Mesut Ozil is absent from Arsenal's squad to face Sheffield United in the FA Cup on Sunday after suffering a minor back injury.

The 31-year-old attacking midfielder is enduring a difficult season with the Gunners and is yet to play following the campaign's resumption after the coronavirus-enforced suspension.

Ozil was not even named on the bench in Arsenal's first match back, the 3-0 defeat at Manchester City, though he was an unused substitute for the two following matches.

Given his lack of minutes, it was by no means a surprise to see the German absent again when Mikel Arteta's starting XI and bench were announced at Bramall Lane.

However, Arsenal quickly confirmed a "slight back injury" sustained in training a day earlier was to blame for Ozil not being selected in the matchday squad.

Arsenal are aiming to become the second team to qualify for this season's FA Cup semi-finals after Manchester United defeated Norwich City after extra-time on Saturday.

Mesut Ozil is the victim of a "snitch" in the Arsenal dressing room after reports the German was one of three players to reject a pay-cut proposal.

That is the view of Rangers legend Ally McCoist, who feels Ozil has been let down by at least one of his fellow Gunners after his supposed decision was made public.

Arsenal announced on Monday that a 12.5 per cent overall reduction in wages had been agreed across the squad and first-team staff, with a view to mitigating the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, rumours then spread that Ozil had refused to fall into line, with McCoist asserting that an Arsenal team-mate must have shared details of the players' private discussions.

"It tells you the quality of your team-mate Mesut Ozil is dealing with, because he's effectively got a snitch in his dressing room," the former Scotland international told talkSPORT.

"Whatever you think of Mesut Ozil, I think it's completely out of order that a private conversation regarding a wage reduction has been made public, and it's been made public for a reason – to make him look bad.

"So taking the issue of the wage reduction to one side, straight away he's got a problem with somebody in that dressing room or somebody at that club, of that there is absolutely no doubt.

"I've read so many good things about Mesut Ozil, what he's willing to do and what he has done for charities all over the place.

"I think it says more about what's going on within the club at this moment of time… Can you imagine a story like that coming out of Liverpool or Manchester City about one of their players?

"It just wouldn't happen because they are solid as a team, solid as a unit, and I think it tells you more about Arsenal and indeed about Mesut Ozil's standing in that dressing room that somebody has tried to damage him."

Ozil's charitable work includes having pledged to pay for 1,000 children to have life-changing surgery, while he also donated food to 100,000 homeless people across Turkey and Syria.

Mesut Ozil has come in for fierce criticism from Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher after reports the German was one of three Arsenal players to refuse to take a pay cut.

The Premier League club confirmed on Monday that a 12.5 per cent overall reduction in wages had been agreed by the first-team squad, along with head coach Mikel Arteta and his staff, in a move aimed at mitigating the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, widespread reports later emerged suggesting Ozil was one of a trio of Gunners stars to reject the proposal.

Ozil is the club's highest-paid player and Carragher believes the 31-year-old has scored "a huge PR own goal".

"The fact the highest-paid player and possibly the biggest name at Arsenal has not gone with the rest of his team-mates and stuck together [is bad]," Carragher told The Football Show on Sky Sports News.

"Even if I was in Ozil's position and I did not agree with that, I think the fact the rest of the team, your manager and people at the club have decided to be as one and make this decision, you have to go with it as a team.

"Football is a team game, it's not an individual sport, and for someone like Ozil in that situation I think he's got to go with what the rest of the players are doing. It's a massive PR own goal.

"I'm not going to have a go at Mesut Ozil for the wages he's earned. If you want to have a go at Mesut Ozil for the wages he's got, blame the people who gave him the contract. We're all in every walk of life trying to earn as much money as we possibly can.

"But when a situation like this comes in and you're together as a team in a dressing room, I think the highest-paid member and the biggest name in that dressing room should be the one who almost sets the example really."

Ozil has previously been heavily involved in charitable work.

Upon marrying his wife Amine he promised to pay for 1,000 children to have life-changing surgery, while he also donated food to 100,000 homeless people across Turkey and Syria.

Manchester City are reportedly lining up a move for Lionel Messi in a free transfer amid the star's troubles at Barcelona.

