An opening day victory over relegation candidates Newcastle was not the dominant start to the season most Arsenal FC fans were hoping for to start the Premier League season, but it could have given a glimpse into the future.
The continued targeting of Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac by a reported criminal gang has forced the hand of manager, Unai Emery and pushed him to face a future without the Gunners talisman. Despite the quality of Ozil, his willingness to work for the team has often been called into question with last season seeing moments when Emery himself grew frustrated with the enigmatic former German international.
The season opener against a divided and growing Newcastle United should have been a day to remember but the only goal of the game came from a defensive mix-up involving the Toon Army’s new Dutch left-back. In contrast, the Arsenal FC rearguard was supposed to be in for a tough day against the latest man to try and make his mark as the striker for Newcastle, Joelinton. In reality, an Arsenal backline shorn of Laurent Koscielny and new signings David Luiz and Kieran Tierney managed a clean sheet and looked remarkably at ease.
If the Gunners can hold onto the defensive solidity they have failed to find in the later years of the Arsene Wenger era and during Emery’s first season in charge, the question then turns to the growing level of attacking talent on show at The Emirates. The brief cameo of new signing Pepe showed the Gunners have signed a player of real class and pace, but what does this mean for the Arsenal vice-captain. Last season was a tough one with Emery often choosing to leave Ozil out of the first-team squad and stated his future at the club was in his own hands.
English football has never embraced those players seen as a luxury to their clubs or nations, particularly those whose desire to work for the team has been questioned. Midfielders, such as Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle were forced abroad before the English Premier League era began as their play was deemed to lack a sense of desire.
Ozil is undoubtedly a great player but his desire to achieve as much as possible with the club has often been called into question. Even Wenger questioned the three-year contract extension tying him to the club until 2021 that he believed had made the player too comfortable in NOrth London.
For the first time in many Premier League seasons, Arsenal could have stiff opposition for places in their forward line with Pepe, the homegrown Nelson, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette, and Ozil all fighting for places alongside the undroppable Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The striker has 33 goals in 50 Premier League games and would undoubtedly benefit from the assists Ozil has become known for when the former German international returns from his exile due to security issues.
However, Ozil may find his path to the first-team blocked by a mixture of new signings and homegrown players pushing for his role out wide or centrally behind Aubameyang in the English Premier League.