ with his record signing, when from time to time he might have been better going with a ‘kick up the arse’.

I’m not suggesting that Emery is going to turn into a sergeant major and have the German doing boot camp stuff, but I think he could demand more from him, and I think he could get more from him. Ultimately that’d be beneficial to both the player and the team, because if we do get more, we get a wonderful, creative player who is making chances and scoring goals.

I read Per Mertesacker talk this week about Ozil is very self-critical, this idea that he doesn’t care isn’t accurate, so if he returns from a disappointing World Cup ready to prove to people that’s not reflective of who he is, that he’s not the malign influence some make out, and is ready to get on board with the new management, coaching and so on, then we could see him have a very fine season. Perhaps that’s me with my Mr Optimist hat on, but I hope that’s the case.

Not a lot else going on, England play Belgium in the World Cup third place play-off game – the single most pointless game of football in the entire universe. Literally nobody gives a single shit about it, but it might be a chance for Danny Welbeck to play as I’m sure Gareth Southgate will give the fringe players a deserved run-out.

For now, I’ll remind of you yesterday’s Arsecast chatting World Cup, Arsenal signings, the best plasters for blisters, and lots more. Listen here, more from me tomorrow.

Have a good one.