Liverpool: Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil is in line to feature more regularly in away matches starting with Sunday’s trip to Everton as the north London side look to clinch a top-four Premier League finish, manager Unai Emery said on Friday.
Ozil has started only four of Arsenal’s 14 away games in the league this season with Emery often benching the German playmaker, starting him only in home games where they have won 10 in a row.
Five of Arsenal’s remaining seven league games are away as they look to return to the Champions League after a two-year hiatus.
“It depends on each match, sometimes it was because we needed something different, sometimes he was injured,” Emery told reporters when asked about Ozil’s absence from the starting lineup in away games.
“Now he’s OK, training every day and he can play in different systems. He’s working very well, playing very well, he’s helping us. I’m very happy with him.” Ozil has generally played as a central playmaker this season, either behind one striker or behind the pairing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
Emery said the latter role made Ozil play like a “team player” with his versatility to thrive in different formations proving to be useful.
“4-2-3-1 is maybe the best position for him, but also sometimes 4-3-1-2 where he is playing like a team player, and also 3-4-1-2,” Emery added.
“We can change the different systems with him and he can play to the left or right. Most important is to be ready and available to help us and now he is.”
A stellar home form has propelled Arsenal into the Premier League top four but their chances of staying there now depend on improving patchy results away from the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners can climb above Tottenham into third place should they avoid defeat at Everton.
However, with five of their remaining seven league fixtures on the road, a trip to Goodison Park will be a stern test of whether Arsenal can maintain a hot streak of 16 points from the last 18 available in the Premier League.
Arsenal have won their last eight league games at the Emirates and have as many home points as title-chasing Liverpool.
A league table on away form only, however, would place them down 10th with just five wins from 14 matches.
As well as Everton, Unai Emery’s men must travel to Watford, Wolves, Leicester and Burnley.
The first four are all in the mix for Europa League qualification and it is not inconceivable that the latter could need points on the final day to stay up.
“We are thinking game by game and we know we have five of seven matches away — for us it’s a big challenge,” said Emery on Friday.
“We want to achieve the same good performances as when we play at Emirates Stadium. We have confidence now but we know it’s very difficult. We know other clubs will take a lot of points.”
Arsenal have won just twice away from home since November — at League One Blackpool in the FA Cup and already relegated Huddersfield in the Premier League.
That run has included defeats at Southampton, Liverpool, West Ham and Manchester City in the league and embarrassing Europa League losses to BATE Borisov and Rennes.
Even an encouraging 1-1 draw at Tottenham last month could have been better had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang not missed a last-minute penalty.
“The last matches in the Premier League — Tottenham and Huddersfield — we’ve had good performances and results, and were competitive,” Emery said.
“We are getting better and being competitive at home. We want to be the same away but we know that the difficulty is that in each match at home, they (the other team) can feel better.
“Everton won against Chelsea and drew against Liverpool in their last matches at home.”
Arsenal could also be without experienced trio of Laurent Koscielny, Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey through injury, while Lucas Torreira is suspended.