Messi, 32, has been involved in a public disagreement with the club's technical secretary Eric Abidal, leading to immediate questions over his future at Camp Nou.

City, and former boss Pep Guardiola, look ready to make their move.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY EYE MESSI FOR FREE AMID BARCELONA TROUBLES

Manchester City will swoop for Messi for free if the star cannot resolve his problems at Barcelona, according to The Sun.

While Messi is contracted until 2021, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu confirmed last year the Argentina international was free to leave after the 2019-20 season.

Messi worked with Guardiola at Barcelona, with the duo winning three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns among numerous other trophies at the club.

ROUND-UP

- There could be major changes coming at Arsenal. The Sun reports Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil are at risk with Arsenal perhaps prepared to sell their stars to finance a spending spree.

- Manchester United and Chelsea are set to go head-to-head in a bid to sign Lyon forward Moussa Dembele at the end of the season, according to The Mirror. Dembele, 23, has scored 12 Ligue 1 goals in 22 matches this season and has been linked with a move to Old Trafford previously.

- Staying in Manchester and City must wait until April to resolve the future of Leroy Sane after the attacker's switch of agent, according to The Telegraph and Bild. Sane is a reported target for Bayern Munich and Manchester City will have to wait to discuss the Germany international's future due to a clause in his deal with his previous agency.

- With Ousmane Dembele facing a long spell on the sidelines, Barcelona are eyeing Girona forward Cristhian Stuani, according to Deportes Cuatro, which reports the 33-year-old Uruguayan has a €20million release clause. Barca would need approval to complete the deal outside the transfer window.

- Could Liverpool have to search for a new back-up goalkeeper? Estadio Deportivo reports Real Betis are considering a move for their former shot-stopper Adrian, who is contracted to the European champions until 2021, with the club holding an option for a further year.

Liverpool might be cruising towards the title but the runaway Premier League leaders could still face a crucial fight in the near future.

According to a new report, star centre-back Virgil van Dijk has become a top target for Italian giants Juventus.

Could a record-breaking transfer to Turin appeal to the Netherlands international?

 

TOP STORY – JUVE SET SIGHTS ON VAN DIJK

Maurizio Sarri's Juve have identified Reds defender Van Dijk as the man to help achieve their Champions League dream, according to The Sun.

The Bianconeri are said to be preparing a €178.5million (£150m) offer that could force Liverpool to consider parting company with the 28-year-old, who swapped Southampton for Merseyside in a £75m move in January 2018.

The report claims Van Dijk "may be open to a move abroad" if he wins the Premier League this term, which now appears a mere formality.

The proposed fee would eclipse the £80m that saw Harry Maguire leave Leicester City for Manchester United and again make Van Dijk the world's most expensive player in his position.

 

ROUND-UP 

- After signing Maguire, the Red Devils appear to be pining for another expensive defender. The Daily Star suggests the club will ramp up their attempts to capture Kalidou Koulibaly in the close season - although the Napoli centre-back could cost up to £90m.

- Arsenal rejected a deadline-day approach for Mesut Ozil from an unnamed Qatar club, the Mirror states. Ozil, 31, reportedly "would have been willing to listen" to an offer, but the contact came too late for the Gunners to arrange a replacement.

- LaLiga leaders Real Madrid considered signing teenage attacker Amine Gouiri and contacted Lyon before deciding against lodging a formal January bid, according to L'Equipe.

- Their title rivals Barcelona are close to agreeing a deal that will see Chelsea winger Willian arrive on a free at season's end, reports Marca.

- Gouiri is not the only Lyon youngster attracting interest. Milan, already planning for next season, are monitoring the Ligue 1 club's promising right-back Pierre Kalulu, claims CalcioMercato.

Mino Raiola holds all the cards when it comes to Manchester United's transfer plans.

United are interested in Salzburg sensation Erling Haaland, while Paul Pogba wants to reportedly leave Old Trafford.

With that in mind, the Red Devils may be forced to pick between the two.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND IN, POGBA OUT?

Manchester United are worried signing Salzburg striker Erling Haaland may force Paul Pogba out of the club, according to the Daily Star. 

