Unai Emery won’t guarantee Mesut Özil a regular starting place
Playmaker plays full 90 minutes in victory over Bate Borisov
Arsenal’s Mesut Özil in action during the Europa League round of 32 second Leg against Bate Borisov at the Emirates stadium. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
Mesut Özil returned to the Arsenal side as they secured safe passage into the last 16 of the Europa League – but head coach Unai Emery insists he is not certain of a regular place in his team.
The Gunners went into the second leg against Bate Borisov needing to complete a comeback following a surprise 1-0 defeat in Belarus last week.
They responded well and won 3-0 courtesy of a Zakhar Volkov own goal and headers from defensive duo Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
Emery opted to recall Özil having left him at home for the first leg – with the highest-paid player in the club’s history relegated to a peripheral role in recent weeks and making just his second start since St Stephen’s Day.
Despite a run of indifferent form, Emery has told Özil he needs to shake off his minor injuries and illness to be more consistent.
The former Germany international put in a good showing against Bate and played the whole 90 minutes, although Emery said after the game that he cannot guarantee Özil he will stay in the team long-term.
“Today he showed what he wants,” he said. “If he is available, like the last two weeks, we are going to play a lot of matches and maybe sometimes we need him in the starting XI and sometimes on the bench because we have a lot of players to also help us.
“His spirit like today is good and his quality and capacity and combination with some players is good, I think we need every player and today playing Mesut was important and positive.”
Alex Iwobi hailed Özil as “world-class” and admits he is keen to keep playing alongside the 30-year-old.
“We know what Mesut’s like because we see him in training every day,” he told BT Sport.
“He’s world-class. We scored three goals as a result of him playing. I know if I make a run he has the vision to find me. Hopefully he can keep on playing.
“We showed that we are able to make a fighting comeback as a team. We have had good and bad moments this season but the aim is to keep improving and I’m really happy we got through.”
Bate threatened at times and saw an effort cleared off the line by Stephan Lichtsteiner, with midfielder Nemanja Milic still pleased with the result over the two legs.
“We are happy,” he said. “We won the first game, and Arsenal are a better team than us. We go on from here. The first goal was very hard and created a real problem for us.”