'It was tactical' – Emery defends Ozil half-time substitution

The Spaniard has claimed that substituting his star playmaker off after just 45 minutes was a strategic move

Arsenal boss Unai Emery has defended his decision to replace Mesut Ozil with Alex Iwobi at half-time during the Gunners’ 1-1 draw at Brighton, insisting it was a ‘tactical’ choice.

The north London side went 1-0 up after a fine finish from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but conceded before half-time as the Seagulls broke from defending a corner, with a Stephan Lichtsteiner mistake aiding their cause.

Ozil, who has often been dropped entirely for away games, was hooked at the break and the Gunners produced a tepid second-half display as they were unable to force a winner.​

But Emery insists that the introduction of Iwobi for the German was a tactically-motivated decision.

“It is one decision tactically, and also the decision is because we have [done] it before because we have a lot of matches away when it tactically changes something, not for the player but for the team,” Emery told a press conference.

The former Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla boss has become renowned for his early substitutions, with Arsenal often winning games in the second half after a poor first period.

“A lot of the matches when we play in the second half, for example, with Iwobi, it helps us with a different situation tactically and helps us to win the matches. In other matches, when we changed for the second half we took the performance to go to win.

“Yesterday [against Brighton], my intention was the same, it is tactically to change one player for another and with our analysis before that in other matches, in the second-half sessions is the reason I do that.

“But for me, it is only tactically and not [down to the] player, and for me, every player is the same. Sometimes I change Aubameyang, sometimes I change Lacazette and sometimes I change Matteo – it happens to every player and sometimes the result is good and the other times it doesn’t give us the result on the pitch. But the decision is only tactical.”

Emery also commented on the playing time of Aaron Ramsey, who has been linked with Juventus, Inter and PSG as his contract runs down.

“For me, the most important thing for every player is for their focus to be here. They have their individual situations or circumstances in their contract in their present and in their future, but my present, my future is here in Arsenal.

“They show me the focus for us and I think it’s not easy for Aaron, but I spoke with him and we need his performances for us. He played yesterday with a good spirit like I want and he helped us, not to win but he was working well. I am happy.

“I need this focus also from him to us, to help us to go to Liverpool on Saturday and then to Fulham. His future is only for him and for his agent. Above all, I want and he should have, his focus for helping us.”

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