United are interest in-demand sensation Haaland, who has also been linked to Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig

Haaland is represented by Mino Raiola, who is also the agent of United star Pogba – previously linked to former club Juve and LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

United fear Raiola could throw a spanner in the works as doubts remain over Pogba's future in Manchester.

 

ROUND-UP

- Premier League champions Manchester City have identified Villarreal's Pau Torres and Benfica centre-back Ruben Dias as possible defensive reinforcements in January, reports The Telegraph.

- Express Sport says Chelsea are unwilling to meet Dortmund's £100million (€117m) valuation of star Jadon Sancho, who has also been linked to United, Liverpool and Madrid. Chelsea are believed to be keeping tabs on Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha and Leipzig striker Timo Werner.

Arsenal pair Mesut Ozil and Shkodran Mustafi could leave Arsenal in January, reports Football London. Turkish giants Fenerbahce have emerged as a possible destination for Ozil.

Rangers have made contact with out-of-favour Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud over a possible move to Glasgow, according to L'Equipe.  Coming off contract at the end of the season, Giroud has also been linked to Inter.

Mikel Arteta looks to be on his way out of Manchester City, and it may not be long before he is followed by Pep Guardiola.

That is if reports linking Paris Saint-Germain with a move for the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich head coach are to be believed.

Meanwhile, Arteta is not the only big managerial appointment expected imminently in the Premier League, with Carlo Ancelotti close to being confirmed as Everton boss, and reports suggest a big-name could be in line to follow the Italian to Goodison Park.

 

TOP STORY – GUARDIOLA LINED UP BY PSG

According to Le10 Sport, Paris Saint-Germain will look to swap Thomas Tuchel with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola next season.

Guardiola is currently under contract with City until 2021, though has said he is open to extending his deal. However, these reports claim PSG will aim to bring in the Spaniard, along with former Barca star Xavi, who will act as his number two.

While City are 14 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool, PSG are top of Ligue 1 and will face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last 16.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Sun claims Mauricio Pochettino is holding off on making any commitment to Real Madrid as he waits to see how Guardiola's situation at Manchester City plays out.

- According to The Telegraph, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is open to linking up with former boss Carlo Ancelotti at Everton. Ancelotti is reportedly set to be appointed by the Toffees and Ibrahimovic – who has been linked to Milan and Napoli – could follow him to Merseyside.

Mesut Ozil is close to securing a loan move from Arsenal to Fenerbahce in January, according to Turkish newspaper Fotomac.

- Madrid winger Vinicius Jr. has been linked with a move to the Premier League. El Desmarque reports Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Wolves are all interested in the Brazilian.

- Another potential outgoing from Arsenal could be Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with The Mirror saying one of Arteta's first tasks will be to convince the Gunners' captain to stay put.

- Sky Sports reports Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs are all monitoring Lille forward Victor Osimhen, who has scored nine Ligue 1 goals this term.

- Inter great Dejan Stankovic is poised to become head coach of Serbian champions Red Star Belgrade. After Vladan Milojevic stepped down on Thursday, reports in Serbia claim the former Red Star midfielder will be unveiled on Friday. This is set to be Stankovic's first senior job.

Tottenham are considering a January move for Leicester City full-back Ricardo Pereira, says Het Nieuwsblad.

Liverpool cruised to a 5-2 victory in the Merseyside derby against Everton as they consolidated their lead at the top of the Premier League, despite a much-changed team.

Meanwhile, Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho endured an unhappy return to Old Trafford as his side lost 2-1 to Manchester United - the Portuguese has not won there as a visiting boss in his past five attempts.

Defending champions Manchester City thrashed Burnley 4-1 as Pep Guardiola made it eight wins in his nine games against the Clarets.

A midweek round of Premier League fixtures brought a range of milestones and telling stats, the best of which are below.

KLOPP ECLIPSES SHANKLY, PAISLEY AND DALGLISH 

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will likely need to deliver the Premier League title to secure his place in the pantheon of Anfield greats.

However, the German has put down a few markers suggesting he is ready to join the Kop's hall of fame by becoming the fastest Liverpool manager to 100 league victories. Klopp completed the feat in 159 games – quicker than Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish.

