Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil says he’s “very happy” to play under Unai Emery and insists “we have a good relationship.”
Ozil netted his first goal of the season in Saturday’s 2-1 win at Newcastle in what was arguably his best performance of the campaign as well, in his 200th appearance for the club.
The German midfielder also voiced his opinion of Emery publicly for the first time, following reports that the two had a fall-out in the lead-up to Arsenal’s game against West Ham, which he missed with an illness.
“I’ve said in the past that I’m very happy to play for Arsenal. The new coach knows what he wants, the team have accepted that and the whole team supports him. We have a good relationship with him and you can see that especially today as well,” Ozil said after the game. “When we score, the whole team is happy, even the players who don’t play so many minutes. You see we are one team that wants to reach our goal. We are happy to take the three points.”
Emery also praised Ozil for his performance on Saturday.
“Today I am happy because I want every player to have chances to score and Mesut scored which is important,” Emery said. “He continues his process on the team, helping with his quality and working every day to continue with the performance we want.”
Arsenal won their third straight Premier League match after opening the season with two losses. Granit Xhaka opened the scoring with a superb free kick shortly after the break and Ozil doubled the lead in the 58th after Alexandre Lacazette’s initial shot had been blocked.
It was Xhaka’s first free-kick goal for the Gunners, from a distance where Ozil is normally the one in charge of set pieces.
“Mesut said that I could shoot,” Xhaka said. “We try it a lot in training and I was happy to score.”
Arsenal now have nine different goalscorers for their 10 goals of the campaign — with the 10th being an own-goal against West Ham.
Emery also praised Lucas Torreira for giving his team the “balance” it needed after coming on as a half-time substitute.
Torreira has yet to make his first start for Arsenal but the summer signing gave his team an instant boost as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead within 13 minutes of him coming on.
“Maybe the second half we needed a bit more balance in the situation with our positioning on the pitch, Lucas gave us this balance,” Emery said. “The first half we couldn’t control the match like we wanted. We needed this control to impose our ideas. But we conceded a lot of chances for transition for the counter-attack. … The second half, the balance on the pitch was better, our positioning when we were attacking. We didn’t concede the transition as easy.”
It was the second time Torreira has been thrown on right after the break, and he helped Arsenal control the midfield until Ciaran Clark pulled a goal back in injury time.
This time it was 19-year-old Matteo Guendouzi who was taken off, even though Emery insisted he was happy with the French teenager — who has been keeping Torreira on the bench so far.
“I want to give every player confidence. I am very happy with Matteo and with Lucas,” Emery said.
Fellow midfielder Aaron Ramsey looked far from his best, however, and was taken off near the end — with Emery saying he was fatigued after playing “too much” with Wales during the international break.
“He played with the national team too much, today he played 80 minutes and he asked to change,” the Spaniard said. “It was not a big problem, but he was [too] tired to continue. I think it’s no problem.”
Arsenal next face Ukrainian side FC Vorskla in the Europa League, with Emery hinting that Bernd Leno could finally get to make his debut in goal on Thursday. The summer signing from Bayer Leverkusen has been on the bench for all five league games so far, with Emery keeping Petr Cech as his No. 1.
“Normally I will use a different keeper for this competition, but I’m thinking about the best performance,” Emery said.