Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta says playmaker Mesut Ozil must get back to his best in training if he wants to reclaim his place in the starting line-up.
Ozil was a regular in Arteta’s starting XI before the league was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic but the German was left out of the squad altogether for the game at Manchester City on Wednesday where Arsenal were defeated 3-0.
Arteta had said that the decision was “tactical”.
“I’m the first one who wants Mesut at his best. I’ll put him on the pitch when I think he can give his best,” Arteta told reporters ahead of a league game at Brighton on Saturday.
“A lot has happened to him in the last few weeks and I have to respect the timing of every player. Sometimes they need a bit of time.” Arteta said that he had no problems with Ozil after a “clear and honest” talk following his omission from the team.
“He was very well with me. There were no issues at all,” Arteta added. “My conversation with Mesut is going to remain with him and me. It was a clear and honest conversation.”
City’s victory over Arsenal means Liverpool cannot seal a first league title in 30 years against Everton on Sunday, much to the blue side of Merseyside’s relief.
Jurgen Klopp’s men are just two wins away from the historic feat and victory at Goodison Park will allow them the chance to win the league on home soil when Crystal Palace visit Anfield on Wednesday.
“You can feel it,” said Klopp of the excitement building around his side’s return. “I feel the intensity everywhere.”
The match will take place in Liverpool despite fears over fans congregating outside both stadiums in the city. Goodison and Anfield are separated by less than a mile.
Klopp has urged his supporters to be “the best stay at home fans in the world”.
The earliest Liverpool could now be crowned champions is on Monday should the Reds win and City lose at home to Burnley.
At the other end of the table, Watford get the weekend action started on Saturday as the host third-placed Leicester.
Manager Nigel Pearson says he has fond memories of managing Saturday’s opponents Leicester but has no time to dwell on nostalgia as he prepares to lead his new team’s Premier League survival bid.
Pearson had two stints at Leicester, leading them to Premier League promotion in 2014 as second-tier champions before he was sacked after a season in the top flight. The club went on to win their maiden Premier League title the following season.
Leicester are third in the standings under Brendan Rodgers while Watford, who climbed out of the relegation zone after Pearson took charge in December, sit 17th ahead of their first game since the season restarted.
“Leicester have had a very good season so far, they’re a stable football club with a manager with a lot of ambition and ability,” Pearson said.
“They have talented individuals and are a very effective team as well. Where they are in the league speaks volumes. But at the moment my absolute focus is on trying to retain our Premier League status.”
Watford v Leicester (3.30pm), Brighton v Arsenal (6pm), West Ham v Wolves (8.30pm), Bournemouth v Crystal Palace (10.45pm)
Newcastle v Sheffield United (5pm), Aston Villa v Chelsea (7.15pm), Everton v Liverpool (10pm)
Manchester City v Brighton (11pm)