Liverpool secured the win over Everton thanks to a brace from Divock Origi, and one goal apiece for Sadio Mane, Xherdan Shaqiri and Georginio Wijnaldum.

They are now unbeaten in their past 32 Premier League games which is their longest run without defeat in top-flight history.

Marco Silva's final match at the helm saw him become the first Everton manager to concede five league goals against Liverpool in a single match since Howard Kendall in November 1982.

 

MORE OF THE SAME FOR MOURINHO 

United's 2-1 win over Tottenham, secured courtesy of two goals from Marcus Rashford – taking his tally to nine in 10 games – made Mourinho's return to his old club a miserable one.

Mourinho has won none of his past five away Premier League matches against the Red Devils (D3 L2), failing to beat four different managers in that time – Alex Ferguson, David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and current United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

It was also Tottenham 35th Premier League defeat against United – more than they have suffered against any other team. 

Spurs' defence must also be a concern for Mourinho. They have conceded twice in their four matches in all competitions under the Portuguese – they only had a run of conceding two or more goals in four consecutive games once under Mauricio Pochettino, doing so in February and March 2015.

Midfielder Dele Alli has started to rediscover some of his old form, though, and his equaliser for Spurs was his third goal in as many appearances for the club in all competitions – the first time since March 2017 he has enjoyed such a purple patch.

 

CITY THREE AND EASY UNDER PEP

Gabriel Jesus' brace and one apiece for midfielders Rodri and Riyad Mahrez gave City some much-needed confidence with a 4-1 thrashing of Burnley – although they remain 11 points behind leaders Liverpool.

Jesus is now the third highest-scoring Brazilian player in Premier League history (32 goals), trailing only Philippe Coutinho (41) and Roberto Firmino (52).

It was the 36th time City have won a Premier League game by three or more goals under Guardiola – the most of any team in the competition since the start of the 2016-17 season.

David Silva's creative skills remain key for City and he took his tally to six assists from open play in the league this season – just one fewer than he managed in 33 games last season.

Burnley have now conceded 11 goals in their three home games against 'big six' opposition in the Premier League this season, compared to only two goals in five home games against the rest.

 

LJUNGBERG'S LOSS A DROUGHT-BREAKING BOOST FOR BRIGHTON

Managerless, beaten at home by Brighton and Hove Albion and now nine games without victory in all competitions – Gunners fans have every right to be gloomy.

Arsenal's 2-1 loss to the Seagulls made this their longest winless streak since a run of 10 between February and March of 1977.

Mesut Ozil registered his first assist in the league since February when his corner was met by Alexandre Lacazette, but the French forward's 25th English top-flight goal at Emirates Stadium failed to avert a first defeat for interim boss Freddie Ljungberg.

Adam Webster had opened the scoring before the interval and Brighton were able to celebrate their first Premier League away win over 'big six' opposition following Neal Maupay's 80th-minute header.

Arsenal, booed off at full-time, have faced 52 shots on target in home league games this season, four more than in the entire Invincibles campaign of 2003-04.

Jose Mourinho marked his first game as Tottenham head coach with a 3-2 victory at West Ham on Saturday, while Manchester City returned to winning ways with a 2-1 success against in-form Chelsea.

Spurs scored freely for 49 minutes in the lunchtime game at London Stadium but were pegged back by West Ham as errors crept in. Later in the day, City recovered from a goal behind to end Chelsea's winning run, which spanned six league matches heading into the early-evening kick-off.

Arsenal laboured in a 2-2 home draw against lowly Southampton, a late Alexandre Lacazette goal sparing Unai Emery's blushes at the Emirates Stadium.

Crystal Palace were sunk by a late goal in a 2-1 defeat to leaders Liverpool. Brighton and Hove Albion lost to Leicester City and Everton were beaten by Norwich City, both at home by 2-0 scorelines.

Wolves extended their unbeaten run to eight games with a 2-1 win at Bournemouth, and Burnley beat Watford 3-0 to clinch back-to-back league victories for the first time this season.

SPURS FIRE FOR JOSE BUT DEFENSIVE QUESTIONS LINGER

Three goals in 13 minutes put Spurs on course for a resounding result against West Ham but Michail Antonio and Angelo Ogbonna took the sheen off the Mourinho era curtain-raiser.

