London – Arsenal manager Unai Emery denied reports of a rift with Mesut Ozil after the ill German star missed Saturday’s 3-1 win over West Ham.
It was claimed Ozil stormed away from Arsenal’s training ground on Friday after Emery told the midfielder he wouldn’t start against West Ham.
The 29-year-old was replaced in the Arsenal starting line-up by Aaron Ramsey for the London derby at the Emirates Stadium.
But after Arsenal came from behind to secure his first Premier League victory, Emery insisted Ozil had been struggling with a cold that meant he wasn’t well enough to train or face West Ham.
“Maybe in English it’s difficult to explain. That information isn’t true. I don’t know who started this, he was sick yesterday,” Emery said when asked if he had fallen out with Ozil.
“He spoke with me and we decided he would not to play. He left the training and went home because he was sick.”
Ozil started the season with two lacklustre displays in Arsenal’s defeats against Manchester City and Chelsea.
The former Real Madrid player was substituted during the second half of last Sunday’s 3-2 loss at Stamford Bridge.
That continued a troubled period for Ozil, who recently retired from international duty after accusing the German FA of racism and claiming he was made a scapegoat following their shock World Cup group stage exit in Russia.
Ozil was handed a new contract worth around £300 000 per week by Arsenal last season, but his performances under Emery’s predecessor Arsene Wenger have made him a target for criticism from frustrated Gunners fans.
Whether Emery has already lost faith with Ozil remains to be seen, but publicly at least he was keen to keep the peace with his highest-paid player.
“I said come today to be with the team if he felt better. He feels better today and before the match he was with me,” Emery said.
“He has a cold. There’s no problem with the player. Ask the doctor, he can explain better.”