The visitors were marginally the better side of a tepid first half until the 36th minute when Dele Alli played in Son Heung-min whose angled drive from the corner of the six-yard box beat the flailing Roberto Jimenez for power.

Alli released Son down the left and he sent over a low cross that Lucas Moura bundled into the net at the far post to double Tottenham's advantage two minutes from half-time.

West Ham's defensive frailties came to the fore once again four minutes into the second half when Serge Aurier's cross picked out Harry Kane, who was given an easy ride by Issa Diop as he sent a header past Roberto's outstretched hand.

But when Spurs needed to close out the win, they allowed Antonio to pull one back from close range and Declan Rice had another ruled out for offside before Ogbonna converted from Robert Snodgrass' cross deep into stoppage time.

FIRMINO FIRES WINNER FOR RELENTLESS REDS

Liverpool's three-game winning streak was under threat when Wilfried Zaha scored for Crystal Palace in the 82nd minute to make it 1-1 at Selhurst Park, but the Eagles failed to keep Roberto Firmino at bay late on.

The Brazilian striker poked home in during an 85th-minute penalty box scramble amid heavy Reds pressure, typical of the never-say-die attitude that makes the Premier League front-runners so difficult to stop.

Sadio Mane's eighth league goal of the season had put Liverpool 1-0 in front, the Senegal international advancing into the box four minutes after half-time before unleashing a shot that hit both posts before finding the net.

Zaha's low, angled drive from 12 yards put Palace on course for a point their battling performance would have merited but Roy Hodgson's men failed to park the bus when a Liverpool onslaught was inevitable.

CITY SHOW FIGHTING SPIRIT

Manchester City lost 3-1 at Anfield before the international break to fall nine points adrift of Liverpool, and the Reds' lead over last season's champions was briefly extended on Saturday following their dramatic victory in south London.

Pep Guardiola's side welcomed goalkeeper Ederson back from injury, but the slender win over Chelsea was somewhat soured by Rodri, David Silva and Sergio Aguero all hobbling off.

Kicking off around 40 minutes after full-time at Selhurst Park, City's dwindling title hopes looked set to take another dent when N'Golo Kante marked his 150th Chelsea appearance with a deserved opening goal.

But Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez struck before half-time to give the hosts the lead and, despite Raheem Sterling having a late strike ruled out by VAR, City held on to deny Chelsea a club record of eight straight victories away from home in all competitions.

LACAZETTE BRACE KEEPS EMERY ERA HANGING BY A THREAD

Arsenal looked like a side taking victory for granted before Danny Ings opened the scoring for Southampton after eight minutes at Emirates Stadium.

It was only by virtue of Alexandre Lacazette's work rate and quality that the Gunners gave the home support anything to cheer, and the France international equalised after 18 minutes following scrappy Southampton defending.

The goal should have put the wind in Arsenal's sails, but Emery's men lacked cohesion and consistency, allowing Southampton to break repeatedly. The visitors restored their lead 19 minutes from time through James Ward-Prowse who scored at the second attempt after Bernd Leno saved his penalty.

Again it fell to Lacazette to spare Arsenal's embarrassment and he duly obliged, succeeding where Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil failed by converting a late chance at close range, rifling home from Gabriel Martinelli's cross to clinch his side a point they barely deserved.


Burnley, meanwhile, won 3-0 for the second game in a row with second-half strikes from Chris Wood, Ashley Barnes and James Tarkowski earning a victory at bottom side Watford that lifted the Clarets to sixth in the table.

 

Jose Mourinho won his first game in charge of Tottenham but had his satisfaction tempered by a late West Ham fightback in a 3-2 victory at London Stadium, while rivals Arsenal laboured in a 2-2 home draw against Southampton.

Spurs scored freely for 49 minutes in the lunchtime game at London Stadium but were pegged back as errors crept in. Arsenal needed a late Alexandre Lacazette goal to avoid joining six other Premier League teams who lost at home on Saturday.

Crystal Palace were sunk by a late goal in a 2-1 defeat to leaders Liverpool. Brighton lost to Leicester City and Everton were beaten by Norwich City, both at home by 2-0 scorelines.

Wolves extended their unbeaten run to eight games with a 2-1 win at Bournemouth and Burnley won 3-0 at Watford to clinch back-to-back league wins for the first time this season.

SPURS FIRE FOR JOSE BUT DEFENSIVE QUESTIONS LINGER

Three goals in 13 minutes put Spurs on course for a resounding result against West Ham but Michail Antonio and Angelo Ogbonna took the sheen off the Mourinho era curtain-raiser.

The visitors were marginally the better side of a tepid first half until the 36th minute when Dele Alli played in Son Heung-min whose angled drive from the corner of the six-yard box beat the flailing Roberto Jimenez for power.

Alli released Son down the left and he sent over a low cross that Lucas Moura bundled into the net at the far post to double Tottenham's advantage two minutes from half-time.

West Ham's defensive frailties came to the fore once again four minutes into the second half when Serge Aurier's cross picked out Harry Kane, who was given an easy ride by Issa Diop as he sent a header past Roberto's outstretched hand.

But when Spurs needed to close out the win, they allowed Antonio to pull one back from close range and Declan Rice had another ruled out for offside before Ogbonna converted from Robert Snodgrass' cross deep into stoppage time.

FIRMINO FIRES WINNER FOR RELENTLESS REDS

Liverpool's three-game winning streak was under threat when Wilfried Zaha scored for Crystal Palace in the 82nd minute to make it 1-1 at Selhurst Park, but the Eagles failed to keep Roberto Firmino at bay late on.

The Brazilian striker poked home in during an 85th-minute penalty box scramble amid heavy Reds pressure, typical of the never-say-die attitude that makes the Premier League front-runners so difficult to stop.

Sadio Mane's eighth league goal of the season had put Liverpool 1-0 in front, the Senegal international advancing into the box four minutes after half-time before unleashing a shot that hit both posts before finding the net.

Zaha's low, angled drive from 12 yards put Palace on course for a point their battling performance would have merited but Roy Hodgson's men failed to park the bus when a Liverpool onslaught was inevitable.

LACAZETTE BRACE KEEPS EMERY ERA HANGING BY A THREAD

Arsenal looked like a side taking victory for granted before Danny Ings opened the scoring for Southampton after eight minutes at Emirates Stadium.

It was only by virtue of Alexandre Lacazette's work rate and quality that the Gunners gave the home support anything to cheer, and the France international equalised after 18 minutes following scrappy Southampton defending.

The goal should have put the wind in Arsenal's sails, but Unai Emery's men lacked cohesion and consistency, allowing Southampton to break repeatedly. The visitors restored their lead 19 minutes from time through James Ward-Prowse who scored at the second attempt after Bernd Leno saved his penalty.

Again it fell to Lacazette to spare Arsenal's embarrassment and he duly obliged, succeeding where Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil failed by converting a late chance at close range, rifling home from Gabriel Martinelli's cross to clinch his side a point they barely deserved.


Burnley, meanwhile, won 3-0 for the second game in a row with second-half strikes from Chris Wood, Ashley Barnes and James Tarkowski earning a victory at bottom side Watford that lifted the Clarets to sixth in the table.

Mesut Ozil's nonchalant backheel flick from the byline for Ainsley Maitland-Niles was legitimately the most efficient way to let his team-mate put Arsenal 4-2 up.

His nonchalant lean on the advertising hoarding as a gaggle of Gunners fans leapt towards him in celebration was simply the best thing he could possibly have done.

After five weeks on the outside looking in, a playmaker of rare talent was back on the field enjoying himself. It was wonderful to see.

Wednesday's riotously berserk 5-5 EFL Cup draw preceding a penalty shoot-out defeat to Liverpool was Ozil's third appearance of the season in all competitions and a first since a 5-0 win at Nottingham Forest in the previous round.

Since then, there's been an error-strewn draw at Manchester United, a comfortable win and breathless comeback in the Europa League, an unconvincing victory over Bournemouth, a troubling defeat at Sheffield United and then Sunday's 2-2 draw at home to Crystal Palace – a 2-0 lead surrendered in a pit of mutual seething featuring Granit Xhaka and the Emirates Stadium faithful.

What Ozil has made of that from his vantage point in the stands is anyone's guess, although the clanging Shkodran Mustafi own goal that gave Liverpool an early lead probably wasn't a complete surprise.

Tricks and treats in Halloween week

Ozil simply went about his business of smooth, effortless playmaking, cajoling Arsenal on to the front foot in a contest where ample changes made to each side meant entertainment leapt into the void left by any semblance of solid team structure.

The former Germany international looked to have the slowest pulse inside Anfield when he knocked a pass to the byline for Maitland-Niles and then recycled possession to Bukayo Saka for Lucas Torreira's equaliser. Coolness, calmness and an Arsenal goal crafted intelligently from open play. Remember those?

He played a part in Gabriel Martinelli's first before a seventh goal in as many Gunners outings for the 18-year-old came after a move where Ozil's reverse lay-off qualified as both a trick and a delectable treat this Halloween week.

"We've got Ozil! Mesut Ozil! I just don't think you understand," the Arsenal fans in the Anfield Road End boomed. Perhaps it was a song directed towards their head coach. Unai, you're allowed to pick this guy, you know.

After Martinelli's brace, Ozil gave away a dubious penalty for James Milner to reduce the arrears. Maybe he shouldn't track back after all.

No sooner had Arsenal re-established their two-goal lead did it vanish into the crisp Merseyside night. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain slammed home a violent long-range effort home against his former club and Emiliano Martinez could only push a firm hit from Divock Origi into his net.

Heroes, villains and different trajectories

Even when Arsenal are inspired by sparkling individual displays, they remain as robust as a hollowed-out pumpkin. When Liverpool are much-changed and disjoined, this Jurgen Klopp-inspired collective will still pull things out of the fire.

That is the respective lot of these clubs right now and one set by mis-management and shrewd management over a number of years. Joe Willock remarkably scoring the best goal of the 10, Origi's last equaliser and Liverpool's eventual penalty shootout triumph all exist in that context.

Nevertheless, this Wednesday evening offered a reminder that the best football Arsenal – or any team for that matter – produce tends to come a safe distance away from hatred and bile.

This is a squad increasingly split into midweek cup heroes and weekend Premier League villains. The fact Ozil has been in both camps fairly recently underlines the folly of that distinction.

We know that over the past 16 months Ozil has retired from international football citing "racism and disrespect" and been the victim of an attempted carjacking. It is hard to contemplate the toll such events must take on a person. On a human level, it felt satisfying to see him soak up Wednesday's adoration from the travelling supporters.

Xhaka and Mustafi's on-field errors do not come with similar mitigation. But it is tempting to wonder whether sections of an Arsenal fanbase taken on a ride of risible ticket prices and false dawns since moving to their current home are misdirecting their anger.

Ozil's satisfaction on the hoarding showed a little love and kindness can always make more meaningful noise than the latest hot take.

Mesut Ozil could go from being an Arsenal first-team outcast to captain of the side that takes on Premier League leaders Liverpool on Wednesday.

Manager Unai Emery revealed German midfielder Ozil is in contention to lead out the Gunners for the EFL Cup match at Anfield after crunch talks to determine his commitment.

The 31-year-old has made just two appearances this season, starting the Premier League draw at Watford and the EFL Cup win against Nottingham Forest in September.

Ozil has been linked with a move away from Emirates Stadium; however, he is reportedly the highest-earning player at the club, and cannot join another club until January.

Talks between manager and player on Tuesday appear to have been fruitful, according to Emery.

"He's in the group so he has a chance to play," said Emery. "We have had this morning a very good conversation, Mesut and me, and I said to him I haven't changed my idea about him.

"He knows what I want from him because it's the same as last season in the first day of pre-season training when we had a conversation. It's the same as one month ago and in that way, some circumstances weren't helping us in every moment to be consistent or available to play.

"But I will say I think the last weeks he has progressively been training well and adding his spirit to help us.

"For example, our conversation this morning was because I wanted to listen to him about how he's thinking now to help us and be with us tomorrow. Then if we are in the same spirit and the same idea, to play. It was a very good conversation and tomorrow he’s in the group."

Asked whether Ozil could be the captain of the team to take on Jurgen Klopp's Reds, given Granit Xhaka will be rested, Emery said: "It depends. He could be, yes."

Emery explained: "We need his quality, his skill and his consistency. We need his positive mentality and then he will help us on the pitch. That's the next step. I think he's done the steps before, and now I want the steps like in pre-season and one month ago to help us on the pitch."

Kylian Mbappe is long admired by Real Madrid and they are again intent on adding the 20-year-old to their front line, it seems.

Mbappe was linked with a switch to the Santiago Bernabeu before opting to stay in Ligue 1 when joining Paris Saint-Germain from Monaco in the 2017-18 season.

The Spanish giants have not forgotten about the France international, though, and are planning to move two superstars on in order to get their man, according to reports.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE BACK ON MADRID'S RADAR WITH BALE AND JAMES TO MAKE WAY

Real Madrid were unable to land Kylian Mbappe a couple of seasons ago, but they are keen to sign him over the next few transfer windows, according to Calciomercato.

Mbappe is one of world football's star names and would fit into the old Galactico culture at Madrid, although Los Blancos would need to offload two star names in order to raise finances and complete a deal with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

One of those names is Gareth Bale, who is still reportedly unhappy at Madrid, while Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez could also move on having struggled at times to find form this season following a loan spell at Bayern Munich.

It remains to be seen whether any club is willing to pay the substantial transfer fee and wages required to secure either of the duo, but if they do make way then it could pave the way for Mbappe's move.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying in Madrid and ElDesmarque believe Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba could be heading to Real Madrid in exchange for Gareth Bale and €90million.

- Bleacher Report claim Mesut Ozil's advisors are trying to convince the Arsenal playmaker to make a switch to MLS.

- Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly is the number one transfer target for Manchester City, according to Calciomercato.

- Manchester Evening News are reporting City may also take up their option to buy back Douglas Luiz from Aston Villa.

- Frank Lampard is hopefully of securing Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham to new contracts at Chelsea, Goal have said.

- Athletic Bilbao defender Unai Nunez is a January transfer target for Bayern Munich, say Spox.

- Argentina striker Lautaro Martinez's contract talks with Inter have been put on ice as Barcelona and United circle for the 22-year-old's signature, according to Calciomercato.

Uncertainty surrounds Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a woeful start to the season and he could find himself in danger of dismissal.

United have won only two of their first eight Premier League games of 2019-20 and head into Sunday's visit of Liverpool 15 points adrift of the pacesetters.

While Solskjaer insists he still has the board's backing, there have been suggestions the club has identified a replacement.

 

TOP STORY – ALLEGRI 'VERY CLOSE' TO UNITED

Former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri is said to be a primary target for Manchester United.

Italian publication Tuttosport claims contact with Allegri – who left the Old Lady at the end of last season – has "intensified" in recent days.

They go as far as saying Allegri is "very close to United", with the contest against Liverpool seemingly crucial.

However, United are not the only club interested in Allegri. Tuttosport also believes Tottenham are keeping tabs on him.

Mauricio Pochettino is another man under pressure following a difficult few months, though the report suggests Spurs will have to make their minds up quickly if they are to gazump United.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail believes Solskjaer is relatively safe despite Allegri's lurking, however. It says United are looking to bolster the squad with six major signings over the next two transfer windows. Among the targets are Mario Mandzukic, Saul Niguez, Moussa Dembele and James Maddison.

- Mandzukic's wage demands could prevent a move to Old Trafford, however. Despite being 33 and entering the twilight of his career, the Croatian wants to be the club's fourth highest-paid player, according to the Sun.

- Arsenal's plan for the future, according to AS, involves persuading Real Madrid to sell Dani Ceballos, a deal that would result in Mesut Ozil being sold.

- Meanwhile, the Daily Mail also claims the Gunners also want to sign highly-rated Athletic Bilbao centre-back Unai Nunez, 22, with Everton set to rival them for the £30million-rated defender.

- Paris Saint-Germain are hopeful of securing new deals for Juan Bernat and Marquinhos, L'Equipe believes.

- Roma are set to bid farewell to Javier Pastore in January, with the Serie A side telling him he is free to leave, as per Calciomercato. A move to China, Brazil or his native Argentina appears likely.

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